The Amateur Parker
New Cars Are Harder to Park
By Melissa Bean Sterzick
I finally have a new car. My old one was a 1997 Nissan Pathfinder with 116,000 miles, bald tires and only three working doors, as well as a few other issues. My new one is a 2008 Toyota Highlander Ė sorry, not a hybrid Ė which technically isnít new but still new to me.
The car purchase has been a topic of conversation in my home since my daughter started school two years ago, and we found our carpooling opportunities were totally handicapped by our old carís limited seating capacity.
So the discussion began over the cost of a newer vehicle and the perfect model for me.
A minivan would be practical, but that combined with my lovely new gray hairs and crowís feet could propel me into an early and severe midlife crisis Ė no offense to minivan drivers, we all have our sensitivities. An extra-large style wouldnít be practical either, because it would be too hard to park and too expensive to run. We figured it out and the Toyota won.
Now I find myself driving this shiny crossover SUV in constant fear, despite its intense configuration of airbags. Fear of crashing my new car is one concern, and the fear of what other people might do to my car is the other.
Besides that, my approach to parking has changed completely, and I find myself reevaluating all my old attitudes and tactics toward parking and parking lots. These are just a few of my latest observations:
Problem: narrow stalls
I never used to care if somebody bumped my car with their door. I thought it was rude, but I knew it didnít matter much. When your car is 14 years old and the paint is peeling off the hood and roof, and a thousand dings, scrapes and chips polka-dot the side panels, it doesnít matter where you park. A new dent would have to be huge for me to notice.
On the flip side, the first day I drove my new car, I let go of the door into what I thought was a fixed position, and when I turned around to get my purse, it released another 8 inches right into the rearview mirror of the Mercedes next to me. The man sitting inside the vehicle jumped and then swore and than exited in such a way that I thought he was going to come over and punch me in the face.
I said a small prayer that he would not actually hit me in front of my children, backed away a little further and apologized before he could speak. That seemed to help him regain control and he looked a little less menacing. Seeing his car had not sustained any damage, he scowled at me, got back in and drove away with an angry skid.
Crazy solution: Set aside an area of extra-wide parking spots and install meters. I would pay a little extra to safeguard my doors and avoid being beaten up by furious Mercedes owners.
Problem: the deadly 3-foot-tall concrete post
Iím not exactly sure how tall these barrier posts are Ė and I know they are in place to keep cars off sidewalks and out of store fronts and other pedestrian-dominated locales Ė but I know that I used to be able to see them in my old car. Now I suspect they are there but canít be sure, because my new car sits higher and is longer in both directions.
I have always mocked large-SUV owners for the bumper dents they incur because they canít really see the outer edges of their vehicles, and I do not want to become one of them. Itís a matter of pride to me that I have always been aware of the size of my car. Now that I have experienced the real danger of these barrier posts I have new insight into the problem.
Crazy solution: Top these posts with colorful, maybe even advertorial, flags or banners. Gain some visible airspace for the parking lot owner and save a few bumpers.
Problem: I canít find my car
I drove my old car for 11 years, so it was part of the family, meaning I loved it but completely took it for granted. Before, I could guarantee mine was the only navy 1997 Pathfinder in the lot; now Iím just one of several white Highlanders. Not only that, I donít recognize my own license plate yet, and have to examine the roof racks and trim to be sure which is mine. Keyless entry is a lifesaver.
Crazy solution: Pick a theme, any theme, and name those aisles and number those stalls the way they do at amusement parks and sports arenas. Thereís no reason that average-sized parking lots and structures canít go warm and fuzzy.
Hereís hoping the ďnewĒ Toyota treats me as well as the Nissan did, because I donít want to buy another car for 10 more years. In about five years, this one will be sufficiently broken in so that I wonít care what happens to it when itís parked, and five years after that, I will be ready to start the process all over again.
Melissa Bean Sterzick is an Amateur Parker and PTís proofreader. She can be reached at Melissa@parkingtoday.com.
Article Abstract from September, 2011