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Parking lot showdown

Published June 22, 2013 1:01 am

This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2013, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.

I recently had a close encounter of the driving kind, one perhaps not all that uncommon. I came down the ramp into the underground parking with my usual caution, hugging the right-hand wall knowing I was going from bright sun into darkness and that there was a sharp left turn at the bottom where cars sometime lurk momentarily unseen.

I made the left turn slowly and, two thirds of the way along in the largely empty garage, saw a parked car with brake lights on. No backup lights. Then, just as I passed, the driver threw the car into reverse and started to pull out. My heart racing, I accelerated and just barely missed being broadsided.

What was that driver thinking? Man or woman? I did not know. In that empty garage I didn't want to stick around to find out. I hastened round the next corner to get as far away as possible! I parked and went about my business, my heart still thumping at my narrow escape.

When I returned to my car I found the driver had prowled the garage looking for me and had, it seemed, been lying in wait. Since all I knew was that this person's driving skills require hyper vigilance in others, I was disconcerted when an irate woman ran toward me leveling accusations that a moment of rational thought would have shown to be absurd.

"You almost hit me," she shouted. How can a driver with the right-of-way be the one who "almost hit" a car suddenly backing out of a parking space into the lane of traffic? "You were speeding 50 miles an hour down that ramp," she loudly insisted. If that were true, and she saw me, why did she wait to back up until I was directly behind her?

Mounting a reasoned argument at that point, I could see, would have been to no avail; logic was clearly dead. Discretion being the better part of valor — especially in an underground parking garage with no one else around — I stood silent and let her rant until she ran out of steam. I then promised greater caution in future — and I meant it, too.

It was only as I drove away with a huge sigh of relief at my second escape in less than an hour that I saw the note she had stuffed under my windshield wiper warning me to slow down before I injured someone and advising me with a pinch of menace, "I got your plate."

I don't think that means I have a stalker now; I certainly hope not. But I do rather wish that I in turn had bothered to get the plate on her snappy red compact!

Nonetheless, the message to slow down before you injure someone is a good one. The summer travel season is here, after all, and more and more of us will be hitting the road. Please, dear Utah driver, slow down. Calm down. Savor sweet reason. Hang up. Log off. Don't text. Look around you, pay attention, be alert, use your turn signals, change lanes with full awareness and caution.

And, please, please, please, don't back up without checking your rearview mirror and looking over both shoulders!

Michele Margetts is a writer in Salt Lake City who loves to travel, even on Utah roads. Her only ticket for a moving violation came around 1979 when a downslope on I-15 in Millard County caused her speed to inch above 55mph. It was the 24th of July, no one else was on the road, and the deputy was bored. She is today, as she has always been, the slowest driver on a Utah road.