Blood (Boils) On the Highway….And In The Parking Lot

Uncle AndrewUncle Andrew
Filed under: @ 1:32 pm

I’m sure this scenario will be familiar to many of you.

So I’m on my way to my favorite local Mom-and-Pop office supply store (just kidding: I’m going to one of the megalithic corporate supply barns like Staples or OfficeMax). I taxi in on approach to its football-field-sized parking lot, driving parallel to the storefront until I’m about where I want to be on the X axis, then take a right turn down the nearest convenient lane in order to park in a desirable spot higher up on the Y. Only before I am able to complete my journey I am forced to screech to a halt and make way for someone who has elected to cross fifty-five lanes at an oblique diagonal whose endpoint approximates the parking lot exit. He takes time out of his busy lawbreaking to fire a disapproving glance my way as he passes.

Okay, to be perfectly correct about it, I don’t know if this sort of behavior constitutes a violation of the law or not. But it certainly represents, at the very least, a lapse in judgment on the part of the perpetrator. He is putting his need to live life unfettered by societally-determined conventions of driving protocol over my need to not be T-boned in a parking lot.

There is a–well, sort of a joke about Seattleites, a visual gag that is supposed to showcase and satirize our basic lawfulness and passivity. The image is that of a lone person standing at a crosswalk in a presently uninhabited part of the city, at three o’clock in the morning….waiting for the walk signal. That’s me to a “T”: with very few exceptions, I am spring-loaded towards a tendency to obey the law rather than to break it. One might argue that this is due in no small part to the fact that, being a white middle-class straight male, the law is inherently designed to support my safety and prosperity. This is no doubt to some extent true. On the other hand, the corollary—that those who blaze a trail across the parking lot must therefore be disproportionately represented by low-income minority homosexuals—does not seem to hold true, and therefore this is probably not the defining difference between myself and these transgressors.

In my salad days, I was a big fan of the writing of Robert Heinlein. (While I still hold much of his work in high regard, I have come in what I might call my “maturity”—and others might call “growing fuddyduddaeity” or even “creeping liberal wimpitude”—to think of Heinlein as either 1) a brilliant, bloviating blowhard with a fecund imagination and a talent for writing, 2) a brilliant, dangerous weirdo with a fecund imagination and a talent for writing, or 3) a bit of both.) In one of his later (and in my opinion greater) works, Job: A Comedy of Justice, the main character describes a tableau completely alien to him in his particular culture and place in the space/time continuum: that of roadway intersections controlled by stoplights. The character describes these amazing devices in detail, and marvels at the notion that people in automobiles obey these lifeless mechanical arrays of lights as though they were actual traffic cops. He wonders aloud what sort of sheep people in this particular universe must be to do so.

As impractical and almost Darwinistically libertarian as the above sentiment might be, If I thought that the average driver who casually and deliberately violated accepted convention and established law in this universe actually put this amount of forethought into his antisocial actions, I would feel some measure of relief. However, I am unshakably certain that these people do not. This ties in well to a long-running conviction of mine, namely that the average person in this country (maybe other countries as well; I haven’t spent enough time abroad) doesn’t spend nearly enough time thinking about what (s)he is doing, or reacting to, or even thinking. Some masochistic part of me would love to sit down with one of these parking-lot scofflaws and ask them why they drive across the clearly-marked lanes instead of following the prescribed layout. The time saved in doing so must be minimal at best: in a parking lot that is three hundred yards long and one hundred yards deep, driving diagonally from the very first parking space across all of the intervening lanes will shave a little over 80 yards off your total drive. (This will only save you time, it should be noted, if you do not run over some child on a bicycle and end up going to jail or beaten to death by an enraged mob.)

So actual, practical cost/benefit analysis would not seem to enter into it. Is it the acting out of an urge to rebel, to go against the grain and provoke controversy? A traumatic experience with a coloring book early in life that leaves one emotionally incapable of staying inside the lines? Ocular damage? Leaky car exhaust?

In fact, I would guess that the most cogent thought running through their brains regarding their decision to flout custom and endanger others would be something akin to, “I don’t wanna”. This saddens and angers me at the same time. It’s the kind of frustration that, over time, can bring despots to power. I want these yahoos to follow societal norms, and I’m almost to the point of being willing to pay someone to make them do it. That doesn’t automatically mean the institution of a Parking Lot Enforcement Brigade (or “PLEB”, the sound of a cigarette being forcibly ejected from the mouth of a violator as he suffers a truncheon to the solar plexus). The application of a simple set of concrete berms would discourage all but the most hypersteroidal motorist, and would add but a nominal surcharge to the cost of a ream of typing paper or box of ball-points.

Heck, I’d even pay for the first one out of my own pocket, if they’d let me have the naming rights. 😉

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