The Best of Andy Rooney

A lot of people who know how to drive don't seem to know how to park.

There are drivers who can put a 19-foot car in a 20-foot space on the first try. Others will take 10 minutes trying to park a Volkswagen in a space a tractor trailer just pulled out of. Poor parkers are divided into two categories: the people who just plain don't have a good sense of how to jockey a car into a parking place, and the inconsiderate drivers who don't care about anyone else.

If there are 250 cars parked in the lot of a mall or supermarket, you can bet that 50 of those cars are taking up two spaces.

The people who park with their tires across a diagonal line in a lot force the next person to edge over, too. One of the chief menaces in a parking lot is the person who pulls in and parks too close to you on the driver's side.

He doesn't have any problem. He gets out the other side.

He doesn't have a passenger, so he doesn't leave any room on his right, your left.

Then you, often with your hands full of packages, have to squeeze in when you return to your car.

Parallel parking at a curb is an art that few people have mastered.

I know it's a sexist opinion, but I hold it nonetheless: I've observed that women do not park as well as men. Sue me, take my license away or jam my seat belt, but it's the truth.

Tell me that women are smarter, nicer and better-looking than men.

Tell me they're compassionate, sensitive and intuitive, but don't tell me they can park a car as well as men. If everyone who drove knew how to park and was considerate, we could get 25 percent more cars into the available places.

We need those places, too. It's the shortage of parking space that's killing cities.

Everyone wants to drive to the door of the store they're shopping at. You can't do that in the American downtown built between 1900 and 1940. Most American downtowns are either dying or dead. Fortunately, many of the dead ones are beginning to revive because they were torn down and rebuilt -- with parking space. I like downtown better than the shopping malls spreading out over the countryside.

A real downtown gives a place focus. Every city should have one.

I'm waiting for automakers to invent a small car with wheels fitted to the underside of the car, like casters on a rollaway bed. When you got alongside a parking place, you could drop your casters, lock them in place and shift into a gear that would roll the car sideways into the spot.

The space would only have to be an inch longer than the car to accommodate it and you wouldn't have to fight the steering wheel for five minutes to get the car into place.

I hesitate to bring up the sensitive matter of handicapped parking. There aren't many people so mean as to think it isn't a good and civilized idea to provide the handicapped with easy access to stores and offices.

My complaint is that too many stores are using the "Handicapped Parking" signs as a way of keeping people from parking where they don't want them. People have been good about observing the "Handicapped Parking" signs, but sometimes stores abuse them.

In five years, I don't think I've ever seen all the handicapped parking places taken at any of the stores I go to. Most often, there's no one in any of them. In New York City, it doesn't bother me to walk eight or 10 blocks to a store from my office.

I don't know what gets into me when I'm home in Connecticut. I'll cruise the parking lot for 10 minutes looking for a space up near the door of a store. Even though the distance to the parking space farthest from the store is less than the length of city block, I won't take it.

I cruise like a hawk circling a field looking for movement. Hunting for a parking place is an art in itself.

You have to size up the people coming out of a store.

You have to be a good judge of where they're going and how far their car is so you can position yourself to take their place when they drive off. Parking spaces are an endangered species in America.

(This classic Rooney column was originally published Feb. 7, 1986.)

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