Did you know that there is a magical land where you can drive any way you want, ignore traffic signs and lane demarcations, flout common decency and ignore any and all standard driving practices? Did you know that this magical land is easily accessible anywhere in this country, in fact, anywhere around the world? All you need is a car and an appetite for the asinine. What, you might ask, is the name of this splendid kingdom?
We call it the "Parking Lot."
I was reminded of this fact the other day as I pulled up to the last two remaining spots in crowded parking compound and found them already occupied - by a single Volvo V70. Its driver had used the line dividing the spaces as a target and placed his Swedish marvel upon it. He may have had a good reason. Perhaps he could not fit his stupidity into a single space.
What could I do?
Not much. So, I slapped on my ABBA Gold: Greatest Hits CD, selected Knowing Me, Knowing You, pumped up the volume, rolled down the windows, fetched a baseball bat from my trunk and then bashed in the Volvo's headlights. (Unfortunately, this story is only partly true. I did put on ABBA and turn up the volume but I did not bash in the headlights. I merely aurally savoured the feel-good Nordic pop explosion).
The incident hardly seems to warrant mentioning, this kind of parking lot violation is so common. Is there a more lawless piece of real estate than a parking lot, especially the ones found by those big box retail outlets? It's doubtful. Acts so egregious they make The Fast and the Furious movies look like instructional videos are the norm. In parking lots, people roll through stop signs, speed diagonally across open lots, "nudge" pedestrians, cut each other off, open their purchases while driving, bicker with other drivers through open windows. Did you hit someone's car? On the street that's a big deal. In a parking lot it's no problem. Just drive away.
There are many websites dedicated to chronicling bad parking such as youparklikeanasshole.com which allows users to print up their own personalized insults for bad parkers. In 2009, an elderly Toronto driver rolled her BMW SUV over two automobiles (crushing them) and then took off. She was eventually caught and fined $500 for the incident (which became a YouTube sensation). Not a bad price when you think about it. Folks have to drop that much cash at the CNE to have half the fun.
Like any jungle, certain species flourish in the lot:
The Phantom of the Parking Lot. Drives an American-made whale that runs on "Leaded Leaded" gasoline. All that is visible is a pair of withered hands on the wheel but a person is believed to be down there somewhere. Technically blind, the Phantom moves slowly but with deadly deliberation. Hunting for a spot, it breezes through stop signs and turns without signalling. Approach with caution. May be armed with photos of great-grandchildren.
The Pulls in Snugly. Comes in many varieties. Likes to turn sharply into a parking space beside you leaving three inches of space on the driver's side of your car and three feet on the driver's side of their car. A therapist would call this sort of behaviour "self-actualized."
The Brilliant Time Waster. You've waited forever for a parking spot and finally see a vehicle that looks ready to depart. But hold on! You now get to watch that person adjust their mirrors, apply make-up, fix hair, have a sip of their drink, turn on the stereo, place a phone call, read a sonnet and on and on. Hours later, they leave. These are the same folks, who after they've done their business at the ATM, fiddle with their bank slips, wallets, purses, and gloves. Note to Time Wasters: Parking is a lot like life. You do your thing and get lost.
The Sports Car Parked Diagonally Across Two Spaces. Its driver is just so busy he must pull up and block a minimum of two parking spaces. Otherwise, how will he have time to buy some mass-produced brie, and a nine-dollar bottle of sparkling rose and then head over to a friend's place to watch videos from high school and talk about how far they've all come?
The Always Texting Soccer Mom and Annoying Hipster Goatee Dad. Nothing pleases a dedicated sit-at-home nanny-owning mom more than the chance to ignore her kids by texting her pals while she parks. Did she scratch your car? Do you have a witness? Then no. Meanwhile, Pa dresses like he's eight but he parks like he's four. Who thought you could fit a Toyota Sienna in a space reserved for a compact? Not many. That's why he works from home in "new media." He thinks outside the box.
The Timid Teen. Its drivers license on permanent double secret probation, the Timid Teen may take anywhere from four minutes to four millennia to park his or her parents' Honda Civic. Comes with shrieking friends in the back seat who make things worse.
I provide this list so that next time you are confronted by bad parking you can stay calm and pretend you're on safari. Sure, when it comes to performance art, parking lot infractions may never match high speed stupidity (there is an exhilaration that comes when you see pimply-faced street racers, unmolested by law enforcement, blistering through Sunday afternoon traffic in their dad's cars and think, "I wish there was some way for those cars to crash and explode in flames without any innocent people getting hurt"), don't underestimate the unique awe-inspiring rush one can experience watching the emotionally-stunted and intellectually-bereft negotiate small spaces at low speeds all the while causing alarm and damage.
It's the little things that make life worthwhile.