Consumer Reports last week announced the results of its annual survey of driving annoyances.
In January, 2012, the American organization that tests and rates everything from toasters to SUVs called 895 drivers and asked what bugged them. The result was a "Top 20" compilation of the most irksome driving habits. The list was not surprising. The number one crappy driving habit was texting behind the wheel following by able-bodied folks using handicapped spots and tailgaters in third place.
As the world's foremost authority on automotive stupidity, I'm always on the lookout for new strains of aberrant driving behaviour. I was a little disappointed to see some of our latest forms of car-related folly absent from Consumer Reports shame-based lexicon. I was particularly dismayed to find "Mr. Makespace" absent.
Mr. Makespace is a driver who has evolved out of the ever-dwindling number of parking spaces available in our lots. It's a creeping form of bad driving borne out of a combination of necessity and narcissism. Mr. Makespace makes his appearance during peak times when the crowds are out. He wants to go to the mall or the grocery store, but he feels that it is unfair that all the nearest and dearest spaces are occupied. He's not so much of an egomaniac that he'd simply double park in front of a fire exit. He's afraid if he parks in a handicapped spot, he'll be tarred and feathered. Still, the idea of parking a 21-second walk from his destination drives him crazy.
So, Mr. Makespace puts on his thinking cap…
Greed, laziness and entitlement course through his blood stream and his brain creaks along. Suddenly, a solution appears: "What if I simply park next to a legitimate space?" he thinks. "If I have at least one parking stripe beside my car that makes it okay, right?"
So, Mr. Makespace parks his car next to the last space in a row of spots and blocks half the lane. We all know that a parking space exists between two lines, but to Mr. Makespace this is simply semantics. Any line will do. He's parked next to a line and that makes it okay. It's illegal parking with an asterisk: all the benefits with half the guilt. He's just invented the diet soda of illegal parking.
Besides, he's not hurting anyone right?
Not quite. Aside from outraging all right-minded people, he's creating a host of dangers. Believe it or not, parking lots are planned. They're designed (ideally) to allow traffic to flow and for pedestrians to be safe. That's the plan but when you add people it gets freaky. They forget that these are hunks of rolling steel zipping around delicate fleshy bodies.
It's bad enough when people are obeying the rules and basic common sense but when Mr. Makespace decides to create a parking space where one was never meant to exist he creates traffic bottlenecks. Drivers must make close turns in cramped conditions. Worse, he forces pedestrians to walk out from behind parked cars (never a good idea).
We don't need to make it any more difficult for parking lot pedestrians. Many of these folks stroll blissfully around, utterly unaware of the possible harm around them – like the acid-freak Lance in the Do Lung Bridge scene from Apocalypse Now. It's a strange tactic given that most drivers' given procedure when leaving a parking space is: a) check hair b) put car in reverse c) slam on gas d) oh yeah, check rear-view.
A few years ago, Mr. Makespace was a relatively rare creature but now he's become a frequent fixture in parking lots. I've taken to documenting this breed and am collecting a "best of the worst" gallery. Take the accompanying photograph as a fine example. Here's a Makespace on steroids. He's not only "making a space" by positioning his car next to a single line, he's parking on a double-hash-marked no parking space. Most drivers know that when they paint a dozen yellow lines inside a yellow box it means "no parking at any time." To this Makespace, however, it means "place car here."
The psychology behind it is remarkable. What the Makespace does is no more legal than parking your car in the middle of the road. Just because Mr. Makespace's vehicle borders a parking stripe doesn't mitigate his bad parking. It's still wrong yet somehow his dim wits find salvation in the thin yellow line.
It would be easy enough to get rid of Mr. Makespace. All we'd have to do is enforce parking rules. I can tell you one photograph I don't have: a picture of a Makespace having his car towed away. Sure, malls and shopping centres post signs claiming they'll tow offenders but do they ever do it? Nope. Rarely. And so Mr. Makespace and his ilk slowly take over, like zebra mussels infesting a lake or killer dragon fish swimming in from Michigan.
And the rest sit idly by. Maybe we need a "Save our Lots" campaign?
Follow Andrew Clark on Twitter: @aclarkcomedy