Friday, September 7, 2007

A Suburban Thing

When DH and I moved across the Bay to a ranch house built in 1950, there were some mental adjustments to be made. We'd spent the previous nine years living in San Francisco, light years away in lifestyle from our little suburban slice of Oakland. For a long time we couldn't help remark on things here that most people probably take for granted. For instance, we have a yard big enough to require a mower, and that seemed bizarre and exotic after living surrounded by concrete for so long in SF. And our Oakland house is totally plain, yet it still has a second bathroom, something rare as unicorns in most SF flats. But the thing that floored me the most about moving here was the parking situation. Because not only does our house have a two-car garage, but a wide driveway leading up to it.

That meant no more hunting for street spots or honing parallel parking skills on hills with a 14 percent grade. For months after we bought the house, every time DH and I were out late or came back home during a rainstorm (always bad times to hunt for street spots in a big city) we would revel in our good fortune at having the garage and driveway.

But time passed and now I have lost my gee-shucks newbie instincts about our street. I realized I had officially morphed into a real suburbanite the other day when I got annoyed at my neighbor because he parked his car in front of my house.

When we first moved, being mad over this never would have occurred to me. The rule in SF is that any open curb space is up for grabs by anyone at any hour of the day. And of course, that's still technically the law over in Oakland, too. But over time I came to notice that the custom here is different. It doesn't matter if you've got a huge garage and driveway with your house. A homeowner gets dibs on the curb space directly in front of their own home, too. It's for their cars or their guest's cars. All around the neighborhood, people park their cars directly in front of their houses. It is acceptable to park in front of your neighbor's house, but only if the space in front of your own home is taken by another car for some reason.

Everyone I see does this. Everyone, that is, except for my next-door neighbors. They have two cars. One gets parked in their single-stall garage, the other in front of my house. Always. There are two parking spots in front of their own house that remain empty while the space in front of my house is taken by their car. Once I started noticing what they did, it began to bug me. And now I can't stopped being bugged about it.

I know it's ridiculous. These are nice folks who keep their house and yard in much prettier condition than certain other people in the neighborhood do (cough, cough, ahem). They are quiet and friendly. Hell, they even brought me home-made cookies after Little A came home from the hospital. But I find myself wanting to yell "GO PARK IN FRONT OF YOUR OWN HOUSE!" every time they pull in front of mine.

Either I'm totally crazy, or it's just a suburban thing. Maybe both?


meg said...

No, that would bug me too. Do they just not want the view of their front yard to be obstructed? If the unwritten rule is to park in front of your own house, then they should do it.

My in-laws had the same thing happen (though they do live in the city). Their next door neighbor was selling his house and didn't want the workman's ratty old van parked in front of their monster house, so they parked it in front of my in-laws. The house wasn't up for sale yet and I believe they did say something (though my FIL is a crabby old man, he did have a point, I think).

I don't know if you can say anything, or maybe just start parking in front of their house?

Wabi said...

Hi Meg,

DH thinks the reason they don't park next to their house is because they have japanese maples flanking the curb. At four feet tall the trees are too short to provide shade to passers by but do block you from opening car doors if you park there.

Me, I don't buy the tree excuse because you can still park at least one car between the maples without having doors blocked. I hadn't thought of the front yard view before, but maybe you're right about that. They have lovely landscaping and a professional gardening service, so perhaps they like to look out their front window and not have the view "ruined" by a car?

meg said...

Wabi, I think it's time you planted some trees at the front of your yard! Or maybe some kind of fence?

It does seem like crap (the tree excuse), if there's room for one car in front of the trees, so probably they just don't want to look at a car?

Annoying overall, I say!