I hope he learned a lesson.
An unforgettable event happened several years ago while I was parallel parking. I was with my wife looking for a parking place in downtown Indianapolis. We were the third or fourth car from the intersection waiting at a red light. As the light turned green, I decided that the empty parking spot we were next to would be perfect.
As I put the gear selector in reverse, I noticed behind me a young fellow in a truck looking agitated. I could understand that he would be frustrated and might miss the light, but there was no reason for us to lose the parking space. I had a few feet of clearance and started to back into the space. The driver of the red pickup truck was pounding his steering wheel. As I cut the front wheels to bring the car back in closer to the curb the pickup truck spurted forward and began scraping the left corner of our car. We were bouncing as I saw a gash appearing in the red paint on the truck’s right side. Road rage!
I saw the license plate on the truck and asked my wife to write it down. When I got out of the car, I saw a small scratch at the left corner of the heavy chrome bumper on our ’67 Pontiac – no harm for us. The truck took it all.
Back home, after an early dinner, I called the Department of Motor Vehicles and found a name associated with the license plate. Using the phone book, I found a number associated with the name and I called. I spoke with a man and described the incident. He immediately said, “You need to talk to my son.”
The next voice I heard was presumably the son. I heard him say, “I loaned my truck to a friend. He must have done it. I’m really sorry and I’m going to let him know how mad I am.” He sounded like the boy who said he did his homework but the dog ate it! There was no significant damage to my car, and I have a strong suspicion that this fellow’s road rage will be toned down after this.
Parallel-parking proficiency is not tested in the driver’s examination in 16 states. Moreover, as many as 40 percent of current drivers are said to have “paralallaphobia” the fear of parallel parking. This is so, despite the fact that cars are not getting longer; they may even be shorter, and municipalities are increasing the length of parking spots to make it easier.
Previously attained skills with parallel parking could also be diminished because there is less need for it. Large parking lots in shopping centers and strip malls are easily accessed and have greater capacity. In some cases, valet parking is offered, even when adequate surface parking spaces are available. In other cases, using a drive-up window eliminates the need for parking.
More than a dozen cars and small trucks are available with parking-assist options. Even those without the full parking assist may be equipped with a backup camera activated when the car is in reverse. This allows a view of the right-hand rear of the car in relation with the curb and the car behind. In addition to a visual on this camera, a sound is activated when the back of the car is within a certain distance of the car or other object that is behind it.* For the old timers, parallel parking is a little bit like tying your shoelaces, you just know how to do it and you do it. Looking ahead, I predict parallel-parking skills will become a relic.
* Some newer cars have active park assist that employs cameras to find and direct your car into and out of a parallel or angled parking space. It takes faith to take your hands off the steering wheel and I’m not there yet.
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