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.
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.