I left the house early. My appointment was at 10, but traffic and parking can be a challenge. I found a spot about a half-mile from my destination–I have always objected to paying for parking if there is any alternative, and I hate parking garages. Not that I can’t afford six bucks to park–it’s the principle of the matter. I can walk. There was a time that I couldn’t. When I was finishing grad school, I ruptured my Achilles’ tendon playing basketball. It was the tail end of student teaching.

You don’t know joy until you’ve humped your student teaching supplies–and you can tell a student teacher a mile away because of the supplies–eight miles a day from the parking lot to the classroom. Crutches are fun for the first day when people give you the sad look and bring you coffee and gifts. After that, you’re about two days away from pinched nerves, numb fingers, and shoulders you think might have been your primary injury.

I never much thought about parking before that, with the exception of my mom’s continuous prayers for parking. She always prays for a good spot. I, myself, think the Almighty must have something more pressing to do than look for a parking spot for my mother at the grocery store–not that she hasn’t earned it with her goodness, but isn’t there cancer to cure? World peace to negotiate? I could never pray for a parking space.

Until I was on crutches. One day, I had to return library books to the college library. There were no handicapped spaces–they were filled with cars without handicapped stickers probably going to the ball game. I was forced to park in the student lot about twenty marathons away.  Eight hours later, as I hobbled to the library door, I saw a lady returning to her car without a handicapped sticker in the space I would have used.

“Ma’am,” I said. I’m not usually assertive–twenty books about dead people at five pounds each on one leg will do that to you, “That’s handicapped.” Many people will do things like litter and park in the handicapped spot because they feel they’ll never get caught. But when they do, they get shifty, embarrassed.

“Oh, um, there’s nowhere to park,” she tried to explain, unable to look me in the eye. Even if she wanted to, she couldn’t have seen over the stack of Schlesinger and McPherson.

“Yes there is. Over there. In the lot. You have to walk. Lucky you can. That’s where had to park because you are here. There are plenty of spaces left.” She looked like she wanted to be bitchy but I was being polite. And she was wrong. She slammed her door and zoomed away to look for another handicapped space I wasn’t guarding quite as well.

Yes, parking is an issue in Rhode Island. I didn’t mind today’s half-mile hike. Finding a space is a victory. As I walked, I analyzed Rhode Island parking. I took pictures. On first glance, it seems Rhode Islanders are leaving a respectful distance between cars. Nothing could be further from the truth. This is only because parallel parking is not part of the driving test here. No one knows how to do it. If you know how to parallel park, you simply line up the rear ends of the cars, and turn the wheel in. It may take a few reverses and wheel turns, but you can get into a space as long as it’s a foot or two longer than your car. I had a job once where half the staff meeting was spent watching one member arrive and try to parallel park every week. It’s a skill that’s next to impossible to witness in these parts.

Examine these spaces closely. A New Yorker would start slashing tires. You can fit eight Fiats and an RV in those spaces! This would never, ever fly in a city, where parking half a car length away means someone has to sleep at work because there are no spots near his home.

You see this extra space? A New Yorker would lift this car and move it to make space.

You see this extra space? A New Yorker would lift this car and move it to make space.

Unacceptable. If you can't parallel park in a reasonable distance, don't drive.

Unacceptable. If you can’t parallel park in a reasonable distance, don’t drive.

Stop this nonsense. Let’s hear your voice added to “Rhode Islander’s for Parking Reform.” There are so many parallel parking travesties we’re not even going to discuss the diagonal-parkers or those who park on the line so I need to exit through my sun roof. Which is tough, because I no longer have one. Maybe we need to put lines on parallel spaces, too. Maybe a chalk outline of a dead body or something–that’s a universal symbol Rhode Islander’s understand. If you can fit your cousin Vinny on the ground between two cars, you have used too much space. Be considerate. Let other people park too. There aren’t many of us here. I know we eat a lot of pasta, but There should be space for all of us.


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