I had an unpleasant run-in with a stranger the other day. The encounter occurred at a large children’s sports complex where my son was to have a rec-league soccer game. We arrived at the complex twenty minutes prior to the game, but the parking lot was already jam-packed and cars spilled out onto the surrounding streets for blocks. Dozens more cars arrived by the minute, all swarming around the perimeter of the complex, hoping against hope to find a spot within walking distance. I dropped my son off at the entrance so he could join his team for pre-game practice while I slowly snaked my way through the chaos of congestion in search of a place to park my minivan.
I watched as dozens of patrons lugged folding chairs, blankets, sports gear, snacks and siblings as they trudged for blocks, all headed one direction – toward the complex. No one seemed to be leaving. As it was, my search for a nearby space seemed futile and I had all but resigned myself to following the long chain of cars parallel parked along the neighboring streets until I came to the tail end, then add my own. That is, until I came across a relatively wide breach in the chain. A single car, a red late model Corvette, was planted awkwardly along a fifty-foot stretch of prime curb real estate. It was parked in such a way that there were about ten linear feet of curb behind the Corvette, maybe enough space to park a motorcycle, but definitely not a car. However, in front of the Corvette was a space large enough for a full-size vehicle such as my own… if a crane were to lift said vehicle and skillfully place it into the space. Unfortunately, there wasn’t quite enough wiggle room for the back and forth motion necessary to parallel park. However, as luck would have it, I noticed that a female driver was still sitting inside the Corvette. I relished in my good fortune! I now needed only to get her to back her car up a few feet, as she had room to spare, and I could take advantage of this coveted location.
Let me pause for a moment and clarify that I live in a small suburb just outside of Wichita, Kansas, in the heart of the Bible belt. A good majority of the population here are neighborly folks. They smile and wave and lend each other a helping hand. The Golden Rule is the law of the land. And so it was that I did not think it would be necessary for me to first approach the woman in the Corvette to ask her to please back up and make room for my car, I presumed that she would identify my need and comply accordingly.
Just like they taught us in high school driver’s education class, I pulled up beside the car in front of the parking space and began the precision maneuvering required to back into the spot. As I inched my way back toward the luxury sports car, I assumed the woman would see my van drawing closer and closer to her front end and would put her vehicle in reverse to give me the extra space needed to park along the curb. I assumed wrong. Instead, as I peered at her through the reflection in my rear view mirror, she just glared at me and shook her head. Her actions seemed to suggest that she thought I was delusional to believe I could squeeze my van in in front of her. But my idea wasn’t to fit into that too-small space, it was to fit into the space afforded me once she backed up.
As I inched and angled my van back and forth, back and forth into that spot, she watched me from the front seat of her vehicle unwilling, though perfectly able, to lend a hand. She seemed adamant about maintaining her protective parking bubble.
Perhaps she thought I would eventually give up trying to squeeze my van into that space and would drive on to find another spot. But what Corvette Lady didn’t realize is that I am a vigilante of social justice. She didn’t know that there are few things in this world that make my blood boil more than people who believe they are somehow exempt from common courtesy. So, with my van jutting half-way out into the street, blocking the flow of traffic along the narrow artery where cars were still swarming near the sports complex, I exited my vehicle and approached the driver’s side of the Corvette.
The woman watched me approach, a look of annoyance on her face. Her window was already cracked open, so I leaned over and asked her if she would mind backing up a few feet. I admit that by this point I was quite frustrated and filled with disgust for this person who had watched me struggle, understood my need, knew that she was able to assist me, yet stubbornly refused to do so. So when I spoke to her my voice betrayed my perturbedness. Still she stared at me and just shook her head.
I explained that she had ample space behind her in which to reposition her car. That’s when she told me that she had been parked in that spot along the street for over two hours already and she was trying to conduct some work (she pointed to some papers on the passenger seat.) “OoooKaaay?” I said, not understanding what relevance the length of her stay played in her refusal to be courteous, “please back your car up.”
“There are several spaces right there,” she said, pointing to the parking lot. I explained that those were handicap spots and again asked, although not quite as politely, if she would back up. She refused.
“Look,” I said, genuinely agitated, “just because you have a shiny car doesn’t mean you’re any more precious than the rest of us,” I gestured to the mass of cars stacked up behind where my van was blocking the street.
This is when she actually opened her car door and climbed out to confront me. With only her car door acting as a barrier between us, she stood flagging her arms in the air and yelling at me about how she was there first and how rude I was to demand she move her car.
I admit that what happened next was not the type of behavior that is representative of my faith in Christ: I raised my voice and squabbled back with her. I told her that it didn’t matter how long she’d been parked along the road, she doesn’t own the municipality and she should be considerate of other people and move her car.
I shouldn’t have done it. I shouldn’t have shot back at her. My tongue is often my greatest enemy, it gets me into trouble time and time again. This time was no exception. Corvette lady scolded me; “You know what, you can find yourself another spot.”
“Okay.” I said quite calmly. The kind of calm where you know the sh*t’s about to hit the fan. Then I turned and marched back to my van. It was then that Corvette lady realized her folly. She and I both knew I had no intention of finding another spot. I would make my van fit into that space come hell or high water.
Although I would have loved to ram her car for dramatic effect, I never would have actually done so (the last thing I need is a lawsuit and higher insurance premiums.) However, Corvette lady didn’t know that. So at long last she finally turned on her ignition and backed her car up a few feet so that my van could glide nicely into the space in front. A small victory.
When I parked and locked my car, I walked behind hers and took a photo of her license plate (just in case she decided to retaliate and harm my vehicle in my absence). I then passed by her window and said to her, “See now, that wasn’t so difficult after all,” then I sauntered off to catch my son’s soccer game.
Unfortunately, this was not the end of my encounter with Corvette Lady. Look for Part 2 of this blog post forthcoming.