January 26, 2003

I’ve never been one for road rage. I hear the stories of people shooting each other over fender benders, the man who threw the woman’s dog and got it run over, all the nasty modern era aggression. If I ever had a tendency toward that kind of rage, it would be abated by the fear of running into it on the other end.

I do however get road irritation. During drives the last couple of weekends I learned that “Sunday driver” isn’t just a cliché. San Francisco definitely gets out-of-towners who have a whole different way of getting around the city.

You get used to driving in the city when you do it every day. I know just how fast I can go on the main thoroughfares. I know which lanes to be in at any given section of those streets. I know where there are always parkers blocking the way, where there are no left turns, and where there are left turn arrows. I feel pretty comfortable getting around. And everyone else on the street knows the same things I know and feels pretty comfortable too. Except on the weekends.

So the last two Sundays I’ve noticed cars going unusually slowly, changing lanes suddenly, clearly gawking at addresses and sights, and generally driving me nuts, excuse the pun. Nevertheless, they’ve been Sundays and I’ve been relatively relaxed. I was irritated but no rage. There’s no rage on my days off.

I have, however, developed parking rage lately. I’m not sure it’s really better than road rage, but I think you tend to be less aggressive when you’re not moving, or not moving fast. What’s really pissing me off these days is inconsiderate parkers.

I’ve always been annoyed by them—the people who park at an angle or who park so close to the white line that you can’t fit in the space or the occasional double parker who parks you in indefinitely. But lately it seems like it’s gotten worse.

It seems like everywhere I go people are parked badly, as if they didn’t even consider the fact that they share parking lots and street parking with other people. I don’t get people who, when parking at the nearest space to the cross-street curb don’t pull as far forward as they can. Or those who have a couple of big parking spaces available to them but choose to straddle the white line, often perpetrated by those with expensive cars. Or those who park so close behind you that you have to play bumper pool to get out of your space.

Then last week I reached my limit. I was having the worst day in recent memory on Wednesday. I’ve gotten temporarily moved to another office for a couple of weeks, which makes me cranky. I miss my office and my co-workers. I’m having to deal with a mess left by a temporary employee. I’m in a crazier office but still have all my responsibilities from my other office in addition to all the craziness and the mess that’s been left at the new one. Meanwhile I’m also training a new employee.

There are other issues I won’t go into, but suffice to say it isn’t pretty for me right now. Add to it a co-worker blowing up at me for something that I had no say in, an inability to find anywhere decent to eat for lunch, and no tea to give me my mellow jolt in the morning (I left my tea at my other office and have been substituting Diet Pepsi) and you end up with a very unhappy girl.

On top of all that, Wednesday I couldn’t find parking in the morning except for 12 o’clock street sweeping spots. So I took one and figured I’d just have to move it at 12. I planned with my co-worker for her to relieve me a bit before 12 so I could go move the car then take lunch. At 11:45 I went out and got in my car and started driving. I drove around at least 10 blocks, over and over, looking for longer than 2 hour parking. I would have 5 hours still of work and couldn’t risk a ticket. I already have several I need to pay.

I was strung out already. The co-worker had blown up at me that morning. The mess was getting bigger every minute it seemed. And I’d only had time for a few sips of my morning Pepsi. As I drove around and around, and more and more of my lunch hour slipped away, I got incredibly depressed. I finally gave up and drove over to where there was a Taco Bell, thinking I could get something to go and eat while I drove around and around some more. At least low blood sugar wouldn’t be a problem.

I drove over and parked below where the Taco Bell was, forgetting that I couldn’t turn right to get into the actual parking lot. I walked up a hill, in medium heeled boots that were starting to really hurt me, only to find the Taco Bell was gone. I’ll take this moment to say that I’m alarmed by so many Taco Bells shutting down in the city. It’s the best fast food for a vegetarian and sometimes you just really need fast food.

My best lunch plans foiled, no parking still, and dangerously close to a full breakdown; I continued my quest, circling blocks. Finally, 5 minutes before the end of my lunch hour, I saw the street sweepers starting through. I got behind the sweeper and took a spot as soon as it was clean. It was the same spot I’d been in that morning. At that moment, it started to rain.

I called my co-worker and told her to go on to her lunch date. I went to Starbucks and got a bag of chips, a yogurt, and a frappuccino then returned to my desk. I ate quickly at the desk; something much looked down upon at that office, and hoped the day wouldn’t get any worse.

The day pretty much kept the status quo, not getting better but not getting much worse. I finally left for home only about a ½ hour later than I should have, much relieved. Only to arrive at my car…

A big Uhaul truck had decided to park literally inches from the driver’s side of my car. The cab probably left me about 6 inches to get into the car, but the storage part of the truck was literally an inch from the door. There was no way to get in that side. I cursed at the truck. I used more sailor words than I thought I knew. I reached into my purse for paper to write a nasty note. Then I stopped. I took a deep breath and just got in from the passenger side.

That made me angrier, the unhooking of the automatic seat belts, the sliding across attempting not to impale myself on the gear shift, all the annoyances that were pushing me further and further over the edge. When I got to the driver’s side, I looked out the window and thought about how close I was to the truck. I actually rolled down the window and fingered the keys in my hand, wondering what the best word to key into the side of the truck would be. I took a few more deep breaths. I put the key in the ignition. I started to pull out, backing up carefully, trying not to smash my driver’s side mirror, ending up scraping the back of the car against the truck.

I swore some more and drove back forward. I reached to take the keys from the ignition but stopped myself again. I breathed. I reached for my purse and started scrambling for paper. When I realized that the only paper I had was a little Hello Kitty pad I decided that didn’t send the right message. I breathed some more. I pushed my side mirror back for a better angle.

I made a couple of bad starts but finally got out of the spot. I pulled to the opposite side of the street and got out. I looked at my car and saw no damage. I looked at the Uhaul and saw some dark black scuffs. I hoped I’d caused them and the driver would get charged. I doubted both. I forced myself to get into the car and breathe a few more times. Then I drove off.

I was almost unnaturally calm on the drive home. I encountered parkers blocking my way and a few slow drivers but stayed mellow. I felt proud of myself for not succumbing to the rage I’d felt. I told myself that karma would take care of everything. I got the good karma for resisting my baser instincts. The Uhaul driver would get the bad karma—perhaps being damned to a life of constantly loading and unloading furniture.

I’m still proud of myself, days later. I’m glad I didn’t contribute to the general aggression and craziness in the world. I’m glad I didn’t become the drivers you hear about in the paper. And I’m glad I didn’t allow my rotten day to make me do something that goes against my nature. I’m not a vengeful person and I think it diminishes you to let yourself take revenge.

Today I was at the grocery store and when I came out, an inconsiderate parker had parked next to me. The car was parked at an angle in the spot so that I had to slip in to get to the door and pull out carefully to avoid hitting him. When I opened the door, it opened just enough to let me squish myself in. I didn’t even consider scratching the car. A nasty note didn’t occur to me. I wasn’t really careful about the door hitting their car, but I didn’t open it hard, either. I shrugged and shook my head at their stupidity and insensitivity. And I got in and drove away.

I think my parking rage is gone for now. I faced the demon and I didn’t let it get me. Probably another kind of rage will get me—shopping cart rage or grammar rage or landlord rage. But I’m not behind 2 tons of steel in those cases and nobody’s property will be damaged. And my karma will avoid a dip on the scale.

Posted by Alyssa at January 26, 2003 12:58 PM
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