For many motorists, it is the maneuver that causes more anxiety and dread than any other — parallel parking.
It is so challenging that "Primetime" made it the centerpiece of a "What Would You Do?" hidden camera experiment.
How will passersby react to a "parallel parker from hell" who backs into a parked car, knocks off the bumper and then just walks away? Will anyone stick up for the unaware owner of the damaged car?
For this experiment, the producers of "Primetime" rigged the front bumper of a car so it would fall off when struck by another car. The bad parallel parker was an actor. Again, our hidden cameras captured witnesses' reactions.
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Passersby were initially startled by the crash, but continued on their way, even as they watched the offending driver leave the scene.
"It was really none of my business," chiropractor Jayne Mizraji told us. "It was really up to [the driver] to decide for herself if she was going to do the right thing and find out who owned the car."
Postal worker Alan Meyers stopped to consider the situation, but thought the driver looked honest, so he continued on his way.
"I didn't do anything. And I've felt bad about it ever since," he admitted.
But we soon encountered people who would help the owner of the damaged car.
When our female actor knocked the bumper off the car behind her and prepared to walk away, passerby Laura Lemaire tried to stop her by offering to help find the owner of the damaged car in a nearby restaurant.
But Lemaire was immediately rebuffed. "No," replied the actor/driver. "You know what? I'll be back in an hour and I'll deal with it then."
She then blamed the broken bumper on the car, not her lousy parking: "What a piece of junk!"
The scene ended with Lemaire walking away in search of the driver of the damaged car and our actor/driver leaving the scene.
Lemaire, a fourth-grade teacher, said it was all a matter of "practice what you teach."
"I tell my fourth-graders, 'do the right thing and think about how you would feel if somebody did this to you,'" she said.
The Women Respond
While our experiment was not scientific, women seemed to get involved more often than men.
Jessica Benari and Sally Owens were incredulous as they watched the driver get out and walk off, barely glancing at the damage to the other car. The two women then split up and went searching for the damaged car's owner.
Later we told them about our experiment and that most people walked by without trying to help. Benari wasn't surprised.
"That's the sad thing about this world today," she said. "People just don't give a s--- anymore."
But we were soon reassured by two women who clearly cared. Again, our actor/driver knocked off the car bumper and walked away. She tried to enlist sisters Amy and Nancy Friedman as accomplices.
"Please don't say anything about this," our driver pleaded.
"You can't just walk away," said Amy.
Our actor/driver hastily walked off and said, "I'll be back in an hour. I'll deal with it then."
As the sisters asked people nearby whether they had written down the license number of the car, the driver suddenly returned, jumped in her car and peeled off. Nancy couldn't believe it.
"You can't just drive away from the accident," she screamed after the driver.
And with that, Nancy ran up the sidewalk to pursue the driver. We caught up with the fleet-footed Friedman and told her she had been a part of our hidden-camera experiment.
Nancy, still giggling after being told our driver was an actor, said, "When she came back out I saw there were police officers at the end of the street and I was like, 'this is perfect. We can have someone arrest her right now!'"
Nancy was motivated by her belief in the "just world" principle, said Colgate University psychology professor Carrie Keating. "Her whole notion of a just world was violated," said Keating. "This woman should pay for what she did. And she [Nancy] was going to insure that that happened."
Keating says this is how communities are built. "This is how Neighborhood Watch functions. It's taking ownership of a community and acting."
'I Was Furious'
When we replaced our female actor/driver with a male actor, the responses were not markedly different. A number of people walked past, but not before registering their disapproval when the driver walked away without even leaving a note.
"There's a policeman up there," Allen Joslyn told the actor/driver who was about to walk off.
"Yeah, I'd appreciate it if you didn't say anything," the driver told him.
"I would be very unhappy if that were my car," said Joslyn, who continued along, but paused to make a mental note of the driver's license plate number.
A while later the bumper crashed to the pavement once again, startling passerby Susan Volkert. As she watched the driver walk away, we sent in our female actor to pose as the owner of the damaged car.
The actor feigned shock at her front bumper lying in the street. "Oh my God!"
Volkert immediately offered a description of the other driver. "He's tall with sunglasses on. Maybe he's coming back. I love to give people the benefit of the doubt."
Sure enough, the male driver/actor came back. We instructed him to return, jump back in his car and prepare to drive away.
"Excuse me, sir," said Volkert. "You just backed into her car."
"I just tapped it," he responded.
Volkert began to anger. "You've gotta call the police. You drive off, you're going to have criminal sanctions brought against you."
The male actor/driver pretended to be annoyed. "I don't have time for the police."
"You know what? Sit there and wait," Volkert insisted.
She quickly pulled out a cell phone, dialed 911 and passed the phone to the driver of the damaged car to report the accident.
That's when we told Volkert that officers wouldn't actually be responding because they knew about our experiment.
"I was furious," Volkert said, now amused by the setup. "I told him to stay there. 'You're not moving.' And he argued with me. I was furious with him. It was just so wrong."
As a lawyer and the wife of a judge, Volkert knows a little something about right and wrong. She is also the mother of an FBI agent and a Marine Corps helicopter pilot.
"We taught them, if nothing else, you do the right thing," Volkert told us. "This is how you bring up your children."