Saturday, May 14, 2011

Parking First, Safety Second

Stranger in a Strange Land – No. 15
The street parking still confounds me here.

In the Land of Lincoln, cars are parked on the side of the street nose to tail. Here in the Bluegrass, in addition to the nose-to-tail style, you also see nose-to-nose and tail-to-tail.

In some neighborhoods of the Windy City, a space on the street for a car is hard to come by; it can take upwards of 30 minutes to find one.* If you see a space on the opposite side of the street, you’re wise to engineer a U-Turn (if it’s legal) and grab it while you can.

Here in Horseyland, though, you merely have to drive across incoming traffic and pull into the space.

When exiting your space in the Windy City, you pull into traffic that is headed in the same direction as your car. Easy. But pulling out in the Bluegrass demands more thought and skill: You’re facing oncoming traffic—sometimes two lanes of it—and have to dodge cars in order to reach the opposite lanes, or you have to make a U-Turn in order to join the oncoming traffic. Either way, you need a car with great acceleration and few blind spots. If you have any respect for other drivers, you’ll stay off your phone during this maneuver.

I keep parking nose-to-tail style. And each time I turn onto a street where the parked cars are all facing me, I still suffer a mini panic attack—believing I’ve made the mistake of driving the wrong direction on a one-way street. In this one instance, I think it safer to maintain my Windy City ways; assimilation could prove harmful.

* Note: This may sound daft, but…Calvin Trillin wrote a wonderful little novel about parking. Tepper Isn’t Going Out centers on a New York City resident who relishes every parking space he’s able to find and makes the most of it while the meter ticks away the minutes of his life.

[Meter pic from Wired magazine.]

This is part of an ongoing series regarding my transition from the Land of Lincoln to the Bluegrass State. To read other articles in the series, select Stranger in a Strange Land from Lull’s Topic List on the right.

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