Saturday, December 12, 2009


There are a lot of parking lots in the world. Environmentalist wackos like to decry the number of cars polluting the planet, and goodness knows the house next door to me has about eight vehicles and only three licensed drivers, but just imagine how this extrapolates to parking lots.

All of the cars on the planet aren’t being used at any given moment, but spots have to be available in front of every convenience store, exercise center, or proctologist’s office for anybody who might drive up. That’s a lot of asphalt. Wide open and ready for use. If only someone would drive in.

For some reason, I find myself in a lot of parking lots. I might be taking a short cut on one of my runs, or I might just be looking for dropped coins, but as I stand there I think, “Hmm, what a waste of land” and I think, “Hmm, what’s with those folks who don’t know how to park properly?”

Whether the lot is full or not, I can always find some vehicles that aren’t parked nose in. You know, the way the rest of us park. There is an unwritten social contract that says we all park the same way: headlights facing front, blinding the old geezer reaching for the gearshift in his own car.

In some cases the social contract isn’t unwritten. To stem the tide of these ne’er-do-wells, some small and private lots post un-unwritten rules. “Please park forward.” That’s the nice one. “Do not back in.” That’s the one for when nice just doesn’t cut it. There is a reason such a request, whether it is cute and informal or brisk and direct, is made. That reason is “a friend of mine.”

I had a friend a while back who always used to park his van backwards in parking lots, and even on his own driveway. It took him slightly longer to park, what with the three-point turn and having to carefully navigate in reverse between other vehicles, but his departures were much quicker than those of us who had to back out.

He could just floor the gas pedal and turn the wheel. It made escapes much easier, which is possibly why he did it. He had a lifestyle, which, shall we say, obligated him to be able to flee at a moment’s notice.

Those who might have been after him are the same who also park rear-in when they take a short break to buy doughnuts and coffee. Every police car I see in front of a convenience store or pastry shop is always parked nose-out. That’s when it hit me: it was either to aid in fleeing, or in pursuing. The fugitive needs an easy out, and the hunter needs to be able to quickly follow. The rest of us ease into our slot and then carefully back up later after the proctologist declares us fit and healthy.

Backing out of a parking space certainly takes care, but it seems harder to back in. You have to crank your head around until it is ready to spin off your shoulders, and the tires that are leading the vehicle aren’t the ones that turn. That makes it more problematic.

Because it is more difficult, it takes more time, and every time someone is trying to back into a spot in a crowded parking lot, traffic begins to back up. That’s why we have the social contract. If the traffic flow is messed up, it leads to flaring tempers, and the world ends in a fiery rain of anger.

I can’t see going to all that trouble. We all should do whatever we can to prevent the world from ending in an angry rain of fire.

Better everyone just stops parking backwards. Granted that police officers should be allowed to back in whenever they are on duty—lest they arrive late to the scene of the crime—they shouldn’t do it out of habit in their private vehicles. Likewise, criminals shouldn't park that way because now, with no one else doing it, their getaway car will stick out like a sore thumb.

The obvious nature of their criminal enterprise will be further exacerbated by them running around, guns drawn, with alarms blaring behind them. They need a better getaway plan than simply the rear-parked car.

If you, or someone you know, need to discuss options for fleeing, you should talk to my old friend. Just call ahead to make sure the facility isn’t in lockdown.

And only use his ideas that were successful.

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