Well, we had our first visit from one of our neighbors in Hyde Park last night. My wife and myself were hanging out after dinner and the dishes, just relaxing from the stresses of the day when the doorbell rings. We both go to see who's at the door. It's our neighbor to the West at 701, a nice lady named... something. When she intoduced herself from 20 feet away it sounded like either "Leticia" or "Latifah". Could have been either.
Well L (as we're going to call her) had a problem because the first words out of her mouth to me were: "Don't park in my spot!". I responded with my usual aplomb: "With the what now?"
I was taken aback, you see because I wasn't aware that I had parked in anyone's spot, I had parked on the street. Here's a diagram to help you visualize what's happening here:
As you can see, my car was parked at the corner of a public street, but she's under the impression that it's "her" parking space.
When I indicated that this was not the case, the a public street isn't anyone's space she proceeded to inform me that since we were new we wouldn't know this, but she's been parking there for five years and that I would have to find another place to park. L told me that it was an "unspoken arrangement". Of course it is. So unspoken that when I ask people about it they have no idea what the hell I'm talking about.
So, L tells me again not to park in her space. I just don't respond well to this kind of browbeating. Now, maybe she's just had a bad day and didn't want to walk the extra 10 steps that she had to take from where she parked behind me (see "Her Car" in my awesome diagram) to her house, but I think that it's pretty ballsy to knock on someone's door and demand they not park on a street. My response was pretty much the same the whole time: "Well, it's a public street", meaning "I'll park wherever the hell I please. I got there first and I'm parking there and if you don't like it you can sit and spin. Now that you bring it up and come to my door at night you just make me want to park there more, maybe get my friends to come over and park in all the spots around our houses so that you'll have nowhere to park". But that wouldn't be politic of me, so I just reiterate that it's a street and anyone can park there. You know, I may have considered not parking there if she had just been polite about it, but that demand out of the blue was just so off-putting that I couldn't agree.
I wish that I was more articulate in these situations because that's not the strangest part of this. L has a garage on the side of her house that faces Holmes! She never uses it, so maybe it's chock full of dead bodies or plague-infected or it's where she spins house records, but it's a garage. We don't have any usable off-street parking so this is doubly weird that she wants me to park farther away from our house than she parks from hers. Odd people. Anyway, I forgot to tell her that when she was right in front of me, but Tricia mentioned it to me after L had left.
Well, this morning I go to make sure that she doesn't have the right to park there. I mean, maybe I'm missing something here. Maybe she's got a dispensation from the city and it's unmarked because some angry dogs tore down the signs. So, I call the Department of Parking Control and speak to a very nice woman named Yolanda (as an aside I can't hear that name without thinking of "Pulp Fiction". Amanda Plummer's character was named Yolanda, but you might remember her as Honey Bunny. She was robbing the coffee shop with Tim Roth). Anyway, Yolanda just about died laughing when I asked her if people could claim a piece of on-street parking for themselves. So the answer was a qualified no. She can't do that unless she was handicapped. Then the city comes out and puts down some signs specifying that only handicapped people can park there, but even still, that's not for your exclusive use. If you had that space designated handicapped if I had the little wheelchair tag or plate I could use your space if I wanted to. It's not exclusive to you, it just makes it a lot more likely that you'll get a spot to park in if you're disabled.
So, L is not allowed to claim that spot for her own. But to be sure (and to start some documentation if this thing escalates) I email the neighborhood police officer to ask him the same question. He says the same as Yolanda and offers to come down and talk to L about public thoroughfares. I decline for now, but tell him I may need his help if things go pear-shaped.
With the surety that I'm in the right here, today I wrote L a letter offering a compromise. Not much of one, I'll admit, but one that's legal, sane and, best of all, equitable. I'll post the text here with some portions like addresses and names X'd out. Post your comments about it, maybe I'm being condescending to her, but isn't ok when you're in the right?
January 11, 2007
Re: On-Street Parking
[Apologies if I spelled your name incorrectly. I’ve never seen it spelled out and really only heard it once, when we first moved in]
Thanks for visiting yesterday. It seems like people in Hyde Park don’t talk to each other very much. I meet very few people in the neighborhood, so I’m glad to have received the chance to speak with you.
I’m sorry that we’re having this dispute about parking. I have to tell you that I was shocked that you were upset that I parked at the corner of Holmes and 41st Street. I know I’ve parked there before and it didn’t elicit comment from you previously. I wish you had said something then, so that this wouldn’t be an issue now.
The reason I parked there is because when I leave for work in the morning I go West down 41st Street. Since there are few spots on 41st typically, I usually look for a spot on Holmes near to my house. That spot on the SE corner of Holmes and 41st is ideal for me. It is 50 steps from my front door and I don’t have to cross any streets. I’ve parked on Holmes North of 41st, but that is much less convenient, as I’d have to either go around the block back to 41st or back up onto 41st, which can be quite difficult at time.
I know you feel that that is ‘your’ space, but I did some checking with Kansas City’s Dept. of Parking Control. I spoke with Yolanda Perry and it seems that the only way they reserve spaces on public streets is if a person is handicapped. There’s an example of this on Charlotte Street, right around the corner from where we live. Those spaces are clearly marked and regardless, they are not reserved for any single individual. If I had a handicapped tag or plate I could park in such a spot!
I noticed this morning that you parked your car immediately behind mine on Holmes (just North of your driveway). It seems that since there’s room for two cars there wouldn’t be a need for any dispute. If we both want to park on that part of Holmes we can, one car in front of the other. So, I propose this solution that I think is quite fair: we agree that we may both park on that section of the street, that it’s not anyone’s property or exclusive right. Whoever gets there first will be able to park in the Northerly-most part of the curb and the second person will get the Southern part, or vice versa, as long as the person who parks there first leaves enough room for two cars to be parked there.
Being good neighbors means being willing to work with those around you, making reasonable requests. I feel that this is a reasonable solution to any dispute that has arisen between us. No one has exclusive rights to any part of a public street. My solution is fair and equitable and enables both of us to park in close proximity to our homes.
What do you think? Think this will get out of hand?