Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Saving face with a parking space

“It’s never gonna fit.”

“Trust me, it’ll fit.”

“Really, babe, it’s too big.”

“It’s not as big as you think it is.”

“Um, that’s not really something a girl wants to hear from a guy.”

“Look,” my husband said as he cranked the wheel so hard the car’s power steering groaned loud in response, “I know it’s been a while since I had to parallel park, but it’s really no big deal.”

I snuck a peek in the passenger side mirror and noticed a long trail of cars lined up behind us. The parade of headlights led back to the one-way entrance of the underground parking garage.

And here we sat, with our SUV pulled only halfway into the parking space. The front end sticking out to block the other drivers from getting around it. I think I saw somebody’s 3-year-old flip us off from his car seat.

And even though we were deep in the bowels of a metro parking structure in a city of more than half a million people, I recognized many of the drivers as fellow citizens of our small home town located 90 minutes away. There for the same reason we were – to watch our local university’s basketball team play in a post-season tournament.

Yikes. It seemed easier to incite a riot when amongst strangers rather than friends.

I hunched down a little farther in my seat and quietly asked, “Why don’t we just drive down another level and find a space there?” I asked in a reasonable voice.

The kind of voice a wife would use to tell her husband she ran over a parking curb and took out half her car’s undercarriage in one fell swoop, with the ripped off muffler spinning to a slow stop in front of the local florist shop while several pedestrians stood gaping in horror at the grisly scene.

Not that I’ve ever…done…that….

“What? You don’t think I can do it?” my husband asked, looking at the two cars parked in front and behind us and the small amount of real estate located between them.

“Sure, if we had one of those tiny, little European cars that people drive during chase scenes in really bad French films,” I answered. “But this car is Grade A, One Hundred Percent, All-American SUV. We could invade Iraq with this thing if we wanted to.”

Then I pointed out the window and added, “But it is not, however, going to fit into that tiny little space.”

His only answer was to shove the gear shift back into reverse, turn his head to look behind him and lean his foot down on the accelerator.

And he made it a whopping distance of 26 inches before shouting out “Whoa!” and slamming on the brakes. “Where’d that column come from?”

“What…uh…column?” I wheezed out, the seat belt having engaged with the sudden stop and digging hard into my chest.

“That column. The one back there,” he said, jerking a thumb over his shoulder.

“That column?” I squeaked out and pointed a finger at the stone edifice in question. “The one that’s holding up the roof of the parking garage?”

“Was that there before?” my husband asked in all sincerity.

“No, babe,” I quickly answered. “It’s brand-spanking new. I think little fairies just flew it in.”

But he wasn’t paying attention to me. Perhaps the honking from the cars behind us had drowned out the latter part of my fairy comment.

I feared it wouldn’t be much longer before the other drivers emerged from their vehicles to drag us from ours and start beating us with the green and white pompoms they had undoubtedly brought for the basketball game.

I opened the door, stepped out and turned around. The headlights from the car behind hit me square in the face. I smiled and waved like an idiot. Maybe if they thought I was crazy they’d think twice about jumping me.

I walked to the rear of the car and began motioning like I was landing a 747. Soon the car was parked neatly into the space, and the other cars slowly filed past.

“See? It fits,” my husband said as he clumsily climbed over the console to exit via the passenger door because his side was blocked by the garage’s solid concrete wall.

“Amazing,” I answered. “Did I remember to tell you that my car needs a new muffler?”

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