Nobody likes searching for a place to put their car. In Boston, where a 24/7 off-street space can run upwards of $300/month (or more for a covered garage), street parking remains the only option for many residents already stripped of the better part of their month’s income by increasing apartment costs and the always-rising general cost of living in the city. Although having one’s own vehicle may seem less crucial with the growing push for alternative transportation options, car ownership continues to increase in the city and it has been projected that in some Boston neighborhoods today, actual parking spaces account for only a fifth of the number of stickers issued.
To those of us who live the great urban parking experience each day, finding a nighttime home for our beloved car in these asphalt jungles can be a nightmare waiting to happen.
To be clear, it’s a chess game- the techniques of which for effective spot-pouncing are as varied as the vehicles that probe the blacktops in search of their little slice of curb each evening. Such a game has brought to view a number of common approaches to reaching one’s goal. I call this cross section of the parking public…
The Five City Parkers You Meet in Hell
1. The Magnet
You won’t miss the Magnet because he’ll appear no more than 10 inches from your rear bumper when he first locks onto your car like a heat-seeking missile chasing Angelina Jolie on a snowbank. The Magnet will ride your tailgate, trying to instill a sense of urgency and fear as you patrol the crowded streets, accelerating and decelerating, often visibly berating you in your rearview.
The Magnet will attempt to block your parallel parking attempts by refusing to give you room to back in. He will try and stop you from having time to determine what to do at intersections. Paramount to his technique, he will go to extensive lengths to overload your nervous system until you give up and let him pass; giving the Magnet first pick on the sweet virgin road ahead.
HOW TO DEFEAT HIM: The Magnet feeds on the weak. To defeat him, you must outdrive him. Slam on your horn when he doesn’t let you back up, or drive erratically so that he can’t keep on your tail. Reverse-psychology can be effective: driving extra-extra slow will make the Magnet give up and look for better targets. The Magnet craves excitement and is treating the hunt as a game. Beat him at it!
2. The Lurker
Also known as “that car idling in a no-parking zone,” the Lurker has given up traditional spot-trolling in favor of a wait-and-watch method. The Lurker often feels as though he has been two seconds too late one too many times and has grown wary of losing spaces to the Magnet driver. The woman-scorned of the urban parking world, the Lurker is determined to find his rightful place and hedges his bets by waiting quietly in the shadows.The Lurker can usually be found at the beginning of a long, one-way road– quietly waiting for the telltale cranking sound of a soon-to-be-leaving vehicle. Madly grabbing at his own controls, the Lurker will throw his car into gear and race from hiding to the still-warm space of the departed like a startled horse in a drag racer. Warning – trying to beat the Lurker to a space on ‘his street’ may result in a deadly game of parking-space chicken.
HOW TO DEFEAT HIM: To defeat the Lurker, you can price-is-right him by lurking ‘1-dollar(or in this case car length)-above’ him. In the Lurking game, the closest Lurker wins. Awareness is key. Know where the Lurkers are, and plan your scouring routes accordingly.
3. SUV Guy
SUV Guy either didn’t ever expect to park on a city street or somehow mistook the small grassy-patches in the sidewalk cracks to indicate a distinct need for inner-city offroad capability. Whatever the reason, his boat-sized vehicle won’t fit in any standard parking spaces, but like a high school football star: he will try to fit his into every opening available, regardless of size. You may also observe him struggling with tight turns and narrow roadways. You may also want to note his paint color because it’s probably a match for the scratches on your car from that time you parked in that really-too-narrow alleyway.
HOW TO DEFEAT HIM: More an annoyance than a danger, get around SUV Guy as quickly as possible. He is particularly susceptible to the Magnet driver, but because he probably can’t see anything behind him due to the never-used boogie boards in his back seats, only the daring need apply. Like a speedboat passing an oil tanker, you must outmaneuver, overtake, and forget.
4. The Nervous Ninny
Some people just weren’t cut out for urban parking. Maybe they grew up in Arkansas and learned to drive on a tractor in a 5-mile field. Maybe their last house had a 10-car garage and only 3 cars to put in it. Whatever the reason, the Nervous Ninny can be spotted by watching out for any car that looks like it needs to be admitted to the E.R. for seizures. Gas, brake, gas, brake, gasBRAKESLEFTTURNBRAKEOHSHITRIGHT gas. The Nervous Ninny is probably new to the neighborhood and hasn’t figured out that the people walking on the sidewalks really aren’t going to their cars.
HOW TO DEFEAT HIM: Keep a car length. Remember, the Nervous Ninny is more afraid of you than you are of him. Inevitably, he will pull into a space that looks legitimate but is a loading zone/fire hydrant/temporary no parking/hobo box/etc and when this happens, make your move and steal the just-right space that he thought was too small to try and repark in after failing the first time.
5. The Local
He grew up in this town. Hell, he used to play baseball in the street and use parked cars for batting practice in high school. He’s parked everywhere ten times and has every resident sticker for the last 15 years blacking out the rear window of his beat up ’89 Civic. Immune to the above techniques, the Local knows about the rezoned spaces with the wrong signs, or signs that the ticket-writers don’t check. His name is carved into the asphalt from two decades ago when they last repaved and he still owes his bartending friend at the local pub some money for the kegs he borrowed last week. He is the fonz and the rest of us are Potsy.
HOW TO DEFEAT HIM: You don’t. Sorry, but you’re not gonna beat this guy. It might even be worth it to skip a possible lead on a space to follow him around and see where his spots are. But handle with care… these are family secrets you’re stealing. In fact, maybe you need a few more stickers in your rear window before you can apprentice this guy. Just don’t cross him. The Local probably knows the parking clerk at town hall, and you just might find your registration revoked if he finds you’ve taken his prized space one late Friday night.