Parallel Parking

We're designed to back in till we hit each other.

Dave and I went to West Philly the other day to visit Ashley at Land Based Jawns. Dave drove his new Subaru SUV. I like Subarus. It’s a whole look and lifestyle. They do a zero waste production line, which is supposed to be better for the earth than the lithium batteries on hybrids. I drive a hybrid but it was a hand-me-down so it wasn’t a specific choice. We as humans probably shouldn’t buy anything new ever again. Earth dying and all that. Also, cars. Bad. Yes. But also: cars. Fun. And without over-romanticizing California car culture, I have to say, a smooth and seamless parallel parking gesture is just one of those sweet small victories I like to savor.

While driving, Dave and I discuss new car intelligence and how it can be more of a nuisance than a service. I feel nagged by my car’s incessant seat belt warnings, but I have absolutely been guilty of leaving a car running while parked for hours, because I forget to turn off my ignition. I would benefit from a beeping warning that I’m trying to leave my car. How silly.

When we get to the crowded block where Ashley’s plot farm is located, we conveniently find a “just right” parking space. He starts to parallel park.

New cars have rear-view cameras and motion-sensitive beepers that indicate how much distance is left between you car and the one behind you, by accelerating the beeping sound while magnifying the proximity of your nearest obstacle. I did not realize till this day though, that really new cars like Dave’s Subaru SUV will lurch to a hard stop if you come to within six inches of touching the next car. It was such a short distance to travel at such a slow speed, but when he passed the threshold of the car’s auto-braking system, I was jolted forward so hard I felt like I’d been clotheslined.

Whoa, Jesus.

Dave: Yeah, it’s an annoying feature of the car. They need to have different rules for Philadelphia, cuz you can’t park in Philly without a little love tap!

My mother chants while she parallel parks. She says butsukaru made o-rai: you’re ok until you hit something. She repeats it rhythmically while she slows into the space. Funny to think about now that it does match the general tempo of the beeping accelerando.

A little bump won’t hurt anyone.

I fully hit cars when I park. I fully graze them, tap them, push them a little to make room, and sometimes I set off their alarms. I obviously only do this incidentally, and I cautiously avoid any vehicle that looks like it makes more than I do in a year. I don’t try to hit and damage property, and I can count on my hands the times I’ve actually made contact with a car, but I agree with my friend, and my mom, and with Dave, that there’s leeway in parallels. I would just take it a step further and say you should just know that this is the risk you run when parking. Driver beware.

There is, however, just one rule: no one can see me do it. I would never dare touch, push, brush against a car in the presence of occupants or drivers, and probably not in front of stranger witnesses either. And I wouldn’t ever mind if others touched or hit my car, but not while I’m in it, because I really wouldn’t know how to tolerate breaking one boundary while maintaining so many others. There’s just so much we can agree to do in the absence of each other’s witness.

Loading more posts…