Dear Tom and Ray:
My neighbor, who does not impress me as having an IQ above that of a Neanderthal, told me the other day that while he didn't want to be minding my business for me, I am "ruining my car parking it the way I am." I don't know whether he has a point or not. It rains a lot where I live. I do not have a garage. A sidewalk leads from the parking lot in front of my apartment right up to my front door. When it rains, the grass also becomes soggy. So, what I sometimes do is drive my car along the sidewalk, with the left-side wheels on the sidewalk and the right wheels on the grass. This allows me to get very close to my front door and get out on the sidewalk. Since the grass is about 2, maybe 3 inches max, below the sidewalk and it squashes when I drive on it, this puts the left-side wheels of my car higher than the right-side wheels when I'm parked this way. Is this "ruining my car"? Or is my neighbor a Neanderthal?
Tom: I wouldn't call him a Neanderthal, Beverly. I'd describe him as more of a passive-aggressive nebbish.
Ray: You're not harming your car at all. The suspension couldn't care less whether it's on a slope -- certainly not this gentle a slope.
Tom: I mean, if you parked sideways on the steepest part of Mount Kilimanjaro for years on end, you would put some unusual stresses on some of the suspension parts. But even that would pale in comparison to the fines you'd be racking up from the Tanzanian Parks Service.
Ray: What your neighbor is trying to tell you is that he doesn't like you parking on the sidewalk. He finds it ugly or tacky or inconvenient. Or he doesn't like the way it squashes the grass. But rather than say, "Beverly, I wish you wouldn't park there; I think it makes the entire apartment complex look like a junkyard," he's trying to convince you that it's in YOUR interest not to park there.
Tom: That's passive-aggressive or, at the very least, non-straightforward behavior. So, the next time you see him trying to convince the paper boy that throwing the paper into the bushes is bad for his arm, ask him if he'd like to talk about his feelings about where you park. That should get rid of him.
(Car Talk is a nationally syndicated column by automotive experts (and brothers) Tom and Ray Magliozzi. Write to them at the Car Talk website.)