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From the Home Front: Garage etiquette

A fall ritual at our house, as it is at suburban homes in wintry climes across the land, is to clear out the attached garage to make space for the cars.

In our case, two cars.

One (mine) has been happily at home in there all summer. Each night, I would pull into the right side of the two-car garage while my husband would park his car on the left side of the driveway. It worked. But as what inevitably happens, stuff accumulated on the garage floor - things that have a designated spot on a hook or shelf and things that do not. I still have not heard an acceptable answer as to why the equipment for the fish tank has been sitting on the garage floor for more than a month now.

We will get this done, as we always do. We do not have a storage shed in the backyard, but we are lucky to have a garage loft to stash the outdoor furniture and flower pots. That helps. Still, space is tight in there for two cars – what with the snow blower, storage unit and all.

How do I know I have parked in such a way that my husband will be able to pull his car in on the left side on a snowy night? Here's how (I exaggerate slightly): If, when walking toward the back door, I need to turn sideways and hold my work tote high in the air to slide through the narrow space between my car and the bulky garbage and recycling totes, I’ve nailed it. If not, opening my car door to the driver’s side will be a little challenging the next morning.

I have pretty much mastered precision parking through the years. I pull into our garage like I’m entering a car wash, turning my steering wheel slightly to the left or right, proceeding slowly to keep perfectly on track.

But for more than a year now, we have had a third driver in the family who often “borrows” my car. Parking is not a big problem for her, but she has inherited a bit of the freewheeling spirit of her late grandmother.

My mother, who owned our house with my dad for 30 years before we bought it, back then assigned herself the same spot in the garage as I use now. But if she felt she needed more space for her station wagon - or pulled up far enough to bump the stack of firewood into the drywall - so be it.

This drove my father crazy. I often share the story of him climbing up on a ladder to tie to a beam a long string with a pingpong ball attached to the bottom.

My mother’s mission, if she chose to accept it (which she did occasionally) was to slowly drive her car into the garage and, keeping her eyes fixed upon that pingpong ball, stop as soon as it tapped the windshield.

She found this setup hilarious, naturally.

These days, as I navigate the neighborhoods, I see messy garages, fairly neat garages and garages so very, very neat that there is room for two cars - all year round! Who lives there? Empty-nesters? Fussbudgets? People who hire pros with their own lawn equipment?

Before long, we will attempt to enjoy the luxury of being able to park both cars in our attached garage, too.

We may need to pass along a few pointers to the youngest driver in the household - maybe even take a few additional steps to make it easier for her.

Ping pong, anyone?


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