Sometimes high school students refuse to apply to large universities because they don’t want graduate students teaching them. I’m not sure whether the documentary film “The Parking Lot Movie” would change their minds, but it’s a hell of a lot of fun. (You can find it on Netflix under “cerebral, quirky.” I take that as a compliment.)
The parking lot in question is the Corner Parking Lot (the CPL) in Charlottesville, Virginia. The lot attendants, typically University of Virginia graduate students in the humanities, dwell in a small, primitive booth that affords them a little too much time to contemplate human nature, the social contract, Buddhist detachment, and the meaning of life.
What really drives the film, though, is the attendants’ utter contempt for drivers who treat them like dirt. You will root for them in their “battle with humanity” and cheer as they rap, “God will hand us the sword of justice!” In this small corner of the world, grad students rule, their wisdom and power contained in mystical phrases like “truncated syllogism” and “transcendental existentialist.” It makes me want to go back to graduate school and stay there forever. (I guess Netflix has me pretty well pegged.)
I’m already beginning to think of ways to use the film in my Existentialism class this fall, perhaps as an end-of-semester treat. And who knows, maybe a few of my college-bound students will end up giving grad students a chance.