Maneuvers in parking garages that drive us crazy

October 18, 2004|By KEVIN COWHERD

IF THEY EVER want to do a study on how human beings react in a cold, harsh environment where the rules of common decency are thrown out the window and it's every man for himself, they should go to a parking garage.

You talk about sociopathic behavior -- the minute people take their ticket and the gate swings open, a little switch seems to go off in their heads and they think: It's all about me now.

This explains the behavior of the most annoying people in any parking garage, namely, those drivers who insist on backing into a parking space.

You've seen this hundreds of times, of course.

Instead of pulling into a parking space like a normal human being, these people race past the space and then jam on the brakes.

Then they make a big production of backing in.

Slow-w-wly, slow-w-wly, slow-w-wly, inch by inch by inch, they back up.

Craning their flabby little necks and turning the steering wheel furiously with their fat little hands, they ba-a-a-ck up, ba-a-a-ck up, ba-a-a-ck up ...

Oh, God, it goes on forever.

You could dock an oil freighter in less time.

While all this is going on, of course, traffic in both directions is at a standstill, as everyone else is forced to witness this fascinating display of Mom, I Got My Learner's Permit!

Then, just when you think they're finally parked and it's safe to go around them, they shoot out again in an effort to straighten out the car.

So now the whole agonizing process begins again.

Slowly, slowly, slowly, inch by inch by inch, flabby neck craned, fat little hands banging the wheel, etc., they back up for the second time.

Depending on how obsessive-compulsive they are, they could shoot out again for a second -- or even a third! -- round of car-straightening.

Finally, after what seems like hours, with cars backed up in every direction as far as the eye can see, they finish backing in.

Which is when they give you the little wave.

Oh, you know the wave I'm talking about.

It's the little wave of apology.

It's the little wave accompanied by a sheepish grin that says: "Sure, I know I've inconvenienced all of you. I know some of you will miss important meetings because of me. Others may miss critical phone calls that could affect your jobs and determine the course of your futures. Perhaps some of you pregnant women have even gone into labor.

"Nevertheless, as you can see, I'm all parked the way I want to be! And now it'll be so much easier for me to get out of here!"

Yes, that's their whole reason for backing into a parking space: It makes it easier for them to leave at the end of the day.

It saves them time.

But how much time does it really save compared to conventional, head-in parking?

Five seconds? Ten seconds, tops?

Think about this, you people who back in.

Is it really worth all the rigmarole you go through -- the grinding of gears, the twisting and turning in your seat that sets up a lifetime of lower-back problems, the near side-swiping of the car next to you because of your faulty backing-up skills -- just to save a few seconds?

I don't think so.

No, I don't think we have to do any kind of extensive cost-benefit analysis here to see that -- and I say this with all due respect -- you're wasting your time.

Not to mention my time when I'm behind you in the garage.

Almost as annoying as the person who backs into a parking space is the person who deliberately takes up two parking spaces.

No, I take that back. The person who takes two spaces is even more annoying.

He does this, apparently, so that his precious car will not be dinged or scratched by another car door.

Meanwhile, everyone who sees the car straddling two spaces automatically thinks: Boy, what a selfish jerk that guy must be.

And their next thought, of course, is: Boy, I'd love to ding and scratch that car.

I confess that even someone like myself, with boundless tolerance for the idiot behavior of others, has occasionally entertained such a thought.

But I have never acted upon it.

Even though I park every day in a gloomy, six-story concrete mausoleum in which parking is at a premium due to a never-ending repair project that routinely wipes out dozens of parking spaces, I don't flip out and seek revenge when I see someone taking up two spots.

No, I'm above that sort of thing.

I just say a silent prayer that his or her car bursts into flames.

Oh, not while he or she is in it or anything.

What kind of a monster do you think I am?

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