I'm a big believer in unwritten guidelines and common courtesy, and even though most people will say that society — especially Vehicular Society — is headed to hell in a handbasket, I am often amazed at just how freakin' well things work. Merging is one such area that generally works so damn well, especially in New Jersey, perhaps the most maligned and heavily-trafficked state in our country. Some day, when I have a bit more time, I'd love to go stand on an overpass above a busy roadway and look down to watch merging in action. It's a mesmerizing ballet of sorts: a car moves to the left, one moves in, one moves over, one moves in, and, all the while, traffic keeps flowing. Sure, there's the occasional douche who doesn't move to the left, or doesn't scoot in quickly enough; you can spot that douche because he/she usually has a PA plate*. Even so, merging malfunctions — for as much as we complain about traffic — are rare.
The other area of our Vehicular Society that works remarkably well is parking. I live in a busy city in a neighborhood that contains homes that are owner-occupied and others that are are carved up into rental units, with multiple drivers living in the same dwelling. Some homes have off-street parking, but a lot don't. The end result is that there are a load of vehicles on the street at any given time. And yes, some of them are double-parked (which pisses me off, because that not only violates the law, but also my unwritten, common sense, good neighbor guidelines), and some of them have PA plates, but most of them are expertly tucked along the curb, near the home in which the owner resides. I appreciate this, because it means that I generally don't have to walk far, with or without groceries. We have a garage, so parking — except for those few moments it takes us to unload the groceries — is very seldom a bona fide problem.
But, every now and then we have issues, and even when those issues are extremely frustrating while they are occurring, they are rare. There are times when our neighbors have visitors, or the street is getting torn up for the third time in two years, and parking is at a premium. Or some drug addict parks across our garage skirt thinking a dealer is going to service him there. Other than the narcotics issue, generally these parking dilemmas straighten themselves out quickly, and without heart attacks or aneurysms or gunplay or asskickings; and since we have use of the garage, our lives are none the poorer for these dilemmas. Because of the garage, I might not be the best person to weigh-in on parking, but I'm going to anyway; I've lived in enough places — inside and outside of Trenton — without a garage that my opinion has merit. Common courtesy dictates that it's a thoughtful idea to park near one's home, if one can, but common courtesy also asks us to remember that sometimes that isn't possible. The bottom line is, we don't own the street, even the piece of street near our front door, even if we've dug our car out of the snow and marked that spot triumphantly with a chair or some other piece of furniture.
We have a neighbor, let's call her Q, who has a different opinion about How Things Should Be in the Parking Realm. Now Q is an esteemed member of the community. In case she reads this and realizes I am writing about her, I am not going to mention the organizations to which she belongs — as much as I appreciate full disclosure, I know that anonymity (even to protect the guilty) can be a good thing, too — lest she come over here looking to kick my ass, which, as you will see, is a distinct possibility.
Q lives on the corner, and can park to the front or the side of her property. She parks, like I would in her situation, to the side. She, like us, also happens to have a 2-car garage, but unlike us, does not use it much, even though it is a really good idea. As much as I do not believe society is falling apart, there are a few knuckleheads around here who like to squeal and slide all over this neighborhood, without regard to road signs, parked cars, or people. And in recent months, I've seen the demolition of many vehicles, several of them parked nicely alongside the home where their owner lives. Q has a garage. She should use it. It just makes sense. Also, I know (for a fact) that she knows that our neighborhood has its share of rental units, with multiple families living within one structure: it's a nice gesture to get her car off the street so that someone else can park close to home.
She sees things differently than I do, and I suppose it takes all types to make the world go round. She doesn't have to use her garage, even though it's a good idea. And in her Alternate Universe, she can believe that she owns the street alongside her house, but in the Real Universe, she doesn't. Despite this, she makes it clear to anyone parking alongside her house that he or she is absolutely not welcome to do so. It is HER spot, dammit, and that is that. Most of our neighbors have had some kind of run-in with her, and would prefer to not have another, so most of the time, the LONG two-car spot alongside her house is vacant, or filled with her car (parked in a way another vehicle cannot park in front or behind her).
Recently, I was visiting my sister, and got home around 4:30 in the afternoon. Glen got in about 5 minutes before I did, and decided to wait on the porch for me. As I pulled up alongside our house (I had parcels to bring inside), I saw our other neighbors — I'll call them A and R (A is elderly father, R is 30-to-40-something daughter) — were having heated words with Q. Apparently, R had JUST been discharged from the hospital after abdominal surgery (and even had hospital flowers in her arms), and her father, A, had heart surgery a few months ago, and was/is still moving slow. They had no place to park near their house, except near Q's house. Q's house is roughly catercorner to A and R's home. A, the concerned dad, didn't want R to have to walk far. And I cannot imagine that he, in his condition, would want a long walk either, but I'm sure he was thinking of his daughter first on that particular day.
Q also happened to be coming home, not from the hospital, or in an otherwise weakened state due to being elderly and having recently undergone heart surgery, but rather, just from work. She saw their car, and got so pissed off that she parked RIGHT on top of their bumper. She actually hit their car (not hard, but she made contact). She stormed inside her house, and A and R, dumbfounded, followed to find out why the hell she did that. Anyway, Q came back to the door, and didn't even listen to find out that R had just been released from the hospital, and A was weakened from surgery himself. She was on her way out to a Very Important Meeting and did not need someone in her spot. Despite the fact she had use of her own garage, plus a bit of roadside real estate on the side street behind A and R's car, PLUS, plenty of parking on the main street, Q told them to get the car off her corner. Or else — get this, it's pretty awesome — "I'll kick your ass, and the old man's too," she said to R, who had hospital flowers in her arms. A and R refused and walked toward home, shaking their heads. Q came back out of her house, got in her car and shouted at them that the car better be gone when she got home. She saw Glen on the sidewalk, and she said to Glen, "Did you see that? They parked on my corner and won't move." Glen was kind of stunned and looked about ready to acknowledge Q's comments, but Glen, a softy for old and injured people, saw A and R, limping home. Glen chose not to engage in conversation with Q. Over Q's car, Glen said to A, "Hey buddy, I don't own the street. You can park over here any time you want," gesturing to the stretch of road in front of our house. Q, enraged, sped off.
She doesn't seem to hate us yet, but I imagine our day of reckoning will come soon enough.
* PA is the bane of our existence, isn't it?