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The Amateur Parker …

That’s My Spot! Parking is Driving Me Crazy

Melissa Bean Sterzick

There are so many things to be outraged about these days. Politics, war, gas prices, imminent domain, spam, global warming. Although I feel strongly about most of these things – I won’t comment on which direction my opinions fall – I find I experience most of my rage when I am behind the wheel.
We’ve all heard of road rage, people yelling, swearing, serving and shooting at each other for any and all reasons from tailgating to speeding. It’s my policy not to commit any of those acts, especially the shooting part, but I have been known to use some colorful language during moments of duress while driving. By colorful, I mean mild and ineffective compared to the stuff I hear on HBO.
As further deterrent to displays of road rage, I have a bumper sticker on the back of my car proclaiming the name of the university where I earned my bachelor’s degree. I wouldn’t want to shame the alma mater by aggressively honking my horn at an elderly driver or indignantly waving my middle finger at an immature one. However, both gestures are occasionally justifiable and always difficult to suppress.
But there is another kind of rage that is rarely part of modern dialogue: parking rage. As a person who has been on the giving and receiving end of this phenomenon, I have an opinion I am willing to share. To the people who make me rage: Get out of the way. To the people who rage at me: Chill out.
If only it were that simple.
There was the woman who placed herself and her small child between my car and an empty parking space just because I was driving down the aisle the wrong way. I understand her irritation, but not the rage it must have taken to jeopardize her child’s safety. In my own defense, I was going down the aisle the wrong way, but there was no other car in sight at the time. (I get it, still not a good idea.) When I finally got the woman to climb off my grill the spot was taken and I was so angry I wanted to do her bodily harm. Instead I found another spot and fumed over the incident for several years.
Then there was the man who wanted a parking spot so badly he got out of his car and came to my window demanding I reverse into oncoming traffic so he could reverse and then pull into the spot. When I refused he called me an idiot and I rolled up my window. He managed to maneuver into the spot and I went on my way and, obviously, continued to fume for what is now going on 4 years.
I can’t think of anything I have done that compares to these two incidents, other than drive down the aisle the wrong way, but I have felt my share of parking rage and am not a total hypocrite. It’s tough to hold my temper at Target or Albertsons or the local library or any other place I frequently troll for a decent spot and find myself thwarted by slow pedestrians, runaway carts and people who are oblivious to the size of their own SUVs.
It all brings to mind a scene from a movie made in the 90s called Fried Green Tomatoes. Two blonds in a red convertible steal a parking space from a middle aged, menopausal brunette in a sedan. The blonds flip their hair, make a snide comment about being younger and faster, then walk away with their noses in the air. That’s when menopausal brunette goes totally over the edge shouting “Tiwanda!” and slams her sedan into the convertible numerous times. Her memorable response to the blonds’ dismay: “I’m older than you and have more insurance.” She is liberated and recreated in that single moment.
We’ve all been that brunette in thought, but few of us go so far as to take such violent action. We’ve all been the blonds, but we probably keep our vicious triumph to ourselves.
What possesses individuals to behave so irrationally over parking? Is it because we all feel so little ownership of our lives and control over our emotions that this arguably small and unimportant detail becomes a symbol for every impotent, frustrated aspect of our existence? Maybe. Another theory is we’ve all lost sight of those magical, elusive things called manners and when, put in a situation where our anonymity is nearly guaranteed, we lower the standards for our behavior even further.
I’m not sure a little kindness and courtesy could put an end to terrible things like war or global warming, but they’d go a long way toward soothing the savage beast the wakes in all of us during the search for parking. I’ll try to remember that the next time I get the urge to shout “Tiwanda.”

Melissa Bean Sterzick is a writer, proofreader, mom and amateur parker in the Los Angeles area. She can be reached at Melissa@parkingtoday.com.

Article Abstract from November, 2007




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