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Lebanon: Valet Parking

Valet parking is a service, usually offered by upscale restaurants and clubs, where customers’ vehicles are parked for them by a person called a valet. This is in contrast to self–parking where customers park their own cars. Valet parking is done with the intention of providing a luxury of service and VIP treatment for customers. But that is not the case in Lebanon any more. Here, valet parking has become so widespread that it is found even at ordinary cheap fast food outlets or even at career fairs attended by young unemployed people, who are looking for jobs. Bloggers are reflecting on this topic; from speculation that we may soon have valet service at grocery shops to rumors that the network of valets are part of a militia in disguise linked to some sectarian party and getting ready for any confrontations that may erupt. Here are two takes on the subject:

Jamal writes about this subject “around which many dissertations could be done.” He mentions, for example, that “one could study the Freudian interpretation of the glee derived from the key tossing experience;” and he continues in his post with the mention of the strangest places where valet parking is found:

Lebanon has been suffering a massive brain drain since the opposition sit in started, or was it since the July war? The Hariri assassination? Since Hariri assumed power? Lausanne? 1982? April 13th? The Cairo accords? World War II? My great grandfather was in Cuba at the turn of the century so let’s just say that people have been fleeing this mountain range for a long, long time. A random sample of the youth would reveal that a good chunk of those leaving do so for the lack of money making job opportunities.
Forward Forum is a career fair that took place at BIEL this past weekend. Thousands of jobless youth flocked for a shot at a career that would keep them in the country. Careers that are unlikely to pay for mortgages, but at least they would cover their food; modest aspirations for college graduates.
Forward Forum had a Valet parking service that would save these 20 some year olds a walk of no more than 50 meters, yet hundreds of the job searchers opted to pay the extra fee for the luxury of just tossing the car key.

Joseph El-Khoury goes into some depth in describing the valet parking industry that is booming in Lebanon as well as the valets, their network and even their uniform:

As the world economy sinks into recession one industry remains prosperous in the country of the Cedar. The recent controversy over the nightlife in the Beirut quarter of Gemmayze has highlighted how a horde of young men in dark uniforms and baseball caps can take over a neighborhood with the sole aim of … parking your car for you.

This phenomenon might seem completely alien to foreigners who would not dare to get behind the wheel of a car following a few drinks. But with the lack of public transport and the absence of consistent law enforcement drinking and driving on a night out is the norm. And when you consider that the average Lebanese youth is blessed with a car at the tender age of 17 providing easy access and parking facilities becomes a priority for any establishment in the competitive Beirut nightlife environment.

Enter the Valet! For a few dollars this young man (the fairer sex has not gotten on the job yet but given their recent track record it is only a matter of time) will bring you peace of mind and respectability while you get to enjoy the finer things in life, hopefully suitably accompanied.

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