So, you want to park in downtown Bucharest?

Do you have your balls on you? You do? Then charge ‘em and slap ‘em on because you’ll need them powered up for this parking adventure.

There are few things that happened to me since I returned home that have made me as mad as this. It happened twice last week when I was cruising the streets of the capital with Andrei, looking for food. We were looking for a parking spot one night, when this guy suddenly starts pointing to a spot he was sitting in. He was not working for the city and was not an employee of a private company handling parking either. He was just this random dude holding a parking spot.

Andrei said we need to give him 1 RON (30 cents). I was hungry and tired and didn’t think much of it, although it did seem strange we’d pay a guy for a public parking spot.

The next day, it all became clear. We were going out for lunch and suddently a relatively large mean-looking man jumps out of a parking spot. He motions towards the spot, which had a plastic crate in the middle of it to prevent drivers from just pulling in. We’re again talking public parking, probably paid parking, but this guy was obviously his own master.

Andrei says we have to give him 1 RON.

“Why?” I ask. “Isn’t this public parking?”

“Yeah,” Andrei says. “But he’ll likely scratch your car if you leave it here without paying.”

I was getting mad. The guy approaches the car and Andrei hands him 1 RON.

“How long will you be staying?” he asks.

“30 minutes,” Andrei replies.

“Then I want 3 RON ($1),” he says.

Andrei starts laughing. He’s done this countless times and knows that if he found a parking agent it wouldn’t be more than 1,5 RON. He says he won’t pay that much and the guy gets mad and starts waving his plastic crate around demanding we move the car. We take the 1 RON back and move out of his zone.

Apparently he was just one of many angry-looking dudes all around downtown Bucharest that block parking spots with crates, chairs or their own bodies. Parking is scarce and this is how they make money. They take over the spot and demand cash. Andrei and other people told me that if you don’t pay them or if you argue your right to park with them, they’ll scratch your car, or slash your tires.

It wasn’t the amount of money I was angry over. It was the idea that someone would claim public space and demand money from you if you wanted to use it.

“What about police?” I asked. “Can’t they just take these dudes out in one day?”

My lunch companions stared at me as if I had just fallen off the moon. Didn’t I know police doesn’t deal with small nuissances? Besides, cops probably get kicksbacks from these individuals, they said. Sure you can fight them, they added. But if you don’t come off as more threatening than they are (as in “If I find a scratch on my car, I will find you and bust you open and then I’ll bust open the rest of your f’n family”) then you don’t really want to take a chance.

So if you really need to park, you’ll park. And when the dude walks over to your window, make a decision. Strap on those balls and take charge, pay or move the car to a place he hasn’t occupied and curse the hell out of the situation. We chose door number 3.

3 Responses to “So, you want to park in downtown Bucharest?”

  1. I got angry (read rrrealy angrrrry) just by reading this. I imagine how you must have felt.

  2. I live in Bucharest and I’ve watched this phenomenon since it’s infancy. Now, in it’s maturity stage, it really bugs the s**t out of me. I don’t now what bugs me the most: the fact that the police doesn’t do anything about it, the fact that people are accepting it and pay without as much as a “why?”, or the fact that these useless individuals have come to believe that this is actually their God-given right to ask for money. I’m not joking, they are convinced that it has somehow become their right, that they own the parking lots.

    I have seen a 6-year old girl who was chasing a man who had just parked and didn’t pay the “fee”, saying “hey, what the f**k do you think you’re doin’? You just park and walk away? You need to pay!!”.

    So you see, these days, the mean-looking man don’t even need to be “at work”, they just use representatives and collect.

    Further more, whereas in the beginning they were taking over the parking lots just in weekends, when the legal parking workers were away, now they co-exist with them all week long, and probably request money from them, too.

    I’m not of a violent nature, but I think I could find some joy in getting medieval on their asses.

  3. I gotta tell you that Bucuresti is not the only place that happens. If you try to park in the Bronx around the blocks around Yankee Stadium during a game, you will encounter the same dilemma. Of course you can try the same three option routine as back home, but something tells me that in the Bronx, getting your car scratched would be the best case scenario :)

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