Don’t You Dare Steal My Parking Space

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.


5 thoughts on “Don’t You Dare Steal My Parking Space

  1. A similar thing happened to me today at our local Trader Joe’s…I’m still worked up about it. I was with my 5 year old daughter and it was terrible weather, snowing and slippery. I have a cracked tailbone and and hip bursitis didn’t want to cross the parking lot carrying groceries while trying to shepherd my daughter across safely. We waited patiently for a front row spot when some older man swooped in and stole it even though our blinker was on. We had just waited several minutes for some lady in a minivan to load her groceries and kids. I was beyond livid. I honked my horn and lowered my window shouting “hey!” and he just ignored me. Everyone else in the parking lot looked at me like I was some crazy stalker woman. My daughter and I got our basket and her stuffed unicorn in tow we went on a mission to confront him. In hindsight, maybe it’s not so wise to confront crazy parking spot thieves, but I am determined to teach my daughter to be a strong assertive person and speak up when there is an injustice and not let people take advantage of her. I cornered him by the spices and he looked up smugly. I said “That was extremely rude of you to take our parking spot. I have a hip and back injury and a small child with me. We had been waiting for several minutes and our blinker was on”. He replied, “Well I didn’t see you but I did hear you honking. What did you expect me to do?” “Back out of the spot we were waiting for.” ” Well, that would have just been more inconvenient for both of us.” “No, it would not have been, you were being selfish.” Then he told me to F*** off in front of my kid!! I couldn’t believe it!

    Well, that was not the end of it. He practically ran away, but my daughter and I still had a little more to say to him. We continued to do our shopping while we discussed what had happened. She was sad and uncomfortable about everything and said mommy should we just go home, but I told her, WE were not the ones who should feel bad and reminded her we still needed to buy our groceries. When we walked by him in the frozen food aisle I told her in a clear voice, “The lesson in this, is we have to choose what kind of people we want to be. Do we want to be people who treat others with respect and wait our turn, or do we want to be selfish and steal and think only of ourselves?” My daughter said “We should share and take turns. We learned that in preschool. Maybe they didn’t teach him that at his preschool.” I laughed and said, “Maybe not, but deep inside we all know what is right and wrong. We can be taught how to share and take turns, but honesty and integrity are things that come from your heart. If you have a good heart you don’t want to cheat other people. If you have a bad heart, it doesn’t bother you to hurt others even if you know it is wrong.” He promptly went to the checkout aisle and fled after that.

    I’m occasionally annoyed by people’s behavior in parking lots, but not usually so confrontational. Maybe if the weather wasn’t so bad and my hip\back weren’t so sore I would not have been quite as angry, but this guy needed to be called out and I guess I was the person to do it. I hope he thinks twice before he cuts someone else off!

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