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Space is tight on Hobart Street in the evenings. On a Monday, at the late end of the evening rush hour, cars filter into the 1600 block, searching for a resting place. Some sit midstreet with hazard lights on, waiting for the first available opening. Passengers hop out and stand in empty spots while their drivers make U-turns, then wave and signal from the curb to help the cars squeeze into tight spaces.
Every so often, a driver slows down and glares at a configuration of three cars: an old blue Volkswagen Beetle, a blue Mazda sedan, and a white Subaru sedan. The Beetle and Subaru are bookends, with the Mazda dead center between them—leaving generous gaps of bare curb space fore and aft. The spaces are much larger than the usual parking buffer, but too small for even the tiniest compact car.
At 8 p.m. sharp, another old Volkswagen, a white one, putters into view. It stops, idling, in front of the Subaru. The driver gets out, jumps into the Mazda, and drives it forward a yard or so. He then returns to the white Beetle and parallel-parks it in the newly created space.
The multicar dance occurs daily—and is a whispered neighborhood legend. “I can confirm that it does happen,” says Hobart Street resident Frank Howard, who is unwilling to discuss the maneuver further.
Another neighbor, who declines to give his name, verifies the arrangement: The Hobart driver uses three cars to preserve the space for one. “I’ve thought of getting an old motorcycle and putting it in one of the spots,” he says. “Someone else on the street just bought a Mini Cooper, and we thought it might be just small enough to get in between two of the cars, but no such luck.”
The driver himself, getting out of the just-parked Volkswagen one evening, also declines to give his name or to talk about the parking ritual.
“I’m shy,” he says.
Another neighbor, Missi Tessier, says that the space-saving routine has a fascinating quality. “My mother is from the Midwest, and whenever she comes to visit, she sits on the porch and just watches people park,” Tessier says. “She thinks that everyone should have an assigned space in front of their home, but I try to explain to her that it wouldn’t work—people have more than one car, they have visitors.
“And some of us,” she says, pausing for effect, “already have an assigned space.” —Sarah Godfrey