“Here’s something I never understood about men,” a female colleague said to me. I expected a classic, like: “Why do you equate commitment with death?” “How can you watch four TV shows at once?” or “Why must every toilet seat point toward heaven?” Instead, she said this:
“What is the deal with backing into parking spaces? When we go anywhere, if my boyfriend sees a pull-through space, or a space he can back into, bam! He’s on it. What’s going on there?”
At the time I told her I didn’t know. I doubted that this was a guy thing at all until later that afternoon when I backed into a space and actually said, “Score!” Backing into spaces isn’t a slam-dunk gender identifier, like Y chromosomes or Josh Groban CDs. But cars that are lovingly backed into parking spaces are far more likely to contain wadded-up burger wrappers than lip gloss.
Perhaps the urge is primal. But research has shown that man’s apelike forebears had few, if any, parking preferences. Parking issues don’t surface at all historically until 1881 Tombstone, when a frustrated Ike Clanton circled the OK Corral three times before a space opened up. This back-in parking quirk is more of a modern phenomenon. And frankly, I blame Batman.
Batman never backed out of a parking space in his life. He’d see the Bat-signal, run down to the Batcave, and there was the Batmobile, ready to peel out. No checking the Bat-mirrors. (“Tell me if I have enough room, Robin!”) No cumbersome maneuvering. (“Holy Red Zone! Albert’s boxed us in!”) The basic guy ethos is “Get up and go!” (Except during March Madness, when the ethos is: “Sit and watch till someone shouts at you.”) Batman embodied that spirit: Start ’er up, stomp on it, and you’re gone. Parking is a humbling herd exercise that tells guys, several times a day: You’re not Batman.
In today’s world, we are always in some kind of line. Staring at brake lights, or traffi c signals or the keisters of people who got there fi rst. Guys, who are naturally competitive, hate the “wait-your-turn” ritual of leaving a parking lot. You have to ease out of your allotted space, backwards, in an excuse-me kind of way. It’s odd and slightly humiliating, like walking into a room bottomfirst. (And if you’re driving a large vehicle? Your bottom beeps.)
That’s why many guys will pull through their parking space to face “grill out” on the opposite side. And that’s why body shops earn good money from guys who have disemboweled their cars on parking blocks. But these guys are the exceptions. For most of us, this is just a quirk. And if a man wants to back into a space for the simple pleasure of peeling out later, what’s the harm?
Next week: What’s behind the rising death rate of grocery cart wranglers?