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Parking 501: Advanced Techniques

Photo Adaptation from Gilded@flickr.com

So, you’ve circled a block more than a few times and there isn’t a parking spot available on any of the streets on either side of the street. VoicePark is not available because there are no sensors in that area yet. You’ve even expanded your search to a four-block radius. Absolutely nothing.

You’ve looked for white zones, yellow zones, green zones, and red zones with less than 25% paint on them. Nothing. In desperation, you’ve even considered using the bottomless-garbage-can-over-the-fire-hydrant trick, but alas, somebody else has beaten you to that. Spots up ahead? Other people are snagging them. Somebody got in to leave just as you passed them, but because of traffic, you can’t back up to get it.  What to do?

In this situation, it has become time for you, young Jedi, to learn how to know which parked car is going to leave next, long before it does. How? Psychism?  No. Psychic parking typically only works in West Marin and in Berkeley, where the local parking gods are open to that sort of thing. This is even easier and can be more fun. It’s a game that I like to call, “Spot the Person Who is about to Get into their Car to Leave and Snag that Spot Before Somebody Else Does.” It’s all the rage in Europe.

Here’s how to play:

Step 1: Take a breath, lose the frustration and the worry about being late.  Then, let the desperation transform into playful cunning.

Step 2:  Go to a street where there is more foot traffic than on the other streets. Probably one with a few shops on it, or continue to circle.

Step 3: Focus in on people with bags, packages, and/or people who are walking with somewhat of a soldier-esque, stiffened arm swing thing going on. You know, a stiff-armed swing as they are walking. This stiff-armed swing indicates that they are grasping something with their fingers. When we walk while grasping something in our palm, with all of our fingers around the object, our arms swing fairly fluidly. However, when we are walking, and simultaneously grasping something with our fingers, in the unique finger grasp position that we use to insert a key into a door (index and thumb holding the key and the other three fingers curled under to hold the rest of the keys), our arm stiffens, and we look somewhat like a soldier marching in a parade.

Step 4: Calculate the person’s trajectory and identify which car is their car. If they are going to a car along the sidewalk, they will diagonally head toward it and typically step out in front of it to get in. If their car is across the street, they will typically cross the street two or three car lengths ahead of the position of their car.

Step 5 (Advanced):
An even earlier method of prediction before looking for the "soldier in the crowd" is to look at people’s heads and faces, and scan for two things:

Try to spot the person who looks like they just shoplifted something from a store. They don’t know if anybody knows it is them, but the authorities are looking for somebody with the stolen goods, and they don’t want to draw attention to themselves…but are indeed in a hurry to get to their car and leave. This same look is the look that somebody in a crowded area has when they are close to their car. Other drivers are looking at the person, and wondering, “Is it her?”  “Is that the guy?”  “Is that the person who has it?”  There is a certain self-conscious look that many people get, knowing that they are about to receive a lot of attention. And before they get that attention, people are looking at them, judging them, wondering about them. Eyes are watching their every move. They feel it, and their faces and body language indicate it. Their eyes make eye contact, then dart away. They look up, or down, or in a direction that makes no sense for the situation. They suddenly start whistling, or begin playing with their hair.

Look for the guy who knows that he has something that everybody wants, and feels very proud of that. He is relishing the fact that he is the chosen one and, by god, he is going to soak up his 15 seconds of local fame. He is indeed leaving, but when you ask him, he hesitates and has to think about it  Nobody really has to ever think about whether they are leaving or not–it’s a binary question. Black or white. Yes or no. This guy just wants to milk it and let you know that he is a very important person, and will leave when he is good and ready. Look for the swagger and calculate the trajectory to his car.  

So, next time you’re out there, take a breath, let go of the frustration, and enjoy the game.


For more tips, tricks, and parking secrets, click here. To be guided by voice to the closest available parking spot in real time, check out the beta version of VoicePark by clicking here.