Friday, May 9, 2008

The Etiquette of Double-Parking

Most of my time in NYC has been as a vehicle-less lass. However, for a couple of years in the 90's, and for almost two years now, I've been traipsing around in a car when the bus or train were too daunting. And yes, I've double-parked when I couldn't find a space within a reasonable distance. That reasonable distance has gone from a five-block radius to a two-block radius since having a kid to tote around. And admittedly, I was lucky with parking when I lived in the now unaffordable Carroll Gardens; I left for work before 7 AM and got back right around 4 PM. That allowed me to use the school parking on my block. Yeah!

So, this morning, at about 9:40 AM, I left with my cherub to greet the pouring rain and dash to the safe haven of our car. The closer I got to the car (Michigan plates - better be a visitor and not one of those people who uses another address to get cheaper insurance), the more my heart sank. The ONLY double-parked car was in front of my car. At first I thought that I could maneuver my way around it and get out. But no. I checked the dashboard for a number. But no. I honked the horn - the friendly reminder honk - a couple of times. But no. So I waited, occasionally honking again. It was only at 10:05 AM that the owners of the car BEHIND me arrived and left. This gave me the room to back up and around the double-parker. Hooray! I could get to CostCo before it got too gross.

In my years with a car I've learned a few things about double-parking etiquette. The first thing to learn is that it's still ILLEGAL. Just because there is a seeming agreement to not ticket double-parkers who arrive five minutes early and leave no more than five minutes after the alternate side parking is in effect, that doesn't mean it CANNOT happen. In fact, there was a recent spat of ticket giving.

The second (and most important to me this morning), is to leave a number where you can be reached on your dashboard. The parking rules here are only an hour and a half. Don't tell me that you're leaving the neighborhood, or even your home-base, in that time. It's only human to realize that your car could be blocking someone in. I know some people will say, "Well, if you needed to leave, why didn't YOU double-park and let the guy with the Michigan plates and "Everlasting Life" and "fish with Greek writing" bumper stickers take a legitimate space?" Yeah, well, that's why I made an effort to find a legal space the day before. How difficult is it to put a little piece of paper with your cell number or home number on it so I can call you to please move your car? It saves me from honking (my car is more like a bleat) and annoying my neighbors. Or, it saves me from wishing you into your everlasting life a little early - I'm sure that must be bad karma for me. The good news is that I scooted into the back seat for the fifteen minutes and changed my baby's diaper and listened to NPR. I also left a very polite note on the windshield suggesting that my neighbor leave a number next time he needs to double-park. I thought that was much more appropriate than leaving the dirty diaper on the windshield.

The third piece of etiquette to learn and love is to move your car to the other side a little early, or at least not LATE. You're not going to get a ticket for parking on the "illegal" side at 9:57 AM when the hours end at 10 AM. You can also do what they do in CG and CH, wait in your car for a while and enjoy the neighborhood scenery. In the same vein, don't park someone in early. It's better to do a spin around the block with the extra three minutes. Youjust might find a space.

There are a couple of things I'd also mention in more detail (try to double-park where someone can still get out, like before or after the fire hydrant or the corner), but hopefully everyone gets the idea. I feel so much better now.

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