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July 30, 2009

Car Talk

When careless parkers box you in, a gentle touch can get you out of a tight spot

Syndicated columnists

Dear Tom and Ray:

It might have been the Red Sox sticker on my car, but I found myself in a no-win situation in New York City a few weeks ago. I had traveled to New York for the weekend, and I was able to secure a perfect parking spot on the street. When I arrived back at my car on Sunday, I came across a gruesome sight. The cars in front of and behind me were parked so close to my bumpers that there wasn't enough lube, crowbars or 1,000-point turns to get me out of my spot. The cars on either side of me literally were touching my bumpers. So my question is, What to do? Should I "gently" move them (use my car to push the other cars far enough so I can get out)? Or should I just walk to the nearest bar for cocktails to wait them out?
-- David

Tom: Well, I think you may have little choice, David. You may have to use what some New Yorkers call "persuasion."

Ray: I certainly would give the other drivers a reasonable grace period. Wait around for 15 minutes or half an hour if you can --- just in case they stopped to run into a store or pay a quick visit to a friend. But in some parts of New York City, people can park a car and not use it again for a month!

Tom: But even if you're in an area where people have to move their parked cars every day, having to stand around until the next morning is not fair to you. And clearly, those cars weren't there when you parked the car (or you never would have gotten into the space). So both of them knew they were blocking you in. In which case, you are justified in forcing your way out.

Ray: We don't know if a police tow truck or the city help line (dial 311) would be of any assistance. We tried calling the NYPD to ask, but they suggested we e-mail them Form 4063b and wait until the Martians land for a response (to be fair, we prefer to think they're out preventing crime rather than responding to questions from a couple of jamokes like us).

Tom: But unless the police or parking department will help you, you may have no choice but to force your way out. I saw a guy in Boston with a Lincoln Town Car, and he was in the same situation -- he had been parked in. So he was turning the wheel back and forth, back and forth, trying to get out, all to no avail. Finally, he lost his patience.

Ray: So he puts the thing in drive and floors it, smashing into the car in front of him, and pushing that car into the car in front of it.

Tom: Then he realizes he's not sure which guy was more responsible. So he puts it in reverse and floors it again, and does the same thing to the guy behind him.

Ray: Then he puts on his turn signal, which is now dangling from the back of his car, pulls out and goes on his merry way.

Tom: By the way, that's how my brother usually gets INTO a parking space.

Ray: Here's a better way to do it, David: Put the car in drive; make sure you're bumper to bumper, so you do as little damage as possible; and then slowly squeeze the gas pedal (you ultimately may have to push it pretty hard) until the car in front of you moves a couple of feet. Then go backward slowly, until you're bumper to bumper with the car behind you, and do the same thing.

Tom: Once you have room to get out, feel free to leave a sternly worded note on the offending windshields, and go on your merry way. And next time, take the train to New York. It's a wonderful experience.

(Car Talk is a nationally syndicated column by automotive experts (and brothers) Tom and Ray Magliozzi. Write to them at the Car Talk Web site.)

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