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. 😉

9 Responses to “Blood (Boils) On the Highway….And In The Parking Lot”

  1. Michael Haring Says:

    If a parking lot in the USA spurs you to blog, I’d love to see what driving in south asia would do for you.

    As for traffic crossing signals, I think Taipei has the coolest ones ( I hope these embedded youtube link works) :




    My indignation about public traffic safety will be thrown out the window again on May 28th when I leave for a month to travel to Indonesia and Taiwan again. In Taiwan, traffic signals and signs are a mere suggestion which beetle nut chewing hazed commuters and glue sniffing taxi drivers may or may not regard. In Indonesia, it’s just an all out free for all. Particularly on a motorcycle. Time again for me to research travellers insurance!

  2. Uncle Andrew Says:

    Oh, those traffic lights are hands-down ADORABLE. Why do all the Asian countries do Western technology so much better (and cuter) than the West?

    Are you heading on another job-hunt-related tour of the Pacific Rim,or are you going on a brothel junket? 😛

  3. Michael Haring Says:

    Brothel Junket of course! Nah, but who knows, I may bring back a wife on one of these trips.

    I’m going mostly for vacation and a bit of collaberation between aquaulture research institutions. I’m also attempting to bring back giant gourami from Indonesia to Hawaii for my hatchery and make the stock available to local farmers here after quarantine. Anything I can do to facilitate more travel in the future to south asia is good for me!

  4. Uncle Andrew Says:

    Your work just fascinates me, Man.

    I take it then that you managed to find more work in HI, as the last time you were cruising the Pacific Rim it was in the hopes of landing a new job….

  5. Michael Haring Says:

    Yup, Albiet a temporary position which is up for renegotiation, I am employed as a research biologist by The University of Hawaii at Hilo. I’ve been bootstrapping their facilities for a couple months now and helping keep a sturgeon hatchery and grow out operation going. I’m hoping it will become a permanant position by the time I return from this trip. Check the website .. http://www.uhh.hawaii.edu/~pacrc/

  6. Uncle Andrew Says:

    Sweet! Ooo, you’re even listed on the Staff page! So cool to see your name up in hypertext. 😉

  7. Tony Lenzer Says:

    Oh, Andrew, it does my creaky old heart So Much Good to hear these words spring forth from the (electronic) lips of the one-time Bad Ass of the Punahou campus! Welcome to the world of the Fuddy Duddies!! Up with Law & Order. Appropos all this, you may be interested to know that Hawaii now has the honor of being the deadliest state in the nation for Elderly Pedestrians…and, to make matters infinitely worse, our State Dept. of Transportation has for years stonewalled on requests for detailed data on the specific locations of fatal and non-fatal road accidents, together with other info needed to plan intelligent interventions. A court-backed FOI request may spring it loose…finally!

    PS: Andrew – is there a way for me to make this teeny weeny type BIGGER (other than writing all in CAPS?)

    PS : Mike – encountered your dad in the baabba shop recently; he’s looking great!

  8. Michael Haring Says:

    Tony, Well Dad was looking great ….until he was run over by an out of control golf cart driven by a non-english speaking Taiwanese guy at the Klipper course on KMCAS. He’s got a severed achillies and is cut to the bone on his other leg. Sequestered to a wheel chair for a while 🙁

  9. Uncle Andrew Says:

    Oh my GOD, Mike, what a bummer! Wish him well for me. 😥

Leave a Reply

All comments containing hyperlinks are held for approval, so don't worry if your comment doesn't show up immediately. (I'm not editing for content, just weeding out the more obvious comment spam.)

All portions of this site are © Andrew Lenzer, all rights reserved, unless otherwise noted.