Designated Parking

By Barbara J Eikmeier

It’s back-to-school-time which means it’s time to paint the high school parking lot AGAIN. An annual tradition at our local high school, it’s a senior privilege.

My children didn’t attend this school, so I’m strictly an observer of the annual changing of the guard in the school parking lot – a local citizen enjoying the show.

I notice the transition while exercising on the school track. It starts on a weekend. Dad’s and daughters, small groups of teen boys, and threesomes of giggling girls in short shorts and tank tops descend upon the asphalt. They arrive with rolls of blue masking tape, cans of paint, and rollers with long handles. They mask frames and roll the first color of paint. As the days go by the art emerges as the rising seniors personalize their private parking spots.

Designated parking spots are everywhere. CEOs and company presidents have them. On military posts the Solider of the Month has one. I once saw one near the door in a JC Penney’s parking lot for “Mother to be”. But aside from a formal sign, they aren’t decorated.

I’m not sure how the seniors get the privilege but in my mind it’s a fundraiser – auctioned to the highest bidder, the money deposited to the Grad Night fund.

What I haven’t sorted out is why the seniors choose their particular spots. Oh sure, those coveted places near the entrance to the school make sense. A senior can push the snooze button every morning then whip into his prime parking spot and still be in his seat before the tardy bell rings. It’s a rational that I would use myself, given the chance. But what puzzles me are the random spots in the middle of the parking lot. Or those on the outer edges furthest from the door. Why there?

Google Earth image


A day or two before school resumes the parking lot painting wraps up. The masking tape is peeled away leaving a sharp outline well within the official white lines.

The colors are vibrant: Hot pink, sunny yellow, Black and Red, Go Lions!  The themes are as varied as the students themselves. Football player’s numbers in bold block letters, favorite car brands, pop culture icons such as Pokemon and, new this year, Hi Barbie, and of course “Class of 2024” everywhere. The trending themes, popular colors, and school pride splashes across the parking lot in a sort of “controlled graffiti”.

I never actually see the students – they’re in class when I do my laps on their track, but I sure enjoy the way they share their passions with the world in the form of a decorated parking spot.

As the months pass the vibrant colors will soften until the week after graduation when the parking spots will be painted over with black paint, the dark rectangles creating a clean canvas for the next batch of rising seniors.

Does your community have a quirky annual tradition that amuses you?

Barbara J. Eikmeier is a quilter, writer, student of quilt history, and lover of small-town America. Raised on a dairy farm in California, she enjoys placing her characters in rural communities.

6 replies
  1. Debra H. Goldstein
    Debra H. Goldstein says:

    LOVE this idea. When my twins were at the high school, they were assigned spaces by a lottery. Consequently, one twin had one of those coveted at the very top near the door spaces (the roll in at last minute space) while the other was all the way at the end (of course, he was the roll in at last moment kid). The advantage worked in reverse when school was out as the coveted space was almost the last to get out as their was a designated way to drive — go to end of lane only in one direction and enter circle around parking lot .. no zig zagging allowed. Decorating the spots is a riot!

    • Barb Eikmeier
      Barb Eikmeier says:

      Deborah, your twin’s parking experience is a great life lesson on silver linings!
      Thanks for sharing!

  2. Donnell Ann Bell
    Donnell Ann Bell says:

    This is brilliant. I can’t think of a better way to promote camaraderie, spirit and engage young and old. We have many traditions in Las Cruces. One at Christmas time, devotees of the Virgin Mary hike A mountain barefoot! It’s filled with rocks and stickers and is a difficult climb. Personally, I prefer your parking lot, Barbara!

    • Barb Eikmeier
      Barb Eikmeier says:

      Donnell, I’m not a very good painter but I do better with paint than climbing rocks and stickers barefooted!
      Thanks for sharing about the local tradition!!

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