Monday, April 5, 2010

Macho Macho Parking!

          We all know road rage is a foolish thing, but is it always? What about if a mad trucker is trying to run you and your family off the road? Or an escaped convict has a gun to your head and demands you slow down? Your life is not an action movie you say, but how about if you’ve had a parking space taken from you exactly at the moment you were backing in? They just zipped in front first and started getting out of the car before you even had a chance to realize what has happened. It’s happened to me and, let’s face it, it’s a head on, full barrel attack so brazen that it tests your most primitive survival instincts. Suddenly you want to go all Harrison Ford. Hey, mess with a New Yorker’s parking space and you get the horns (the loud ones). Those lavas run so deep in our New York state of mind that the only natural eruption is rage.
          I credit a lot of my survival in this city to my ability to throw off unnecessary arguments about unimportant things. It’s not like even if you win, you win: you get the space, but come back the next day to find your headlight smashed in; you give him a black eye but break your little finger for a month; or you have to look over your shoulder for several weeks in case the loser is a stalker. It’s not winning. It’s not worth it! But just as the body releases endorphins in the brain that cause a “natural high” after sex or after we find that perfect parking space right in front of our building, likewise does the body pump us full of adrenaline when our territory, our feeding grounds, our very way of life is threatened, and sometimes we act before thinking.
          When this happened to me I was with my girlfriend and I don’t have to list here all of the times throughout history that men have done stupid things to save face in front of women. My first approach was to just explain to my fellow traveler that he had innocently taken the space I was backing into. Like that was going to work. Like everywhere else in the world parallel parkers pull past an empty space to back into it, but in New York we drive head first into it. Like we were going to behave any better than a pair of primitive apes warring over the one cave.
          Only by the time I got out of my car he was already on the sidewalk with his wife and starting to walk away. His car was already turned off, already cooling down, with the doors locked, and suddenly it cast an imposing shadow. There it was, flexing at me like a giant, prehistoric boulder that would not budge, a timeless geological formation where I had only moments ago seen my parking space, and so I guess my anger got the better of me. I must have insulted him adequately because he says to his wife “Wait here honey. I’m going to have to pop this guy.”
          This supposed familiarity with “popping” people surprised me but didn’t have the effect he was hoping for. I had been looking for a space for 3/4 of an hour (TIME PARKING (in minutes) x 10 = % of ANGER) and to me he just looked like a poser trying to impress his girlfriend, so I started walking around the car (and probably even stuck out my chin a little) telling him to try it. Looking back I know that somewhere, drowned out in that adrenaline blast zone, a calm, sensible, but a little too quiet, voice was advising me that none of this was worth it, but in the roar of progress rushing and earth moving equipment throttles straining, who could hear it? We’d already lost most of our senses anyway. Now we were just eyeballing.
          It was over quick. As luck would have it the only “popping” he did was into a nearby storefront (urgent shopping?) and I was left standing on the street, horns blaring, trying to look reasonable in a traffic jam of adrenaline and my half parked car blocking a lot of annoyed drivers.
          I didn’t get the space, but I did learn that uniquely New York parallel parking skill: sometimes we have to stop over the space first to guard it so no lowlife, wannabe thug can shoot in behind our back. And I’m convinced I’ve seen a few in my rear view mirror over the years who did leer and would have plundered were it not for that ton of metal casting its wide shadow and so at least have avoided that kind of confrontation ever again.

          Epilogue
          In all fairness I should mention that he did say something about how I didn’t turn on my blinker. You be the judge. In busy Broadway traffic I pull just past an available parking space and stop. He immediately drives into the space head first, jumps out and locks the car and, this is the sad part, his wife/girlfriend/whatever has jumped out just as fast. Did I really need to mention this?

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