March 28th, 2009

The garages of New England

A garage is a wonderful thing to have, especially in New England. The reason seems obvious: it snows a lot here, and without a garage you have to dig your car out regularly.

An attached garage is even better; whether it’s snowing or raining or sleeting or icy outside (or some combination of all four), you can keep warm and dry as you carry in your groceries.

Oh, how I’ve loved my attached garages! I appreciated them all the more because of the considerable time I’ve spent living in New England without a garage at all.

But I appear to be in the minority. It’s not that a lot of people don’t have garages here—they do. It’s just that they rarely use them for cars.

Oh, they use them, all right. They’re stuffed to the rafters with goods: lawnmowers and saws and lumber and bicycles and hockey skates and garbage cans and paint cans and old furniture and whatever it is that most people put in an attic or a basement or a toolshed. And this despite the fact that most people in New England actually have attics and basements and toolsheds.

But even the relatively empty garages seem to remain empty of their owners’ cars.

I think perhaps it’s a macho thing, a show of Yankee toughness: only wimps or people “from away” (is that redundant?) consider the garage to be the proper resting place for a car. The best analogy I can think of is to umbrellas in Seattle—have you ever seen a native using one, despite the constant damp dank dripping drizzle alternating with the drenching drowning deluges of the downpours?

17 Responses to “The garages of New England”

  1. rubber ducky Says:

    Funny that. I was just thinking the same thing…

  2. askmom Says:

    Seattle natives fight the damp with wool socks, Gore-tex, fleece, and Keen sandals that let the rain run right through. Umbrellas are a sure sign that you are “from away.”

    And in Seattle, too, actually putting your car IN the garage is a sign that you are too poor or too unimaginative to have better things to store there.

    As a native of Seattle, fashion never came easily to me; but on the flip side, it’s good not to be dissuaded from the fun of life just because of a little bad weather. The one thing I still can’t figure out is how the great Gerard Van der Leun survives in Seattle. After the streets of New York, he must be suffering continuous style withdrawal symptoms. Also, the cute young women there are perpetually covered with hoodies. It’s a shame.

  3. SteveH Says:

    Google street view has amassed quite a collection of houses caught with the doors open to their messy garages…Lol

  4. marine's mom Says:

    Speaking as an adopted Oregonian (perish the politics!) umbrellas are for wimps.
    We turned out single car garage into a rec room for the kids and have hardly missed it. We live near to a subdivision of DR Horton homes that have triple garages and most people have two or three cars parked in their driveways.

  5. vanderleun Says:

    I have three umbrellas. I keep two in the back seat of the car and one in the trunk of the car. I keep the car in the garage. That way I can’t get to the umbrellas when I go out the front door into the rain.

    Seattlites are now in the mode of the winter rains called “Oh just run for it.”

  6. Baklava Says:

    It’s the sign of a pack rat.

    I purge.

    I don’t like a cluttered house.

    I like my car in my garage.

    I don’t want to feel claustrophobic in my home.

  7. Peter the Alaskan Kid Says:

    I would like to point out that the characterization of the northwest lower-48 as “wet” is really undeserved. The area around Puget Sound (including Seattle) get little more than 50 inches of precipitation a year, and it is only farther west in the Olympics that rates are above 100.

    In the temperate rainforest of southern southeast Alaska, the driest places have averages around 100. In my town, it’s 150.

  8. neo-neocon Says:

    Peter the Alaskan Kid: rainfall amounts measured in inches do not tell the whole story. Seattle is gloomy almost year round, with the sole exception of summer. It doesn’t have to rain in buckets (although it often does) to be damp and gray, which Seattle is for months at a time.

  9. maneocon Says:

    Being a pack rat does not explain it. Being lazy does.

  10. davidt Says:

    Garages, basements, and tool sheds also used to be refuges of a sort for the man of the house to escape the wife and kids.

