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Open spaces at 17th and Pennsylvania

By Les Kretman, NBC News White House producer

The parking garage is right across the street from the New Executive Office Building...maybe a block and a half away from the White House Northwest Gate that I enter and exit through everyday. Journalists, lawyers and lobbyists leave their cars here. You would be hard pressed to find a more efficient, dependable and nicer group of guys than the parking attendants who work here and wear down the rubber on their running shoes every day jockeying cars up and down the ramps.

There's a Christmas tree in the waiting room decorated with faux snow on it and peppermint sticks and at its base ... Seasons Greeting Cards from customers that usually contain tips of appreciation for the hard-working staff.

This year...only four cards. Four. All this in the shadow of the White House. Another sign of tough times.