So I am spending a few weeks in the US and today I experienced something that I don’t think would have happened in London, someone stealing my car parking space. In London, I have become very used to people apologizing and excusing themselves endlessly, before something even happens, giving the right of way, and saying “I’m sorry” to each other before it’s even warranted. It’s a culture of non-confrontation and of politeness. Bottom line is that I have gotten used to this culture, I enjoy the apologetic style, and the never-ending “I’m sorries” shared day in and day out everywhere I go.
Well, today I went to our nearest Trader Joe’s, a wonderful food market near my home. I was driving down one of the lanes of the parking lot, I had identified my parking spot, turned on my indicator light, and made my careful approach to MY parking space. Then, out of nowhere I see this dark sedan turn into my lane, and a woman with a crazed look makes a sudden move, and takes my parking spot. I saw the woman get out of car quickly and head into the store. But it was all over for her, I had recon, I had visual, I knew what she looked like. I was left momentarily speechless. I actually had to put my car into reverse and take a spot that I had already passed. The nerve of this woman!!!!! All of my mindfulness and Zen training went out the window. An injustice had been committed and I was not sure I could remain silent. I tried my breathing exercises but it was all in vain. I was not happy. I felt bullied. I took a cart and entered the Trader Joe’s. I first encountered a mom with 2 kids but quickly realized she was not my target. Then I saw another mom with 3 kids, and after my sharp swift thinking, I also concluded she was not “The parking space thief”. I tried to distract myself in the bread aisle but then as I approached the cheese section I spotted HER. To add to the imagery, she was about 6 ft tall compared to my 5 feet tall stature. I approached her and carefully gave her a LOOK. I made EYE contact with her and just stared her down, so much so, that she grabbed her cart and fled. I thought, “Don’t think you can get too far from me girlfriend”. Not feeling fully satisfied, I rushed through my shopping, not quite sure what it was I wanted to accomplish, but fully knowing it was not over between us. I was upset at myself for letting this incident get under my skin. I tried more breathing exercises but they did not seem to work. Images of my mindfulness teacher, nodding his head in disapproval, crossed my mind. I exited the pasta and soup aisle and there she was again, standing at the cashier, completely vulnerable and open to my impending confrontation. As if carried by divine intervention, I approached her and stared her down again, but this time I SPOKE in a calm tone. I said something to the effect of, “You realize that you took my parking spot out there”. To which she answered very nervously that someone had already taken her previous spot in another row, and that there were other spots that I could have taken and therefore justifying her move to take my spot. To which I answered in still a calm voice, “You were very aggressive, and rude, and you were not very nice by doing that, and HAVE A VERY NICE DAY!!!. She did not say more. She seemed very flustered. After the confrontation, I really wanted to share the experience with someone, but I had no one to talk to. I thought that if I randomly shared this story with the mom with 3 children, she would think I was crazy. So I kept silent, I picked up the multi-colored couscous, the pomegranate seeds, and the green onions. I made my way to the cashier, paid, and left.
I had mixed emotions about my confrontation with this parking spot thief. Why could I have just not let this incident slip off my shoulders? Why could I just not have done my shopping and ignored this woman completely? Well I know why, it’s my innate sense of justice. I cannot remain silent in the face of injustice, even an injustice as petty as the theft of a parking space. Somehow it did not seem right to let this woman go on with her day without her knowing that she had been a “bully. Furthermore, it was not an innocent mistake, she was cognizant of her behavior. However, I also thought, that maybe she was just having a bad day, and that maybe a bit of compassion from me would have alleviated her stress. Escalation is never a good thing. Understanding is. If only life were this simple, we would solve half of the world’s problems. The next time I go to Trader Joe’s I will park way in the back of the parking lot and let the others duke it out for the front spots.