Yogi Berra supposedly said that about a popular New York restaurant long ago.

Plenty of vintage Charlestonians have long expressed that same paradoxical perspective when explaining their reluctance to drive downtown.

Our peninsula city still packs enduring charms of iconic architecture, epic history and captivating eccentricity. But it lacks sufficient parking places.

That shortage has inflicted significant expense on the Charleston County School District. As reported by Post and Courier colleague Diette Courrégé Casey on Sunday's front page, the district "will spend $96,800 this year on parking fees for up to 80" employees at Buist Academy and Memminger Elementary School. The district also spent $56,089 "for visitors and employees" at its Calhoun Street headquarters last year.

That's not the only local operation learning expensive lessons in supply-and-demand downtown-Charleston parking economics.

More from our story:

"The Medical University of South Carolina spends about $2.3 million annually to provide shuttle connections and CARTA access to its employees and students, but anyone who wants to park in the garages or lots on campus must foot the bill themselves. Those parking rates are based on salary tiers, with higher-paid employees paying more."

And College of Charleston employees "can pay for access to certain garages on campus, and the college spends about $160,000 annually so anyone with a College of Charleston identification badge can ride for free on a CARTA bus or trolley."

And: "The city pays for its 223 employees to park in downtown, city-owned garages, and that works out to more than $250,000 annually. The city also covers the costs of CARTA passes for about 50 employees, and that comes to about $30,000 annually."

Perilous mission

Back to schools: At least the district projects lower parking costs for Memminger staffers next year, thanks to the addition of some free, on-site places there.

Then again, that current $96,800 tab for Memminger and Buist staffers is almost enough to pay the salary of one of the district's 30 employees now making $100,000 or more a year.

Well, one of them on the low end of that high-end scale.

Yet rather than wallowing in paycheck envy or cowering in parking-plight anxiety, this native Charlestonian drove into the belly of the King Street shopping-district beast at about 1 p.m. Monday.

My revealing findings:

There were a couple of metered parking places open on King near Cannon Street, but none appeared beyond on my southward trek.

Once past Calhoun, not only were there no parking places, there was scant forward progress in traffic that slowed, at best, to a crawl.

That was due, in part, to the decision of one motorist to stop in the right lane for an extended period with no apparent purpose. The old guy seemed oblivious to the horns and crude hand gestures directed his way by agitated drivers.

Such a breach of decorum was particularly unseemly in a city renowned for its good manners.

OK, so it was bound to be bumper-to-bumper - and a mite testy - between King and Market Street on Monday with only nine shopping days left until Christmas.

OK, while some us old-timers fondly recall that large surface lot across from the Riviera Theater, Charleston Place really is a better use of that property than hundreds of parking places.

Plus, the crush of cars downtown is evidence that lots of people still like to go there - and that's a welcome sign for the local economy.

Sentimental journeys

And hey, while turning up, down and around on our winding array of funky streets in search of a spot, you can stir sweet memories through impromptu views of what remains, according to Conde Nast Traveler, America's No. 1 tourist destination.

As for the long walks from where you parked to where you're going, the exercise might do you good.

Still, nostalgia strikes many of us for the days when parking garages were a modern urban blight that we saw in Atlanta - not in Charleston.

That's why so many of us set-in-our-ways, aging natives make those garages our destinations of last parking resort.

Meanwhile, as you struggle to find a place of your own in downtown Charleston, keep in mind another insight attributed to Berra:

"If you come to a fork in the road, take it."

Frank Wooten is assistant editor of The Post and Courier. His email is wooten@postandcourier.com.