Sunday, February 27, 2005

Parking's a Bitch

The rituals of parking have always amused me. People will spend inordinate amounts of time, energy, and money in the pursuit and acquisition of "the perfect parking spot". They will circle malls for 20 minutes to save themselves from a 2 minute walk. They will hover over a spot waiting for a car to leave the spot they want, and impatiently honk their horn if it does not leave fast enough to suit them. In the city, where parking spots are often violently protected, the youngest son will be drafted to save the family parking spot while Dad goes to Home Depot for some project supplies. He will be issued the family Uzzi and told that if he loses that spot, don't come home. Private parking in New York city costs more than my mortgage per month.

Yes, parking in much of America approaches the intensity of war. Many trips are planned around finding and acquiring the right parking spot. At Christmas, people will show up to the malls 1 to 2 hours early just to find and secure a parking spot 30 feet away from the door they want to rush into when the mall opens. A successful shopping trip sometimes being gauged by the spot they scored on the way in. "No Martha, I didn't get that gee gaw you wanted, but you shoulda seen the parking spot I got. It was great. Right next to the Sears door. Only had to go around the Mall twice."

While I don't understand this fascination with finding the right spot, the parking scofflaws really get me. Those folks who are positive that general parking courtesy is for the unwashed masses but not meant for them. The guy who parks his huge new Hummer at an angle, wasting 4 spots. The spot creator who sees a parking spot where none existed before they came onto the lot. Often they show up in groups which results in lanes so choked up that it takes 10 tow trucks and 15 mall cops to sort out the maddness. The old couple who park in the firelanes next to the doors. Grandma gets out and heads in, leaving Grandpa sitting in the car reading his Sunday paper and sucking down a thermos full of coffee for 2 hours. And then there is the handicap spot poacher. The lowest of the low. The sleaziest of the sleaze. I have often been tempted to knife their tires. But what good would that do? They'd only be in the spot longer and never understand why they had ther tires slashed.

When I drove tractor trailers for a living, I was delivering some fire damaged furmiture to an insurance company wharehouse for evaluation. This wharehouse was located in one of those newer industrial parks outside Baltimore. Set up in two long rows of connected spaces, the loading docks faced on the alley shared by both. Classic piss poor planning by the architects. If a trailer was backed in, the whole lane was blocked. The dock I was aiming for was a tough back in. In order to hit square and still miss the various obstacles in my way, I had to end up with the tractor at a right angle to the trailer just as I hit the dock. After several attempts, I was just backing up for that final stab when a UPS truck zipped in behind me. The driver hopped out and started to head to another door. "Hey, didn't you see me backing up Bud?"

He Looked at me and said, "Calm down buddy, I won't be more than a few minutes. I'm in a hurry."

"Oh, he's in a hurry", I thought, "That makes it okay. Sure, go ahead, Block me off. Your time must be more valuable than mine." I had only spent the last 15 minutes to get to this point. The more I thought about his inconsiderate attitude, the angrier I became. So I came up with a plan. I jockeyed my truck and trailer around to where I had him completely boxed in. I got out of the truck and went to lunch. I took a long lunch. A little over an hour.

When I returned from an excellent gravied meatloaf and potato spread, there was quite a commotion waiting for me. A suit came up to me and asked me if I was driving the rig. I answered in the affirmative. He started in hard. Who was I to block off one of his drivers? It was costing UPS lots of money to have him down. Blah, blah, blah. I let him rant for a minute or so and then I stopped him. "If your driver had not pulled in behind me just as I was backing up to the dock, maybe he'd be on his way and I would be backed in where I should be."

The supervisor, who must of driven 20 minutes to get there was not hearing me. "I don't care about that, you have no right to keep us from carrying out our deliveries"

"Well bud, I was here first. Your driver had no right pulling in and keeping me from my delivery. I figured since he didn't seem to care about me, I would go to lunch and I did. Good meal too. And if you don't get out of my face, I might just go back for dessert."

He did not want to, but the suit calmed down enough to get my point. I got in my truck, pulled it out of the way and Buster Brown went his merry way. I backed in and made my delivery. The long and short of it was UPS filed a formal complaint and a bill for the delay with my company. I had to get a couple of signed statements from some dock guys that confirmed my story before I was let off the hook and had the black mark removed from my record and the money deducted reimbursed.

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