Over the years I have been incapable of keeping any car we owned in anything approaching mint condition. Shortly after I bought our current Honda Civic, I backed into a stone wall trying to turn around in a tight squeeze on a country road. I barely touched the wall, but the back bumper looks as if it has some sort of vehicular acne. When it comes to cars, we have never been willing to spend money on cosmetic improvements. A resident in our condo building said it looks like I back up by feel.
I am a pretty good parallel parker. Once, parallel parking in a rather small space on a busy street, I backed very lightly into the car behind me when I was trying to straighten out. I didn’t realize a woman was sitting in the driver’s seat of the car I backed into. She honked several times and screamed at me out the window. I rolled the window down and shouted back, “Hey, I barely tapped you”
“Yeah, well it looks like you tap a lot of people,” she shouted.
Having a pockmarked back bumper is like having a tattoo. People make assumptions. Thankfully, it ended there. I had clearly not damaged her bumper, and she didn’t demand to see my license number or insurance card. I vowed—to myself, not to her—to avoid really tight parking spaces.
Oak Bay Avenue in the Victoria suburb of Oak Bay, where we live is a like a Sesame Street for white seniors. If it had an Oscar the Grouch, he would wear a snappy flat cap and not be all that grouchy. People on Oak Bay Avenue greet each other with a smile, and shop keepers say “Cheers” when they give you a receipt.
I was driving up Oak Bay Avenue looking for a parking space near the barber shop. I spotted a fairly spacious looking one between a large black truck and a white van in front of the local pub. I pulled up alongside the white van and made my maneuver. Once in the space, I backed up slightly and barely tapped the bumper of the black truck. Glancing out the passenger’s window, I saw a youngish man on a bench in front of the pub with his arms spread out and clearly saying—I couldn’t hear him, but I could read his lips—“What the fuck!”
“Oh, shit,” I thought. I got out of the car and went to look at the truck’s bumper. Not a scratch. Not even a smudge.
“Hey, look, I’m sorry I backed into your truck, but there’s no damage,” I said, walking toward him.
He jumped up from the bench and rushed up to me, putting his face close to mine. “What did you say?” His tone was menacing. I actually thought he was going to take a swing at me.
“I’m really sorry, but I didn’t do any damage to your truck.”
“You’re not sorry,” he hissed. “I can tell you’re not sorry. And damage is not the point. That’s no way to drive.”
“Whatever,” I said and turned away, hoping he wouldn’t grab my shoulder. As I walked into the barber shop, I saw him walking further up the street with a dog I hadn’t noticed. Apparently, it wasn’t even his truck. He was the first aggressively crazy person I had ever encountered in Oak Bay. I am accustomed to expecting only nice crazy people.
The truck was still there after my haircut. The owner was probably in the pub. I maneuvered carefully and slowly out of the parking space and drove off.
Maybe parallel parking itself is out for me.