Space Invaders
New York magazine|August 2 - 15, 2021
Space Invaders The parking job that prompted thousands of insults, threats, and moral judgments.
P. E. Moskowitz

WHEN I WAS A KID growing up in lower Manhattan, my father would always tell us, “The parking gods are on our side.” Circling the blocks around our apartment after running an errand, he never failed to find a spot—a skill he has passed down to me. A friend once described my ability to parallel park in New York City as “sexy,” and I agree: It is sexy, like being able to handle a power tool. Which is why, a few weeks ago, when I managed to fit my car into the smallest spot I had ever attempted, I felt a sense of pride. So I posted a photo of my parked car on Twitter, where I have 25,000-plus followers, with the obviously hyperbolic caption “not to brag but I deserve a Nobel Prize for this.” Then I put my phone away.

Within a few hours, the post had accumulated dozens of quote tweets. One person told me I was an “objectively bad person” for my parking job. I thought that was funny. So I screenshotted that and posted it with another obviously hyperbolic caption: “I am being cancelled for being good at parallel parking.” That tweet, insanely, now has 153,100 likes and more than 4,800 retweets. According to Twitter’s analytics, about 10 million people have seen it, and about 4,000 of them decided to reply. Some called me a shitty human being or an ableist; others told me they would key my car or pop my tires. Several threatened to fight me. Some simply said I was lying—one person created an SAT-style geometry diagram to prove, based on the dimensions and angles seen in the photograph, that my parking job was mathematically impossible.

I was taken aback. In the decade I have been on Twitter, I’ve experienced the wrath of the anonymous internet mob a couple of times: once when I tweeted that ADHD (which I’ve been diagnosed with) was a symptom of late capitalism, and another time when I tweeted that gender transition should be like converting to Judaism, where you must be approved by an authority (I am trans and Jewish and was also joking). Both of these posts prompted retweets calling me horrible names and DMs containing death threats, but the outrage, if not justified in its magnitude, was at least legible: I had posted a controversial opinion, and people were reacting to it. In the case of my parallel-parking job, though, I was perplexed. How could such a banal tweet elicit such anger? So I asked a few friends who are very online and were also enthralled by the response to my tweets to help decipher what was happening.

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