You can tell when I have been on break for a bit, mostly because I start ruminating on subjects that, likely as not, really don't need much rumination. Nonetheless, I have been contemplating something of slightly less than profound, albeit central, importance in our daily lives.
I find them fascinating. I know, this is not the first time that I have devoted precious blogosphere space to the issue of parking lots, but I find the very nature of the beasts to be dead fascinating. I could sit in parking lots on think on the human condition for hours, mostly because a parking lot is a bit of a microcosm of our lives. You can tell a great many things about the way people act in parking lots, probably a great deal that explains the kind of people that they are, and how they go about their business, and how they treat others. It is a strange piece of work, to be certain, but one that is far more interesting (usually) than wandering about in the stores that said parking lots stand sentry to, or around.
Parking lot behavior is a rather penetrating distillation of who we are and what we hold dear.
I remember one particular incident, whilst living in South Bend, IN - I drove to the local grocery store, by name of Martin's (good place, plenty of variety, decent take away service, for the most part lovely produce, fair fishmonger, good butcher, Paczkis during Lent, Notre Dame football games on the loudspeakers), and watched, with some incredulity and great hilarity, as some monstrous four-wheel drive vehicle would inch, at 1 or 2 miles per hour, over the bloody speed bumps, as if any actual velocity would shake his precious vehicle apart. The stupid truck was a behemoth, it could have likely swallowed up the Grand Canyon, but no, this guy had to ease his 'truck' over the speed bumps as if he thought he might slip the bonds of earth and float away into limitless space if he were actually to drive over the buggers at something close to 10 mph.
I laughed so hard I nearly forgot what I needed at the store.
Watching to good folks at the HEB on Freddy Gonzalez is just as instructive and entertaining, though for different reasons. At the HEB what you will witness is the slow dance of those who don't wish to park too far away from the front entrance of the store. And not just one of the entrances, the center entrance. You see, they want to park in the place that is equidistant from one of the entrances to the place in the center of the store from which they will emerge. Thus, a slow promenade around the parking lot begins to swell as the business increases, with any number of cars slowly cruising the lot looking for the prime spot. The best bit of the entire show is that people will wait for many minutes behind a car that they think should be moving soon. They will sit and idle the time away waiting for the perfect spot, watching people come out of the store and noting into which car they climb, with the hopes of swooping in and claiming the prized location. They wait. For a long time. So long, in fact, that if they had simply parked in the first available spot, walked in, shopped, checked out, and walked back to their car, very likely they would have completed their mission in less time than actually waiting for the perfect parking spot.
Thus, I walk slowly out to my car, sometimes stopping to readjust my grocery bag or to tie my shoe next to cars that are prime parking lot real estate. I notice the expression of hope and expectation on the driver's faces, then I straighten, and walk out to the far edge of the lot where I park my car. Where there are always spaces. Whenever I happen to go to the store. Every. Single. Time.
I know I shouldn't, but it seems people need to relax a bit, and figure out whether or not the perfect parking space is really all that important, and such a time saver.
Of course, I park out so far because the few extra steps I take to get into the store is good for me. And I never waste a second thinking about 'finding' a parking spot. Honestly, what a profound waste of time, 'looking' for a parking spot. Just park. Then walk. You save yourself an extraordinary amount of frustration, you get a bit of a health benefit, and you get to the task at hand faster.
I also like to sit in parking lots, whilst waiting for the family to do a bit of shopping, so that I can read, or watch people drive through as if they were the only ones in the lot. It is amazing how dangerous and inconsiderate people can be when they gun through the lots, shaving precious milliseconds off of their driving time, and nearly wiping out parked or moving cars on their way. The best bit is that these parking lot thugs then look at the other drivers (or parked, driverless cars) as if they were the problem. One young driver flipped off a parked car, because clearly it jumped out in front of our good driver and scared the wits out of him for being in one place for more than a second or two. Another driver cut through aisles of open lots only to be surprised by someone actually following the painted stripes and driving down the aisles as suggested. The surprised driver laid on the horn and visibly cursed the other driver for doing what was supposed to be done. Such temerity!
The parking lot, unfortunately, tends to strip away the veneer of civilized life and helps us revert to our most base instincts, or our most egocentric reality. We think of ourselves, not others.
Perhaps we should try to keep in mind that we do not, ever, live without impacting the lives of others, and live accordingly.
It wouldn't be a bad way to start the New Year.