Parking Is Dangerous

December 16, 2011

Here is a little piece I wrote about two or three years ago on the chances we take in crowded parking lots.

Parking is Dangerous!

It was in the warm afterglow of a workshop I had just given on the marketing and selling of artwork my wife and the organizers had been chatting about how gentle NW pacific folk were compared to those lost souls forced to pace the grubby sidewalks of eastern cities. And this generous benign ambience followed us all the way to the Fred Meyer parking lot on Interstate Ave.There is a Panda express there and we planned to get a quick lunch and continue on our way.

How soon we were forced to reappraise our geographic sociological conclusions? Real soon!

It turns out that Saturday lunchtime at the Freddie’s on Interstate is a bit of a zoo parking wise and so tends to test that gentle nature we had so recently been praising. We had cruised around looking for the spot that we knew would open up. A few minutes of this suggested that I let my wife out at the Panda Express and I would circle like a fruit fly searching for the best spot on a rotting banana.

And lo, way up at the end of the aisle a car was backing out. I eased carefully up to the zone, but left plenty of room for a sloppy withdrawal. And sure enough I scooted into that precious asphalt yardage with the warm glow one feels upon receiving a completely unearned blessing.

I knew something was amiss as soon as I heard a rapid tap tap on my window. Sure enough I had usurped, gazumped, seized, stolen, bagged, hijacked someone else’s presumed spot! At least someone else’s spot under a set of rules that I do not altogether understand.

Noting that the lady who stood fuming at my window was not holding a gun or any other weapon and was probably half my weight, I rolled it down and was met with the full force of her invective. “You ass hole!” were amongst her eloquent opening lines. “I watched that guy walk all the way from the door to his car, and waited for this spot!” She continued at high volume. “I am sorry”, I said, “I did not see you”. “You did, I was waving at you!” “I am sorry” I repeated, “I really did not see you”. “You must have, you are an ass hole!” At this she turned and went back to her vehicle a monster late model silver Pontiac or Dodge SUV.

At this moment I was thinking, well, even if I did snatch the spot for which she may have waited should I give it to someone whose first instinct was to call me an asshole? If someone had approached me assuming that I would do the right thing and asked me politely to do so, then I probably would have apologized, backed out, waved them in, and found another spot for myself.

It was then that I recalled the cozy conversation I had enjoyed barely thirty minutes before. Was I experiencing the real personality of a NW Pacific citizen, or the deformed behavior of an unhealed out of state transplant? Or was I witnessing the erosion of manners under the weight of our failing economy and national model? I made a pardonable mistake, but was instantly judged without defense and found guilty.

If you were the driver that I upset, I want you to know that I was genuinely sorry to have made you that way, and I ask you to think about how things could have turned out so much better for each of us if you had chosen different words.

Heron and Hawk

December 3, 2011

In the pale radiation that passed for sunlight that day I was walking across the lumpy field behind the DPW toward the Willamette River and a Blue Heron crossed my path on it’s way downriver. In almost the same moment a Hawk took flight from a tree behind me and screeched a warning as it spiraled directly over me. I felt a primitive urge to cry out to them and ask what would be next?