21 October 2009

Question O' The Day

(Photograph copyright 2009, all rights reserved)

People don't know how to park their cars. Has anyone ever noticed that? I'm not talking about parallel parking on the street. Chicago is full of on-street parking, and I have to admire people who can just whistle their way into a parking spot roughly the size of a Kleenex box, especially when they're driving full-sized vans and big sedans. Disclosure: I can't parallel park worth a damn. It must be because I'm a Westerner and there are parking lots in the West because there's just more room. I don't know. I've never learned how to parallel park correctly and I live in fear that I'll have to take a road test one day for a license renewal.

No, I'm talking about parking lots. I've seen so many fender benders and near misses in parking lots (and garages) that I've developed my own set of rules for them. You may call me paranoid, but that's just the way it is. Whenever I see a new-ish car covered in dents, I know that person has to park in a lot at work and they've given up. Rules:

1. If you see a new-ish Cadillac that is covered in dings and scratches, park FAR away from it. It has become de rigeur for grandmas who really shouldn't be driving at all to buy these things (it's the old "surrounded by steel" argument - too bad those cars are mostly plastic), and since they have no intention of ever owning another car, they don't bother getting collision insurance. They don't care who they hit, and therefore they don't bother with mirrors (even if they're tall enough to see them) when they back up. Stay away.

2. Don't park near white vans, especially if they have rust on them. Silly? No. Everyone knows that white vans mean "serial killer", right? Every time you hear about something dreadful happening like little kids being propositioned outside of schools, or muggings and rapes and abductions there's always a white van involved. Besides, every cop show ever made that's featured a hideous kidnapping or other crime involves a white van. White vans have bad pop-culture karma. Seriously, when you start noticing these things, they show up everywhere. Weird.

3. Don't park anywhere near an SUV that has one of those "honor student" stickers (My child is a coke dealer in the South Loop, My son is on his fourth DUI, etc. ) or the even smarmier little Mommy/Daddy/Kid/Pet stick figures pasted to a window. These people never pay attention to where they're going. They're either abasing themselves to their kids in hopes that they little buggers will shut up or shouting at them to shut up. Usually the golden lab is in the front seat, slobbering all over the windshield. You don't want to get near that.

4. If your car is new, make sure you get it good and dirty before you go to a grocery store in it. A new car in a parking lot is an idiot attractor. They'll be on you like a fat kid on a Smartie, and you will end up at the body shop for it.

5. It's SAFE to park by the tricked-out little putt putts that the kids are driving these days. This only seems counterintuitive. No matter how rough the occupant looks, they aren't interested in getting into any fuss with insurance companies or cops. Besides, if they are young kids, you have to know that they've fixed up their cars on their own nickel, so they know what stuff costs - no parent is going to pay for any of that.

Ok, those are the main rules. I have a strategy for dealing with these poxes on humanity. When I go somewhere that has a parking lot, I go during off-peak hours. I have no day job, so thats relatively easy. I park away from entryway doors, preferably in a corner somewhere with at least two spaces between me and the cars on either side. Call me paranoid, I can take it, but I just don't like spending a fortune on body work and I won't drive a bunged-up vehicle.

So here's the question....

Why is it that when you do that - park away from as many other vehicles as you can manage - some asshole always has to snuggle their minivan or pickup right next to your driver's side door?

As a corollary, why do they do that when you're in and empty lot? It's not like they're going to run out of room, yet someone ALWAYS does that! Why park so close?

Enquiring minds and all that....


  1. Herd mentality.
    "Oh, look. Someone parked there. That must be the place to park."
    Same thing that's given lemmings a bad name.

  2. Sigh. You're probably right. So why am I constantly surprised at just how dumb people can be?

  3. Because somehow, in spite of your years of experience, you've managed to remain an optimist?

  4. I'll take that!

    But I suspect the real reason is that all of the stupid people are living longer. In ancient times, they would have been eaten by bears. More recently they would have stuck themselves in some sort of heavy equipment or got stomped by horses or something. Now they all have desk jobs. It's just safer for them now.

    And the bar keeps dropping.

  5. Not to mention that as a society, especially here in the West, we tend to coddle the stupid and make it even easier for them to survive long enough to breed....

  6. I'm jealous that you're able to find empty or near-empty lots. But then, I do have a day job, so I have to conduct transactions during peak hours. I don't encounter the lonely cars like yours does (my guess being, the other cars are flirting with yours).

