How to Park Your Car
The Four Noble Truths of Parking
I know that I think about parking far more than I should. Perhaps it's an errant chromosome or a childhood trauma, but either way, on some deep, primitive level, I feel like when I find the perfect parking space, it will be akin to achieving nirvana. Surely, a spiritual peace awaits the one who tracks down the mythical Consummate Space. Like many men, in particular, I suspect that it's out there, somewhere. In the pursuit of the perfect parking space, many people are willing to search their whole lives. No, I'm not referring to a park and ride or any other kind of parking service; I'm talking about a typical day-at-the-mall or evening-at-the-restaurant kind of parking space. This is the kind of parking that fuels our imagination.
There are four noble truths when it comes to parking. One, parking is a privilege; two, a space is merely the absence of a car; three, compromise is for the weak; four, a space is a means to an exit.
Parking is a Privilege
The first thing to consider when choosing a parking space is that you have a car. You have a car. How'd that happen? Try to remember back when the prospect of owning a car was the stuff of feverish dreams: as an adolescent, you probably thought it wouldn't ever happen. Your parents carted you to the store, or if you were lucky, you had an older brother or sister who reluctantly did the same. The independence that comes with owning a car seemed too far off to consider properly. Now here you are, driving around, cruising down the boulevard, taking your good fortune for granted.
Keep your luck in mind when choosing a parking space. If anything, the fact that you have a car is enough of a reason for you to take the decision seriously. That space was designed with you in mind, not for the lady on the recumbent bike, not for the guy pushing the grocery cart around town. You've earned an open reservation in any parking lot just by driving.
A Space is Merely the Absence of a Car
A crafty driver understands that isolation is the first and foremost prerequisite of any parking space. We search for distance from other automobiles, in order to ensure the safety of our own. Often, this translates into finding a parking spot far to the back of the lot, even when the lot is only half-full. It's a good idea to keep away from other cars, for fear of dings and scrapes, but sometimes there are no distant spaces. Sometimes, we have to park in an area that won't accommodate our need for elbow room. In these cases, we need to remember that a space is merely the absence of a car.
Anywhere there is room, there is a parking space. I've seen people park on medians, lawns, sidewalks, boardwalks; I've even seen people park in the middle of parks. Some drivers will do anything to ensure that no one else will come too close to their prized possession. Yes, such parking might earn you a ticket, but sometimes, you've got to do what you've got to do. When choosing a parking space, keep in mind that you always have the option of making one.
Compromise is for the Weak
While making an effort to park in the furthest spot possible, some drivers might be tempted to compromise. Perhaps you have a passenger who is less than happy with the half-mile walk to the entrance to the movie theater. Perhaps you feel a time constraint and are tempted to slide into that tight space between the minivan and the Cherokee. Perhaps there's a snowbank you'll have to scale in order to get from your car to Sears. A parking lot often feels like an obstacle course.
In the search for the perfect parking space, compromise is for the weak. Unless you happen to luck into an ideal spot (motorcycles on either side, directly in front of the entrance), you'll have to make sacrifices in order to ensure your car's security. In the case of the unwilling passenger, an acceptable compromise might be a drop-off before parking, keeping in mind that a pick-up at the door might be expected after the movie is over. In the event that a snowbank poses a threat, slap on your snowshoes. Seriously, when choosing a parking spot, pick one that you'll feel comfortable with, regardless of the adversities.
A Space is a Means to an Exit
Regardless of whether you secure a distant space or at least a space next to the curb, remember that all proper parking spaces are a means to an exit. This may simply mean that you back in, but it could involve more. Consider the layout of the area. If you're at a concert or a ballgame, you know what leaving will be like: long lines of impatient drivers, tired and hungry after hours away from home. Sure, parking on the fringe of the lot will likely help, but I've seen many situations in which such choices only result in waiting for a parade of others to pass.
Look for alternative exits when first making a loop around the lot. Park so that you can not only get out of your space quickly, but also get out of the lot without a fuss (parallel parking is an absolute last resort). Often, there will be a back way out; it's your job to find it before you'll need it. Talk to attendants about the best way to get out once the event has ended. Be diligent in your planning, and your parking space will practically find you.
Whens and Wheres of Parking
As far away as possible (carts pose a serious threat)
Bar or club
Around the corner from the entrance (in front of the entrance, you're bound to sustain damage from intoxicated patrons, but too far, you're asking too much of yourself)
Concert or ballgame
Speak to an attendant before making the choice (look for alternative exit)
Back it in next to an island
Top floor of parking garage (no on the street parking, if at all possible)
Away from athletic fields and the entrance
Back it in as close as possible for a quick getaway
Not in the lot at all; park across the street
Make sure to park with access to your trunk