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road sage

It's been a little over a month since the rules governing parking on my one-way street – which are often relaxed for the winter – returned to their rigid non-snowy state. From Nov. 15 to April 15 parking is permitted on the left side only. As of April 15, however, it began to oscillate: for the first two weeks of the month, it's allowed on the left side. During the last two weeks, it's allowed on the right side.

It sounds innocuous. It sounds irrelevant. The problem is that, while spaces aren't what you'd call abundant on the left side, at least they exist. The supply of available space on the right (post April 15) is greatly diminished. There are fire hydrants and many residents turned their front lawns into parking spaces during the great turn-your-front-lawn-into-a-parking-space land grab of the 1980s.

So April 15 hit and it's been a feast-or-famine parking scenario ever since. For the first two weeks of the month I'm flush with options – by flush I mean it's possible to find a space relatively close to home. For the last two weeks, I'm a parking-challenged loser. I circle the block endlessly looking for a space. I'm Odysseus in a minivan cast out and cursed by the gods.

I don't expect pity. The response to my complaints about street parking generally runs in four veins:

1. "If you want parking you should buy a house that has parking for your cars."

2. "You should ride a bike."

3. "Street parking is a blight."

4. "Who are you and why are you talking to me about your parking?"

These are all valid reactions. I should ride a bike. I should own a house with a two-car garage or, at the very least, a parking space big enough for my minivan (a.k.a. "the Anti-Porsche"). Street parking is a blight on the urban landscape. Urban planners are always trying to get rid of it and turn everything into a pedestrian mall. I get it. Hey, if the world adhered to my wishes, dogs could cook and we wouldn't need to use savage forms of transportation (like cars) let alone require parking spaces. We'd move places simply by blinking. But no one asked me.

So, during warm weather months whenever I return home in the early evening, I'm faced with a daunting challenge. The first pass around the block is an optimistic circle. Maybe I'll find a spot; it could happen. From a distance, there appears to be cause for hope but, as I drive closer, I realize these are illusions. A combination of few spaces and bad parking creates a situation where reasonable parking is impossible.

The second pass is one of deep scrutiny. I slow my roll. It's at this juncture that I come to grips with what I call parking malfeasance – wrongdoing or misconduct by the public when parking.

The worst form is the two-space bandit. If there's a long stretch of "prime street" available, the two-space bandit takes it all; leaving a minimum of three or four feet on either end. Usually they'll leave just enough space to make me think, "Hey, I could park there." Then I realize that there isn't a hope. It's as common as it is infuriating.

On my third spin around the block it's time to lament the lack of actual spaces. It's obvious that, in the distant past, there were spaces – but then these were wiped out by a bout of Dutch Paved Lawn Disease. In the 1970s and 1980s, people cemented their front lawns and turned them into driveways. The cities eventually cracked down – paving your lawn limits street parking. Yet most of these spaces have been grandfathered in.

Would I like to have a lawn parking spot? Yes. Can I? No. So I object to them as immoral.

The spins around the block begin to blur by my fourth and fifth tries. I realize how many of my neighbours own trucks and minivans. Is everyone a contractor? By my sixth lap, I believe that everyone should be required to drive Smart cars, e-bikes or Mini Coopers.

As time passes, I expand my search: to other blocks, other neighbourhoods, other cities. Hours pass. I call home to tell the family not to wait up. Finally, I find a spot. Relief. Here I am, a man of many ways, who has driven a far journey. The sun creaks over the horizon. The night has passed and I'm back at work.

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