Compact complex

I think it’s time to admit that we are collectively in denial. I don’t want to shame anyone here, but the bottom line is we have to be honest with ourselves about our sizes. We are simply not as small as we think we are.

I am talking, of course, about vehicles, and the need for the owners of said vehicles to park in spots in parking garages marked for compact cars, which they certainly are not driving.

I made this recent observation when my wife and I went out. We were heading into a parking garage, and I did the most sensible thing, which was to stop and let her off at the ticket booth before entering. To anyone on the outside, it probably looked like we were having a fight and she was done with me. In actuality, my wife gets exceptionally car sick, in particular when going in circles in a parking garage, and I was actually doing her a big favor. 

She knew full well that I was going to be driving to most likely the top floor of the garage to park my car. I drive to the top because I drive what is somewhere in the range of a compact and a full-sized sedan. But I also know that the first few floors of the garage will not have any spaces anymore, for a couple of reasons.

The first is that, duh, they fill up first. And we were there at 2:30 in the afternoon. The second is that people often park their cars in spots that are too small, often designated by signs that say “Compact cars only.”

Side note: In writing this column, I learned that the classification for a compact car is one that has between 100 and 109 cubic feet of combined passenger and cargo volume. That means absolutely nothing to me, so I checked out width and length. Turns out that according to government standards, the maximum width is 70.5 inches, and the maximum length is 175.3 inches. Now I don’t know about you, but I have no clue the length and width of my car, much less the cubic feet of volume. Turns out I am over in two of the three.

But even if my car is on the line, it’s pretty clear that my car will have to snug up pretty tight to my car neighbors to park in those spots. So up to the top I head, where I can find a nice, easy spot to pull into. Maybe I’ll take a moment to enjoy the view, and then celebrate getting some steps in on my descent down. (Elevator back up, though. I’m not crazy.)

But, hoo boy, do some folks simply not care that their cars are not designed to fit in those spaces. Well, I guess I shouldn’t say cars. My car could probably fit in plenty of them, were they open. I’m talking about vans, SUVs and trucks. 

They are most certainly not within the government guidelines. And I get that some folks might say that they don’t need guidelines to tell them where they can park their vehicle. And I would agree with you most times. Except…

If you walk through any parking garage, you will see a lot of people who not only deny the direction of the guidelines, they straight up deny the geometry of what they are dealing with.

The vehicles simply don’t fit in the spots. Folks just pull on in, completely cool with the fact that they have essentially taken up two – and sometimes with even bigger vehicles, three – spots to park their ride.

I really don’t want to chalk this up to people being selfish and awful, so I consider today’s column a gentle friendly reminder to perhaps check and see when you see a spot that says “Compact cars only.” It’s not a challenge. And it’s not a disrespect to you. It just means the spot is a little smaller than your big, fine ride is suited for. Come on up to the top with me. You’ll get your steps in. And the view is great.

Mike Gibbons was born and raised in Aiken, S.C. A graduate of the University of Alabama, you can e-mail him at or follow him on Twitter @StandardMike.


Leave a Reply