Learn to Park, Ya Big Jerk
July 8, 2011 by Chip Wood
Aargh. It just happened again.
I pulled into the parking lot with a couple of minutes to spare before my appointment. I could see a parking spot available just three spaces from the front door and made a beeline for it.
But as I approached, I saw that the car on the left spilled over into “my” spot by half a foot. Yes, I could still pull into the space. But the only way out of my car would have been to climb out the sunroof. So I had to keep going, around the corner and down two aisles, before I found a place to park.
What is it with people these days? Why can’t they park between the white lines? And more to the point for today’s column: What are we going to do about them? If you agree it’s time to teach them to do better, read on.
But first, let’s agree on what we’re trying to accomplish here.
I’m not talking about the people with a brand-new vehicle who deliberately angle across two or three spaces. These folks know exactly what they are doing. They are not the subjects of today’s epistle.
And I’m not talking about the folks who think a bright-yellow line painted along the curb means “this place is reserved for you.” When I lived in Atlanta, that color designation had a special meaning. It told the ladies who lunch, “Sure, honey, leave your Mercedes here.” If you don’t believe me, visit any strip mall or shopping plaza; you’ll see what I mean.
While I’m on that subject, would someone please explain to me why the people who will fight like furies to get the closest space to their target — and will even double- or triple-park, if necessary, to avoid walking an extra 10 or 20 feet — are most often the ones who are headed to their favorite gym?
What’s wrong with these people? You would think they would park as far away as possible from their favorite Buff and Beauty Salon, so they could get in a warm-up walk before they hit the mats with their favorite trainer. But n-o-o-o-o. Nothing less than right by the front door will do.
But they’re not the targets of today’s remarks either… much as they might deserve all the opprobrium we can heap on them. No, today I want to talk about — and propose a solution for — one of the most irritating groups of humanity ever granted a driver’s license.
I’m referring to the people who don’t know or don’t care that they’re terrible parkers. “Close enough” is good enough for them. It doesn’t matter if the front of their car or the rear (or all too often, both) spills over into their neighbor’s space.
What can we do about these people?
You can’t confront them. Most of the time, they’re nowhere to be seen. You can’t tell their momma or poppa that they should have raised them better. And no, as much as you may be tempted to do so, you can’t remove the stems from a tire or two and leave them with a flat. First, that’s against the law. Second, they wouldn’t know why you were punishing them. Third, they might catch you and pound you to a pulp. So don’t do it.
And definitely no keying either, no matter what the provocation. Not even if the driver is a selfish slob who deliberately parks across three spaces to protect his oh-so-precious sports car or shiny new truck. Don’t stoop to his level.
What I propose is a simple, cost-effective educational solution that’s also fun to implement. Each of us should order a bunch of small cards printed with this unmistakable message: “Learn to park, ya big jerk!”
Then, whenever we see someone who needs a gentle reminder about his parking skills and the lack thereof, we can simply take one of these cards and slip it under his windshield wiper. (Make sure it’s the one on the driver’s side. And that the message is pointing into the car, so he will see it when he gets behind the wheel.) And then go on your way, with the warm glow of contentment that comes from knowing you have done your part, in one small way, to make the world a better place.
This is obviously such a terrific idea that I am shocked to tell you I have not been able to garner much support for it. A whole host of people you would expect to love the idea is silent. American Automobile Association, why aren’t you taking the lead here? Rush Limbaugh or Bill O’Reilly, here’s a crusade that could really make a difference. Even my old colleague Neal Boortz ignores me. (I think his preferred solution is tar and feathers. He’s an old-fashioned kind of guy.)
So, good friends, it’s up to us. Get those cards printed. And then, let’s go to work. Let’s vow to straighten out the world, one parking space at a time.
Emily Post Would Not Approve
Well, I’m glad I got that off my chest. I feel much better now. Venting can do that, you know.
On calm reflection, I realize my suggestion might not be the best way to produce the more civilized and considerate behavior that should be our goal. Putting a “Learn to park, ya big jerk” card on someone’s windshield might be a tad counterproductive — especially if the offending parker sees you put it there.
The doyenne of politeness, Emily Post, taught that it was never appropriate to counter rudeness with rudeness. Miss Manners says much the same thing today. So what would they suggest we do about this incredibly pervasive problem?
Is there a chance they would approve of the concept, but not the copy? Would they endorse cards that said something like:
“Pardon me, sir or madam. I couldn’t help noticing that your automobile has intruded into the space where I hoped to park. Would you mind making an extra effort the next time to stay within the painted lines? I assure you, we will all appreciate your thoughtfulness. With very kindest regards, yours sincerely, A Fellow Parker.”
I decided to research the matter. I checked Post’s bestseller, Etiquette In Society, In Business, In Politics, And At Home. Since she wrote it in 1922, you probably won’t be surprised to learn that it has absolutely nothing to say about the subject of parking spaces.
Post’s great-granddaughter-in-law, Peggy Post, is continuing the work Emily began. She now heads the Emily Post Institute. I checked the online archives of the Institute, but the only thing that mentioned parking was an article about being calm at Christmas. It contained some very sweet suggestions, but nothing that addressed this problem.
I didn’t find anything on this subject at Miss Manners’ website, either. So I wrote both ladies, asking if they had advice they would like to share with the gentle readers of this column. It’s been several weeks now, and I have not heard back from either one. That’s rude, isn’t it? Maybe I’ll get a response after publishing this column. If I do, I’ll let you know.
I’m sure many of you have some practical, positive solutions to contribute. So why not click on the “comment” tab below and fire away? I’m eager to hear how you would solve the problem of rude, inconsiderate parkers.
After that, we’ll tackle how they drive. Wait until you hear my paintball proposal.
Until next time, keep some powder dry.