“The way humans hunt for parking
and the way animals hunt for food
are not as different as you might think.”
― Tom Vanderbilt, Traffic
Parking lots may be the definitive microcosm of American Life.
Whether a shopping mall, a big-box retailer or those 2 or 3 special waiting spots you’re directed to by your favorite fast-food drive-thru commissar, you’ll see it all in a parking lot.
Between those who should have surrendered their keys 15 years ago and the teenager who shouldn’t be granted their license for another 15, venturing into a parking lot is like running the gauntlet. It reminds me of those simulation exercises at police academies where cadets make split-second decisions about which pop-up figure they shoot – or spare.
But truth be told, parking lots are not simulations. It is one of the few places we all come together on a daily basis. Parking lots may well be the modern-day equivalent to the New England town square when the country was still a bunch of colonies. Check it out for yourself. Next time you’re in a big parking lot, take a census: Tall, short, old, dented, young, fast or slow and in a dozen different colors – and that’s just the people. Welcome to the vehicular version of the modern day melting pot.
While parking lots are designed to hold a lot of cars, I like the empty ones best…with plenty of spots right up by the door. Such was the case around 5:15 the other morning as I jetted off to our local Wal-Mart for milk. Those of you who know me can attest that Coffee is nothing to be trifled with; and it has to have milk.
Pulling right up to the front of the store, I ran right in, grabbed my gallon of moo-juice and sprinted back to the self-check out stations – all of which were closed. “Sorry sir, it’s too early, but lane 22 is open.”
Sighing something to myself about Lane 22 being the ONLY lane open, I made the hike across the several time zones in our local super store and joined the line of 2 other pre-dawn shoppers.
For reasons unknown to me, I seem to be gifted at picking the slowest line at the bank and this was proving to be no different. Seems the woman ahead of the woman ahead of me had several items that weren’t eligible to be purchased on her LINKS card. For those of you outside of Illinois, LINKS is the debit card method that’s replaced paper food stamps for the poor and those struggling on public aid.
Pretty embarrassed, the woman quickly nodded her head and swiped her card for the remaining eligible items. Thanking the cashier, she hurriedly made her way back out to the parking lot. The woman ahead of me said something to the cashier and before I knew it, had paid for her stuff and was also out the door to the parking lot.
Not thinking much about it, I paid for my milk and followed their path out to the parking lot. I came out the front doors just in time to see the second woman calling out after the first woman…”Hey, you forgot these!”. Of course she hadn’t, but the woman had bought them in order to give them to the LINKS lady. I stood there dumb-struck in the early morning light at witnessing this blazing act of kindness on the part of one stranger for another. I don’t know what the two woman said to each other, but I saw the genuine hug and knew something that defines the best in all of us had just happened in front of me on my way back from getting milk for my coffee.
You just never know. They may have paved paradise and put up a parking lot, but it doesn’t seem to have lessened the power of One by one little bit.
In this day and time of intense politics, social unrest and personal uncertainty, I am really grateful Life saw fit to remind me of just how important “We, the People” is no matter what time of day it is. If you’re not careful, this tale may walk out in your life this week…and that my friends, is my new definition of the dawn’s early light waiting inside each of us.
QUOTE SOURCE: Traffic: why we drive the way we do (and what it says about us)by Tom Vanderbilt (Published by Alfred A. Knopf – a division of Random House (2008)
PHOTO CREDITS: self-parking-garage1 http://chwayti.wordpress.com/2010/10/04/parking/, tight-parking-space: http://mama2point0.wordpress.com/2010/02/16/parking-lot-peeves/, WashingtonDC_ParkingLotDuringBusStrike_1974 (by (Jim Pickerell/NARA): http://paxamericana.tumblr.com/post/25960977830, Hugs: http://brandonsneed.com/home/tag/love,
PASSAGES: Maeve Binchy (PIC: Maeve Binchy with husband Gordon Snell – http://www.dailymail.co.uk/femail/article-2181343/Maeve-Binchy-death-Tributes-pour-beloved-Irish-writer.html, Gore Vidal (PIC: http://mises.org/daily/6144/Gore-Vidal-and-Revisionism)
– ## –