Sideways parking

"Keep your eyes peeled for a parking place. Ooh — there? No. Rats. That's a fire hydrant." So went the in-car chatter by Kathy as she drove us to a downtown part to attend a festival. This park is a three-square block in the city permanently devoted to the people: green space, fountain, bandstand, larger performance stage, paved walkways, restrooms, ample places for food trucks, and a mall area that accommodates tents for exhibitors and vendors. Yes, this urban park has it all.

The only deficit from Kathy's perspective was limited on-street parking. Having an entrepreneurial nature, she eschewed the underground parking garage ("I'm not paying those prices!") in favor of coursing around the block — even if it be several times — to find a parking spot on the street. She has a compact car, so we didn't need all that much space. We kept inching down the street and watching like hawks for an opening. "There!" I point, only to see a No Parking sign on the curb. And by the number of cars also circling around, we weren't the only persons interested in a street spot.

"This reminds me," I say, "of the fellow who was searching for a downtown parking spot with no luck so he finally prayed, 'Lord, if you find me a parking place, I promise to go to church every week for the rest of my life.' And suddenly he spotted someone leaving a space up ahead, so he stuck his head out the window and yelled to the sky, 'Nevermind. I just found one.'"

Kathy looked at me in disgust. "That's not even funny. At a desperate time like this, how can you be making jokes? You're supposed to be helping me." True. So we redoubled our efforts to find a spot. "Wait, what's that just a little ways ahead?" I say. A hungry Kathy takes up the charge and exclaims, "Why, that's an open spot and now it's mine!" as she gets in position to parallel park. After seven back-and-forths, she finally gets the car into the small spot in a close approximation of parallel parking. It wasn't perfect but at least we were close enough to the curb and out of traffic.

Once parked, we both sat there for a few moments, basking in the supreme victory that was ours. "I can hardly believe it — we're finally here," an exuberant Kathy crows. "Let's just hope nobody boxes us in so we totally can't get out. Parallel parking isn't my forte."

As we walk down the sidewalk toward the festival, I say, "Just imagine if you could touch a button in your car and the wheels would turn to a 90-degree angle so that you could drive sideways into a parking spot like that. Then you'd just need enough space for the car itself to get in and to get out. There'd be no more struggling with parallel parking. You'd call it 'sideways parking'. I wonder if anyone's thought of that?"

"You just keep thinking. I'm going shopping," said Kathy as she zoomed toward a booth.

[Nancy Linenkugel is a Sylvania Franciscan sister and chair of the department of Health Services Administration at Xavier University, Cincinnati Ohio.]

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