Monday, August 16, 2010

Backout Plan

In the world of information technology, we have a term that we use quite often -- it's called the "backout plan".  The backout plan is what takes effect when a software installation has gone horribly wrong -- not that I've ever personally seen that happen, of course.  But lately, I believe the term could be extended outside the IT realm and into the world of motoring.

Consider the following: you've just completed buying $98.73 worth of miscellaneous home goods from Target (although you went into the store fully intending to pick up only pre-brush whitening rinse), and after placing the shopping bags into your trunk, you get into your car, put it in reverse, and begin to back out of the parking space.  Hopefully, you will be looking up and down the aisle of the parking lot as you back out.  But really, that will not matter, because here comes -- Z-O-O-O-O-M -- a vehicle whipping past the rear end of your car, intent on taking out your trunk and its newly acquired, precious cargo.  The thing is, believe it or not, this used to be a rare occurrence.

Back in the day (1950's, 1960's, 1970's, 1980's, 1990's), most people, when they saw a car backing out of a parking space, would actually stop the forward motion of their vehicle.  (Although many people do not know this, "stopping" can be accomplished by pushing down on the "brake" pedal, the rubberized platform located immediately to the left of the accelerator in most cars and trucks.)  In theory, this so-called "braking" would allow the departing driver the chance to safely exit his/her parking space.  But this now appears to be the exception to the rule.  Nowadays, there is a new backout plan -- if people see a car backing out of a space, they will try to get past that car as quickly as possible, regardless of whether the driver exiting the space even sees them.  This is, of course, a dangerous practice, but that fact alone has never stopped any Atlanta driver that I've ever seen.

I'm not sure what is the reason for this aberrant behavior.  Conceivably, drivers are all in such a hurry that they do not feel they have time to stop for another vehicle, or alternatively, passing a car pulling out becomes an irresistible game of chance.  Of course, it could also be that the whizzing driver is simply oblivious to his/her surroundings or is engaged in a critical mobile phone activity (i.e. ordering lunch using Chipotle Online Mobile) that limits use of the parietal lobe.  Whatever the reason, this is becoming an accepted practice, and I now see it in every city I visit.  It is so common that a recent automobile advertisement features a device specifically designed to detect when another vehicle is about to pass behind your car.

So, I've decided to take a new approach to the science of parking -- I'm only going to park in spaces where I can pull forward to both enter and exit.  If that means running into the Starbucks building in front of me, well then, so be it.  I'll just claim that I was trying to use the Starbucks Mobile iPhone application and was distracted.  I think they'll believe that in traffic court: "Honest, your honor...I was just trying to figure out how to add an extra shot to the Americano in the My Favorite Drinks list."

Boo-yah...mocha frappuccinos all around!