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A large guy in tiny spaces

Country Roads

December 24, 2012
Arvid Huisman ( , The Daily Freeman Journal

As cars have been made smaller and smaller over recent decades I have had more and more trouble finding vehicles that I can drive. At this point, I am limited to full size minivans and pick-up trucks.

At 6'7" tall and more than 300 pounds, fitting in today's cars is a very real problem. I share this to help you understand my dilemma a couple of weeks ago.

On a lovely December weekday I had to speak to a service club that meets in downtown Des Moines. I found a parking spot in a parking ramp and negotiated my minivan into the narrow parking space a common problem in most of the ramps. I tried to park as much to the right as possible to ensure that I could squeeze back into my vehicle when I returned.

Imagine my dismay when, upon returning to my vehicle, I discovered an SUV the largest SUV on the market parked on the left side of my minivan. Not only that, the right side of the SUV was right on the yellow line. While I could squeeze my large body between the vehicles and could open the driver's side door, I could not open it far enough to squeeze my belly and butt into my vehicle.

I shut the door and squeezed back into the open space behind the SUV and my mini-van and studied the situation. Then I determined my options.

I could wait for the other driver to return but that was not an acceptable option. I could enter the car via the passenger side front door but I knew I could not get all of me over the center console. Another option: enter the minivan through the passenger side rear door and maneuver all of me into the driver's seat. I considered that option for a while and determined that getting me under the steering wheel would take more flexibility than I posses.

Finally, I opened the driver's side sliding rear door and squeezed between the two vehicles. I then studied my options from that angle.

A solution began to materialize. After a few minutes I put down the driver's seat back to make the seat as flat as possible.

Then I backed into the backseat, hind end first. Once completely inside the vehicle, I negotiated my feet and legs toward the front of the car. Then I began wiggling my body to drag my butt over the front seat back and my feet and legs underneath the steering wheel.

I have suffered with lower back problems for three decades and was afraid of twisting excessively and aggravating that situation. Slowly, wiggle-by-wiggle, I moved my size 14 feet and long (not slender) legs under the steering wheel.

Finally success! My rear end was in the seat and my feet on the pedals. I raised the seat back and strapped on the seat belt. Relieved to be in the driver's seat but worried by the twinges of discomfort in my back, I started the car and headed for the exit.

Along the way I wondered if there were any surveillance cameras in that area of the parking ramp and, if so, did any of them record my contortions? If so, the security guys had a good laugh watching.

I am not personally acquainted with the parking ramp cashier but I see her often enough to engage in a bit of conversation when there are no cars behind me. I told her about my dilemma. She appears to be at least my age and understood my plight. We both had a good laugh.

My back was uncomfortable the rest of the day but when I arose the next morning everything seemed normal. Now my only worry was that a security camera video might get uploaded to You Tube.

I understand the economics of the narrow parking spaces in the parking ramps but that doesn't make the frustration of parking there any less. Earlier this year in another parking ramp I faced the same problem. In that case, the other car had left just enough room for me to squeeze into my vehicle, though I had to suck in my gut (a lot) to make it happen.

I dislike drivers who take up two parking spaces to protect their cars but I may have to resort to that to ensure reentry into mine.

It isn't easy being large.



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