The Secret Life of Walter Mitty

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Parking-Lot Attendant and Grinning Garagemen Character Analysis

Young, cocky men who, Walter Mitty feels, judge him for not being able to handle his car. The parking-lot attendant parks Mitty’s car with what Mitty sees as “insolent skill,” while the garagemen grin at Mitty as they remove his tire chains. Although Mitty’s reaction to these characters groups them together, only the parking-lot attendant appears in the story’s present; the garagemen are part of Mitty’s memory and his plan to avoid embarrassment on future visits to the garage.

Parking-Lot Attendant and Grinning Garagemen Quotes in The Secret Life of Walter Mitty

The The Secret Life of Walter Mitty quotes below are all either spoken by Parking-Lot Attendant and Grinning Garagemen or refer to Parking-Lot Attendant and Grinning Garagemen. For each quote, you can also see the other characters and themes related to it (each theme is indicated by its own dot and icon, like this one:
Heroism and Masculinity Theme Icon
). Note: all page and citation info for the quotes below refers to the Perennial Classics edition of The Secret Life of Walter Mitty published in 1999.
The Secret Life of Walter Mitty Quotes

The attendant vaulted into the car, backed it up with insolent skill, and put it where it belonged.

Related Characters: Parking-Lot Attendant and Grinning Garagemen
Related Symbols: Car
Page Number: 57
Explanation and Analysis:

Mitty has again been thrust back into reality. While he's been fantasizing about his own skill with nonsensical medical machines, Walter has bungled his parking job. A young attendant (not much older than a teenager) has to take Walter's place and drive Walter's car into the correct parking space. Thurber describes the attendant as driving with "insolent skill," emphasizing Walter's humiliation: Walter's been dreaming about operating complicated machines, but clearly doesn't even know how to handle a fairly basic one, his car.

The passage subtly emphasizes the divide between Walter and other men. Cars are a classic American symbol of masculinity: to be a good driver or able to work with cars is to be cool, courageous, rugged, and generally a paragon of male virtue. Walter's age and clumsiness make him bad at driving and, implicitly, a lesser man--unlike the confident, "insolent" attendant described here.

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The next time, he thought, I’ll wear my right arm in a sling; they won’t grin at me then. I’ll have my right arm in a sling and they’ll see I couldn’t possibly take the chains off myself.

Related Characters: Walter Mitty (speaker), Parking-Lot Attendant and Grinning Garagemen
Related Symbols: Car, Gloves, Overshoes, Sling, and Handkerchief
Page Number: 57
Explanation and Analysis:

Walter Mitty has a hard time with cars. He's tried to remove the chains from his tires before, and bungled the job--as a result, Mrs. Mitty forces him to go to the garage whenever he wants to remove the chains. Mitty resents having to rely on other people to take care of his car, as he knows that being able to take care of one's car is a sign of power and masculinity -- and the garage workers seem to know it to, as they "grin" at him when he takes his car in.

But because Walter knows he can never prove himself to other men through skill or confidence, he tries another tactic. Instead of trying to elicit wonder from other people, he tries to elicit sympathy by placing his arm in a sling. Notice, though, that Walter doesn't actually place his arm in the sling: even here, he relies on fantasy and imagination to solve his problems.

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Parking-Lot Attendant and Grinning Garagemen Character Timeline in The Secret Life of Walter Mitty

The timeline below shows where the character Parking-Lot Attendant and Grinning Garagemen appears in The Secret Life of Walter Mitty. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
The Secret Life of Walter Mitty
Heroism and Masculinity Theme Icon
Public Image and Embarrassment Theme Icon
The Overlap of Fantasy and Reality Theme Icon
Before Mitty can make his first cut, a shout from the parking-lot attendant interrupts the fantasy: Mitty has driven into the exit-only lane. Dazed, he tries to correct... (full context)
Heroism and Masculinity Theme Icon
Public Image and Embarrassment Theme Icon
...chains, only to end up with them wound around the axles, and another “young, grinning garageman” had to come and help him. Ever since, Mrs. Mitty has made him drive to... (full context)
Illness and Mortality Theme Icon
Public Image and Embarrassment Theme Icon
Concealment Theme Icon
...arm in a sling the next time he goes to a garage, so that the garageman will see that he couldn’t have taken the chains off himself and will not grin... (full context)