Friday, July 8, 2011

Outside The Lines: Parallel Parking in Apex

It was Sunday afternoon and I was in downtown Apex, sipping a Big Boss Brewing Bad Penny Draft Beer (say that ten times real fast) while sitting at a sidewalk table in front of the Salem Street Pub. An hour or so later, the music scheduled for inside the quaint bar, formerly a soda shop, would begin, but right then, as the deep colored, rich tasting Raleigh brew was disappearing, the entertainment was underway on the street in front of me.

It wasn’t a parade, but there was a steady stream of vehicles involved as supporting actors and actresses in a show that tickled. If you want a good laugh, which could be on you, “hurry, hurry, hurry and take a seat along Salem Street and watch with pain as drivers of all sizes and gender attempt to parallel park a car.” As someone who has never had a problem doing such, I get a kick and a hardy laugh when something as simple as parallel parking turns into mission impossible.

That bright, sunny afternoon as the sun set down the street, there was a plethora of attempters, some who made it safely tucked squarely and legitimately into the lengthy spaces and others who did an eye-ball-it drive by and opted for easier answers a block or so away face-first in a lot instead of sideways against the curb.

There was the lady driver of the small car that parked at an angle, diving in head first directly adjacent to my front row seat, leaving her left tail light a good foot into the street and the passenger side tire nearly up on the sidewalk.

There was the huge SUV which was small enough to fit inside the lines but which moved back and forth, gyrating little by little, easing halfway into the space when all of a sudden the two backseat passengers showed their “antsyness,” unloading and running to the Pub to put their names on the waiting list. “We’d better go ahead and order or we’ll never get served if we wait on her,” said the male as he walked across the street and sidewalk and into the restaurant. Over at the SUV, a frustrated female drive was exiting the car after she put it in park still more than halfway out in the street. The male front seat passenger was racing around the front of the car and soon assumed the driving position. In three quick moves—backwards, frontwards, backwards—the semi-tank was snugly in place. Dinner would be served shortly.

There were drivers with cars half the size of the space but who just had to edge over the forward line and into the space in ahead with no regard to the car forward in that area. And there was the male driver who parked so close to the car to his rear that the owner of that vehicle couldn’t drive away until one of the cars on either end of his departed.

There were the parading cars, those just cruising Salem Street, not looking for a place to park but just looking and who refused to wait for anyone to parallel park. The parallel parker would pull forward just past the desired space and start to back up when the car behind either would pull up close behind, not allowing the parker to park, or would race around into oncoming traffic.

Watching the drill was humorous and somewhat dangerous especially with so few people who know how to parallel park, at least on that afternoon in downtown Apex. There were no wrecks, but there could have been a fender bender or two. Being able to parallel park a vehicle is not a requirement for the driving test to get a driver’s license in North Carolina. If so, there’s no doubt there would be fewer licensed drivers in this state.

The key to successful parallel parking is using the side mirrors and to not turn around to look. You’d be better off if there was no rear window of your car. Turn on your right turn signal to let the car behind you know you’re about to attempt to park. (If that driver knows anything about parallel parking, it would give you room.) Pull past the desired space and somewhat close to the vehicle in the next space. Check your side mirrors and make sure the idiot in the car behind you has stopped far enough back and is not trying to pass. Back the car slightly until the midway point of your car is at the left rear point of the car next to you. Turn the steering wheel to the right and start back at a decent angle and into the space. As the front right point of your car arrives at the back left point of the car you’re parking behind, turn the steering wheel of your car back to the left and then, as the car enters the space completely, straighten the steering wheel and continue in a straight line parallel to the curb and toward the car in the space behind you. Stop just short of that car and then pull forward until you’re centered in the space.

It may sound complicated, but it’s not. It’s somewhat a work of art with a little geometry tossed in. It’s also fun (and painful) to watch others give it a try, especially along Salem Street in Apex, right out in front of the Pub, sipping a beer of choice. Next time, for more giggles and grins, those 1-10 rating cards may be in order.
Post Script: I was not sitting and drinking alone that Sunday in Apex in front of the Salem Street Pub. My wonderful wife, Nancy, was there with me. But, she doesn't see the humor in the subject of this writing because she is not an accomplished parallel parker!


  1. I'll run it by Brian and see what he his professional opinion..hee hee. Even tried to parallel park on the left side of the street..totally weird feeling.

  2. good one Jim. I remember having to learn to parallel park years ago.. can't remember if it was mandatory at the time or just had to do it (nuff parking like that in the middle of Sanford). We don't have many spots for that type of parking in Barbados, but knowing how to park this way certainly does help.

  3. You should give parallel parking lessons in downtown Raleigh. 20 bucks a half hour, 40 for new drivers. That would be a sweet gig.

    Or start a sponsored parallel parking competition. Speed, position and style all taken into consideration


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