Tiger Traps And Weird Signs: The Pain Of Parking In New York

on July 10 2012 4:33 PM
  • File photo of city authorities lifting a car parked on a pedestrian crossing before towing it away in Moscow. This is what I'm always afraid will happen to my car in New York City. I have no reason to suspect that.
    File photo of city authorities lifting a car parked on a pedestrian crossing before towing it away in Moscow. This is what I'm always afraid will happen to my car in New York City. I have no reason to suspect that. Reuters
  • A totally not-helpful stack of parking signs near Times Square, New York.
    A totally not-helpful stack of parking signs near Times Square, New York. IBTimes
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It's common knowledge that parking in New York City is a miserable experience. Finding spots can be frustrating, parking is expensive, street-side parking notices are inscrutable, and more often than not, when you do find a space, you have to move your car again the next day because of street cleaning, the Gabon Independence Day parade or because the NYPD claims you're in front of a fire hydrant.

Sometimes, though, I think a lot of why parking in New York is miserable is just that I personally am just plain bad at it. Everyone suffers from horrible parking congestion: too many cars and not enough street-side spaces after 5 p.m. It's a common malady.

I'm special, though, because I'll drive right by the front of my building, right past the big, wide-open, gaping, inviting parking space and not bother to pull in because I have a deeply ingrained assumption that if there is a wide-open section of parking in New York, there must be something wrong with it, like an invisible fire hydrant, parking notices that say No parking after 5 a.m. or a tiger pit with spikes at the bottom cunningly disguised with pavement-colored camouflage.

My parking paranoia isn't even remotely founded in reality. I've only ever received one parking ticket, and it was dismissed. I've never been towed in New York. I've never driven into a tiger pit. But I fear it nonetheless. I almost wish, though, that I could give my paranoia all the credit for my horrible parking ability. But I'm really horrible at it. I am as bad at parking in New York as tofu and alfalfa sprouts are substitute for a sirloin steak. Yes, that bad.

When I parallel park, it should really be called acute angle parking or Waiting for Godot. I like parking near Halal carts because a lot of the time they'll try and guide me into the spot, and upholstery that smells vaguely of kebab is better than a banged up fender. Being parallel parking-impaired is a hazard of moving to New York City from the Midwest. In Illinois, there are these mythical parking oases called parking lots. While paved expanses are ugly, they sure do make putting your car somewhere a whole lot easier.

Parking lots are particularly nice because they don't move. A parking lot is always going to be in the same place you left it last time. In New York City, that's not always the case. The first time I misplaced a car in New York, I thought I had a neurological problem. Then I started talking to people and realized that in this instance, I'm not the only one that has this problem. Every New Yorker will eventually lose their car. It's not like losing your phone or your keys where they can fall out of your pocket or someone else can pick them up or the dog can bury them. Losing a car in New York is always caused by confusion.

When you street park in the city, odds are you're either going to have to move your car the next day, or you'll be so happy you have a long-term spot that you'll go as long as you can without moving your car. Either situation improves the odds that you'll lose your car. I have wandered for hours looking for my car, convinced I knew where it was parked and that it had been abducted by aliens like some hapless, soon to be flayed cow out on the plains of New Mexico. And invariably, I'll turn a corner and there my car will be, sitting calmly and contentedly, right where I left it, and it will come flooding back to me that I was looking in the spot where I parked it on Thursday, but that was last week, so now I'm parked here, and the place I looked earlier was really the intervening spot from where I drove on Friday two weeks ago. You understand -- it's all very complicated.

Which brings me to my point. Car companies need provide drivers with a way to find their car, perhaps a web-program where you can log in online or on your phone and look up the location of your car. Most luxury cars already come with satellite navigation (and therefore GPS). Why don't they give you the tools you need to figure out where you parked it?

There are luxury cars that can park themselves, find parking spaces for you and provide you with parking cameras, but with the possible exception of some BMWs, no one is helping you find your car, and that should change, if not for the good of the world, at least for my frayed nerves. The cortisol level of the average New Yorker would plummet if he didn't have to spend so much time looking for his car, guaranteed.