MILWAUKEEThe average customer at the Water Street parking ramp has probably not taken notice of Brian Haemker. They've passed by him day in and day out, likely assuming he is just another parking-lot attendant. But in reality, he is much more.
Haemker has spent the past six years gathering the secrets of every nook and cranny of the Water Street parking ramp, amassing a treasure trove of privileged information.
"There's a whole row on Level 4 that's almost untouched," said Haemker from his tiny booth. "That's because it's on the opposite end of the elevator. But there's a pedestrian walkway just a few steps ahead that gets you across and over pretty conveniently. Plus, there's a Coke machine right there."
"A lot of people don't consider that," Haemker added.
Haemker said drivers often overlook the ramp's basement level.
"I see it every day: People just start up that ramp without thinking," Haemker said. "Meanwhile, a third of the basement sits open. And it's the warmest spot in the winter."
Haemker said Level 6 has some "amazing" parking spaces, explaining that "the extra effort to get there is well worth it."
"Level 6 is seen by parkers as a last resort," Haemker said. "That's ironic, because it's where the best three spaces in the whole garage are."
Asked about the ramp's worst spaces, Haemker singled out those on the first floor, closest to the ticket booths, and a space on Level 5 that sits on the end, next to the traffic lane.
"Your fender is basically guaranteed to get dented there," he said.
Haemker says the most irritating drivers are the ones who park in the ramp for the entire workday, yet don't take advantage of the lower prices for customers who arrive before 8:00 a.m.
"Man, I wish I had the spare four bucks a day to park whenever I want," Haemker said. "Of course, these guys probably get reimbursed by their jobs for parking. Must be nice."
Haemker said he's happy to point drivers toward good spots, but no one ever asks.
"People just park wherever they can find a space, which seems to me just absolutely crazy," Haemker said.