Thursday, June 07, 2007

Ramming Speed

I have some friends in the Green movement and naturally they are extremely anti-automobile. And let’s face it, they’re absolutely correct. Our 20th century love affair with the car may be the death of us all. Noxious emissions that poison the air, acres of pavement, an expensive and wasteful infrastructure, and a staggering reliance on fossil fuels are the sad legacy of the automobile, to say nothing of the daily horrific carnage on the roads and highways. But in their crusade to curb the car, my Green friends may also be saving lives in a completely unexpected way. Of course, I’m referring to Justifiable Parkade Homicide.
When I’m driving in a parking lot searching for an empty space, I always try to be considerate to the other drivers. I don’t stop in the middle of the row, blocking traffic, unless it’s pretty obvious that someone is just about to pull out and free up a space. I don’t stop and wait on the slight chance someone may return to their car in the next ten minutes. Sure, if you wait long enough, eventually someone’s going to return to their car and free up their space right in front of you (unless the world ended while you were waiting and, boy, wouldn’t you feel stupid then?). But is it worth the impotent aggravation of just sitting there doing nothing? I say if you can’t find a place to squeeze into where you are, you should move on and look for somewhere else to park it.
Other people don’t feel the same way as I do. Some feel it’s their right to hold up as many other drivers as possible while waiting for a parking space to be vacated. Pedestrians don’t do this. How many times have you seen a person stand in the middle of the sidewalk blocking other pedestrians on the slight chance that a space may open up at the bus stop?
I was recently a passenger in a friend’s car in the View Street Parkade in Victoria. As we entered a new row of parked cars, he stopped his, apparently intent on waiting. It didn’t help that this particular level of the parkade was also used as a pedestrian throughway. Office workers on their way to be late back from lunch scurried by, tantalizing us by walking past the parked cars. After ten minutes, my friend noticed my annoyance, manifested by my tapping the dashboard loudly. And not in time to the beat of the music on the radio.
“We can wait,” he said. “We’re not in a hurry.” This was a debatable point. Did I really want to waste ten minutes crammed in a car so my friend could walk fifty feet to the exit instead of a hundred? (If I was a professional, I could have charged him by the minute for wasting my time.)
“Yeah, but what about the guy following us?” I asked. A car had driven into view behind us. “He might be in a hurry.”
“He isn’t. He hasn’t passed us.”
I glanced outside our car. My friend had somehow maneuvered it so it blocked the entire passage. I can just imagine what the guy behind us was thinking, because I’ve thought it myself a hundred times: why isn’t common sense a prerequisite for a driver’s license? “He can’t pass us,” I said. “It’s too narrow. You haven’t left enough room for him to get around us on either side.”
“Look, he’s not even on our bumper,” he said, checking his rear-view mirror and growing angry at my impatience. “He’s way back there.”
My friend was correct. The other driver was way back there. Then I sensed what he was up to. “He’s making sure he’s got enough room to achieve ramming speed,” I said.
My friend was still very nonchalant about the whole business. But what if this guy had been a lawyer on his way back from lunch to be late for his first afternoon appointment. Now he really was going to be late, and it was our fault. “If he was actually in a hurry,” my friend said, “he’d honk his horn.”
I checked the other driver in the rear view again. “He’s too busy shaking his fists.” I’ve never seen a face so red before. Or such foaming at the mouth. Or a windshield fog up so fast. I rolled down my window. “He’s also making a comparison between your family lineage and exotic farm animals.”
I’m not telling you this simply to embarrass my friend. That’s only part of the reason. It’s also to save his life. One day, he’s going to pull this stunt on a disgruntled postal worker and that’ll be it – out comes the Uzi and my friend is Hyundai Helper. The worst part is that no jury in the world would convict the killer. We’ve all been there, right? Justifiable Parkade Homicide. (With my friend’s luck, the judge will turn out to be that poor guy we delayed. “I remember the victim well. RJK 042. As a judge, I can’t condone violence or vigilantism, but the bastard had it coming.”)
So remember, don’t plug up traffic in a parkade waiting for a space to open. You’re annoying people, wasting fuel, and polluting the planet. The life you save might be your own.

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