  11. camojack Says:

    I keep my Harley in the garage; the “Camobile” (my conversion van) stays under the carport. 😉

  12. Oh, bother Says:

    Given how hot it gets in North Texas, I wish our cars could be kept in the garage. However, I think it’s much better for the state of my marriage to have the workshop there. My husband gets a little twitchy if he can’t find his tools. Also, things don’t get repaired if he can’t find his tools. It’s a good thing for everybody.

  13. strcpy Says:

    It’s not just a New England thing – at the least it is also the norm in East Tennessee (where I live).

    Usually vehicles are parked in the driveway or the road in front of the house (where my truck is) and a single person wide pathway is available through the garage door to the door leading into the house. Rarely are we able to get at more than just what is next to the pathway unless really motivated (we are lucky enough to also have a pathway to a storage area under out split foyer so we get an extra pathway).

    Indeed, it is not uncommon to note junk stacked completely to the ceiling. We aren’t that bad – more because our junk doesn’t stack too well and tends to pile up.

    There are a few oddballs – the people down the street from us have a full entertainment room in their garage and seem to be full of acquaintances of the evening (which is unusual in and of itself). There are also the garage based woodworking shops, our next door neighbor has one – I would *LOVE* to have one also. Yet most are garage’s for storing junk that we will almost never use and our vehicles on the driveway or road.

    But then once outside of the cities I find the South-East Redneck Capital has more in common with North-East Liberal Crazy than not, just the motivations are different.

  14. rickl Says:

    My house, which my father left me, was built in the 1950’s and it has a one-car garage. Back then most families had just one car, and the only power tool many households had was a lawnmower. So my father still had room for a workbench, ladder, shelves, and assorted tools.

    But nowadays, many people also have snowblowers, weed whackers, leaf blowers, rototillers, table saws, etc., not to mention decades worth of accumulated junk. So there is no room left for the car! Today, if you have one car, you really need a two-car garage in order to have all that stuff and still have a place to put the car.

    Of course, families today have two, three, or more cars. 🙂

    I live by myself and have one car, and this past winter I was finally able to clean out the garage enough to put my car inside when snow was predicted. But most of the time I leave it in the driveway.

  15. JKB Says:

    Well it doesn’t really rain in Seattle. Just mists and drizzles for months on end. Sometimes they forget to have what we from the East would call a spring much less a summer. An umbrella isn’t good for that but a parka is by keeping the damp out of clothes and helping with heat retention. I’ve had more than one NW native describe their surprise when confronted with a rain in the South. It is in the East that an umbrella is most useful since the rain is passing and the parka would be uncomfortable immediately after it stopped or even during due to the heat/humidity.

    Garages are out of sight, out of mind, making it easy to put off sorting out the stuff dumped there. Then, eventually, you grow tired of the car barely fitting, so you park outside, creating more space for the chaos. Or better yet, you use the car spots as space for sorting which never gets finished, nor does anything actually get carried off. It only gets altered in the spring to dig out the lawnmower and in the early winter to dig out the snowblower. Big efforts come in mid-winter in the north after you grow reminiscent of being able to empty the car in a dry place out of the wind. This all presupposes the garage isn’t taken over as a shop.

  16. Alear Says:

    Central Ohio, me: I have a one-car, which I do use as purposed. Lawn mower, garbage can, few tools otherwise. I have noticed that I’m becoming a minority tho, on parking under a roof.

    But, this is worth remarking, my favorite line of all week:

    “from away” (is that redundant?)

  17. Tom the Redhunter Says:

    I love my garage. Parking the car in there to keep it warm in the winter and cool in the summer is the primary reason, but almost as important is just a place to keep tools and the workbench. I live in a three story townhouse and there’s just no other place for a workbench – you know, the type that every guy must have. And it’s a heck of a lot better than having to build a shed for the lawn tools.

    I live in northern Virginia, which is sort of cold in winter and sort of hot in the summer. So it’s not completely necessary, but awfully nice.

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Previously a lifelong Democrat, born in New York and living in New England, surrounded by liberals on all sides, I've found myself slowly but surely leaving the fold and becoming that dread thing: a neocon.

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