    What bugs ME is that people who've parked horribly in a lot space don't bother trying to correct the horrible parking. I'm one of those types who'll keep backing up and steering this way and that, backing up, steering, till I'm finally properly parked.

    I also loathe being followed to my parking space.

  7. Just a thought, but this is a hell of an argument in favor of the bus. I was on a bus once when someone came speeding out of a fast-food drive-thru (someone explain to me why we need cars that go from 0 to 60 in less time than it takes a Formula 1 car to do the same? It's like they WANT people to drive too aggressively) and WHAM! Right into the side of the bus. The car was totaled. The bus had a few scratches on it, and the passengers got to tell the cops what happened (I saw it all the way since I was looking directly out the window above where the car hit). All in all, an interesting day.

    Speaking of the bus...the other day we got one hell of a rain squall between 10:30 and 11 in the morning. In my 11:00 class there were people who looked like they'd just been thrown into a swimming pool with their clothes on...and there were people who were practically bone dry. The latter had come in on the bus, which drops you about five steps from the building. The former had to park in Timbuktu because enrollment's up during the recession and parking is scarce. It may lengthen my commute from 20 minutes to an hour, but some days that city bus is well worth it (and the $70 a month I pay for transportation vs. hundreds for payment, insurance, and gas, well...)

  8. Fox, I'm with you on the bus thing, or mass transportation in general. But unfortunately, outside of the big, big cities, taking the bus is either a suicide mission or simply tempting the fates. (at least in my neck of the woods, the Midwest) Having said that, I'm a glutton for punishment and also too damn cheap to pay for parking since I work downtown. I'm not on the bus for very long, about 10 minutes, but that's usually long enough for me to smell like bourbon at 7am on a Tuesday.

    And Messy, I'm with you on the white van phenomenon. Or really any van that has those panels and either no windows or tinted ones. And you do start noticing that shit when you start looking. I lived in DC during the whole DC Sniper shenanigans and when they released (incorrectly) the info about the white box truck, I cannot tell you how many of those darn things were EVERYWHERE when you started paying attention.

    But yeah, I park at the far end of every parking lot when I shop--people are idiots who don't know how to drive so I try to stay far away, plus the extra walking couldn't hurt.

  9. There's a very prosaic reason for the white van phenomenon. White is the color of choice for fleet vehicles. It's the cheapest color that you can buy from any manufacturer, and when companies put their decals and signs on them, they're nicely visible from long distances.

    MOST commercial vehicles are white, even city cars, pickups and other trucks. Most police cars are white with the various colors and numbers on them in whatever colors that municipality uses. I've never seen a cable or phone company vehicle that WASN'T white under all of the stuff on them.

    These vehicles are generally only used by their initial buyers for a couple of years and when they get sold, they're very cheap. After all, they're relatively new, but usually have extremely high mileage and let's face it, company cars are not generally driven kindly. Add that to the fact that no company really bothers fixing minor dings and scratches on these things and hey presto, there are a lot of nasty looking white vans around.

    So they're attractive...to people who want unobtrusive generic looking vehicles that no one will glance at more than once. Most of the used white vans around here belong to small businesses who then put their own magnetic signs on them and drive them until they drop. But not all of them. *snicker*

  10. Just a comment....

    Down here in Florida, when you go to the grocery store, all the old folks go through the parking lot with their horns blowing. Why you ask? Because in their minds, if they blow the horn first it's YOUR FAULT. I shit you not about this!!

    Come on down the weather is fine!! We can take a spin through some parking lots mid-morning on a Sunday! Whoo-Whee!!

  11. My automatic answer is that people are inconsiderate assholes. But that's mostly because I'm having a parking issue at my complex involving a freaking Chevy Suburban and my Toyota Yaris.

    See, I have my assigned covered spot with an open spot by it. This guy just recently decided that out of all the spot in our parking lot that were uncovered, he NEEDED the tiny one next to me. Now, getting out of my spot without hitting his fender is a magical adventure. I'm not even going into how he thought it was cute to fold one of my mirrors against the door, they're collapsible it turns out, for...some reason.

    As for white vans, the ones without windows creep me out. I can't ever figure out why anyone would want an unmarked van with no windows, much less buying one. But I'm sure some of them aren't creepy guys that are following someone. I'm sure...

  12. Many vans used for commercial purposes don't have side windows - people carry tools and equipment in them and they don't want anyone to see the expensive stuff. They also often have shelving or storage systems inside.

    Then again, wouldn't you wonder if you saw a banged-up white van with a refrigeration unit on top and no signs on the sides? Hmmm.