Last night I performed the ultimate feat of urban living. I worked late into the evening because I’m a terrible procrastinator who does not plan well. My girlfriend and I live on the far north side of Chicago, a wretched hive of cars and villainy (re: potholes). If you don’t beat your neighbors home before rush hour, you’re out of luck. As 10 p.m. rolled around and I was just turning on our block, I knew my parking choices would be limited to some second-rate places, like the morning rush-restricted lane (no thanks, 6 a.m. alarm clock) or the block that a week ago featured gunshots I had to call into 9-1-1.
Things looked grim. I inched my way down the street, letting each gap of more than a couple feet enter the realm of possibility. My 2009 Chevrolet Impala, Reginald VelJohnson, is not the nimblest of beasts. Rather, he is ungainly and difficult to maneuver under the best circumstances.
Dud after dud after fire hydrant, nothing presented itself. I sensed another long night of searching for some kindly real estate large enough to fit Reginald would be on the docket.
But wait, a glimmer of hope. I saw a spot, one that would have normally resigned me to defeat, between two darkened cousins of Reginald, black and blue Chevys, parked tantalizingly far enough apart to dream on. I pulled along the cars and put my car in park in the middle of the street. I needed a closer view.
Using my hands as the world’s least reliable rulers, I measured the distance between them and deduced I would have just enough room to squeeze in.
“Maybe,” I said aloud, uncaring about what the neighbor walking his dogs would think of the guy walking around his still running car, talking to himself. I returned to the driver’s seat and steeled myself for the most skillful driving I had ever attempted. I adjusted the driver’s side mirror to properly gauge my distance from the curb. I turned down the volume of the close game between the Cubs and Pirates that was going down to the wire. I did not want any distractions.
I shifted to reverse and made the cut. So far, so good. Oh crap, the blue one is right there. “No way will I get this,” I thought. But I cut the wheel the other way and straightened. Now I found myself wedged at an awkward angle that resembled a capitalized Z.
“Oh boy,” I said. I twisted the wheel and reversed an inch. I twisted again and tapped the gas forward.
“Disaster!” I thought. My eyes darted around. Gone was Mr. Judgmental Dog Walker, and nobody else saw. My hands gripped the wheel again and I dug in for the long haul.
The tires squeaked as they shifted on the damp pavement. I had a beads of sweat from concentrating so hard. Forward, stop, turn, backward, stop, turn, forward, stop. This went on for 20 minutes. But eventually, the job was done. Reginald was nestled safely, with maybe an inch and a half total between his bumpers and theirs.
Now, I better hope my neighbors go to work in the morning, because there’s no way I’ll get out of there.