Backasswards Parking

This question is addressed to all those drivers (you know who you are) who back into their parking spots:  What the fuck are you thinking?  In my mind, this is one of the most inexplicable, ridiculous, even juvenile driving disorders I’ve observed.  My remarks rest on two points.  First, the behavior is socially inefficient, in the sense that it imposes costs on other drivers that are not justifiable by the benefits derived from the backassward parker.  Second — and what is even more remarkable —  it’s not even in the interest (measured by what I think are reasonable metrics) of the parker to engage in this behavior.

On the first point, let’s first note that backing into a narrow parking spot is not easy to do well, and that’s why most people who attempt this feat fail.  Put simply, most of you guys aren’t great at parking backasswards, and you end up off to one side of the space, or even over the line.  How annoying!  Assuming the parking lot is full, this means that someone is forced to park in an extremely narrow space, or they’re already parked there and they need to crawl into their car through the window.  Or, in those wonderful cases when the backassward parker crosses the line, you can forget about the adjacent space altogether.  Thanks a lot, backassward parkers.

But that’s not all.  Because it’s difficult to back into a narrow parking space, the whole operation takes longer than the usual method.  Let’s compare.  If one parks “doggie style,” then pulling out of the space is quick; pulling into the space takes a long time.  If one parks “missionary style,” then pulling into the space is quick; pulling out of the space takes a bit more time.  Note that the slow direction with backassward parking (pulling in) takes longer than the slow direction with forward parking (pulling out), precisely because the backassward parker must make some effort to position his car between two lines.   This means that backassward parking requires a greater total time to enter and exit the space, and thus it imposes greater waiting time on others.

But there’s even more, having to do with sequencing.  The backassward parker makes people wait when they initially back in.  This means that people are stopped in the parking lot, waiting for some guy to take the best available space, and then they’ll have to continue searching after the guy finishes pulling in.  This is even more enjoyable when you’re stopped behind someone backing in, and you can see cars ahead of you filling up the remaining decent parking spaces.  Compare this to forward parking:  you make people wait when you’re leaving, freeing up the best available space in the lot.  If I’m searching for a spot and see someone ahead of me backing out of a space, I’m happy about it, because then I inherit their space.  At least there’s a reward to waiting for the forward parker to leave.

And what’s more is that the very nature of backassward parking creates confusion and potential for conflict.  Suppose I’m driving through the lot behind a backassward parker, but I don’t know they’re backasswards.  For all I know, they’re exiting the lot, and they drive by an open space.  I think, “Great, I’ll start pulling into the space.”  But then the guy in front of me, having driven by the space, stops and begins to back up while I’m closing in to take the space.  This forces me to stop short and then back up, and it gets even more confusing if there’s someone following me who now also has to back up.

On the second point, I don’t have to say as much, because most of it’s already been said.  Backassward parking leads to poor positioning within the space and thus greater risk of dings.  The total time to park is greater with backassward parking.  You’re more likely to make other people grumpy with backassward parking, because they have to wait while you take the best space.  You’re more likely to create confusion, because you have to pull past the space you want, and really this is a poor defensive maneuver:  it allows the person behind you to swoop in and take your spot before you can put your car in reverse.  I just don’t get it.

The only rationale I can see for backassward parking is that some people have a Batman fantasy about jumping into their cars and racing off to answer the Bat signal.  Or more likely, since most people who park backasswards are pickup drivers, they have a cowboy fantasy about jumping onto their horse and racing off to chase bad guys.  I don’t know, it just seems stupid.

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