Friday, April 20, 2007

Parking Lot Encounter

A Parking Lot Encounter 4/20/07

The squat, sloppily dressed woman ungraciously parked her dust covered, pearl grey mini-van directly in front of my car as I was just about to pull out of my parking space.I marveled with some distaste at her utter disregard for parking etiquette since there were ample other spots open for her to choose without my easy exit being discourteously disrupted. I mused that she was obviously a parking Cretan with no driving manners and resigned myself to backing out of my space with no further regard for the matter. But as I maneuvered out of the parking space and began approaching the exit of the lot, I could see that her choice of parking locations was recklessly chosen to cause the maximum discomfort for anyone who would have to subsequently leave the lot. It now required that a car squeeze through the narrowest of passages that she left between her car and the building adjacent. This was starting to smack me of total disregard for humanity and as I proceeded to gingerly make my way through the canal like passage she had created. I realized that some of the elderly patients that frequented the chiropractic office that shares the parking lot would be totally befuddled by her lack of consciousness. Over the years I have watched many older drivers have a hard time negotiating the already narrow confines of this often crowded lot and have shivered at the thought of coming down from my office only to find my SUV’s side panel the victim of some slightly challenged octogenarian driver with a back problem.

Having determined that this inconvenience was totally unnecessary and probably the act of an otherwise decent person who simply was unaware of the potential trouble she was causing, I watched her walking to the chiropractor’s door and as I was passing I opened my window to offer a friendly comment. “Excuse me Miss you parked your car in such a way that it partially blocking the exit.” She was wearing one of those uncomfortable neck braces that you often see on people entering chiropractic offices. This probably should have elicited sympathy on my part for she might be in real pain, but in a flash my cynical mind could envision her being part of some insurance scam where see was feigning whiplash so she could milk the system. This cynicism was reinforced daily by the parade of visitors to Dr. Mel’s office. His office, it seemed, did a thriving and recurring business in treating all types of physically malcontented individuals who somehow had been wronged by some celestially driven event covered by an insurance claim or workmen’s disability. This could, if properly worked, open the gates to the Leprechaun’s gold for some or a life of fashionable freeloading for extended periods for those willing to exploit the situation.

The mini van lady turned her head within the confines of her padded neck brace. This gave her a high collared almost Elizabethan countenance as she faced my window. The Exorcist like ease with which she swiveled her head on her neck would have been proof positive to any insurance investigator that her injuries were suspect. The look on her face was not one of bemusement or thankful appreciation. Her contorted features immediately took on a warlike demeanor that was more fittingly framed by a piece of warrior’s armor than a simple therapeutic neck brace. It was obvious hat her response was not going to be conciliatory or for that matter polite.

She growled back “Shut up you stupid!” with a slightly eastern European accent and gruffly entered into the office door totally ignoring my plea for parking consideration.

In retelling this episode I was shocked to find the universal response to be “What did you expect?” or that I should have “Thought it but not said it.” Have we become so isolated from each other that we dance around each other’s aberrant behaviors? Do we allow ourselves to tolerate unseemly actions to avoid confrontation, and if we do for convenience sake are we not encouraging the continuance of the very behavior we all eschew?

We often are confronted by people’s apparently oblivious actions to those around them. We can choose to ignore them or confront them, but if we do decide that their thoughtless actions require a response we must always be prepared to accept an equally egregious reaction. “Shut up you stupid.” could easily be escalated, under some unforeseen circumstances, to the mad ravings or homicidal reactions of a psychopath who feels oddly disenfranchised from the community around him and whose breaking point is somehow triggered by a seemingly unrelated and innocent event. From this we have no protection. The indiscriminate shooting at Virginia Tech offer fresh proof of these present day facts of life. But to abdicate our responsibilities to each other by failing to approach unacceptable behavior in some civilized manner with out fear of repercussions is to hold our society hostage. Perhaps a more proactive response to anti-social behavior in our everyday lives by each and every one of us is now demanded. We must be willing, as individuals, to accept our role as guardians of socially acceptable mores. Whether we are faced with offensive slurs in any venue, misogynistic and inappropriate lyrics under the guise of hip music or rude and obnoxious responses to common courteous behavior we all must demand a higher standard so as not to allow our society to revert to a state of disrepair and discomfort.

© Ralph A. Miriello 2007

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