Sunday, May 24, 2009

Can you please save MY seat?

Things were a bit crazy today at my local grocery store. People buying last minute condiments and ice for family parties, backyard BBQ's, and bonfires for the holiday. I slowly drove up and down each aisle (is that what you call rows in parking lots?). Let me try that one again....

I drove up and down each row in the parking lot. We all know the signs to look for and the odds that each one of the following offers for a valued spot.

1. Mother walking with her kid(s) and a shopping basket. If the kids are old enough to walk on their own, this is the most ideal situation that involves kids. If the mom is smart, she will have her kids help load the groceries into the car. If the kid(s) are in a stroller or seated in the front of the shopping cart....continue driving. You are better off parking in the back of the lot and walking. That was sexist of me. This scenario can also be "Father walking with kids".

2. A single person with a single bag. Hands down best scenario. UNLESS the person has an arm extended, gripping their keys and looking dumbfounded. How can you forget where you parked? Actually, I'm usually that idiot walking around aimlessly. Be courteous and make it known you are lost. * Not the best decision if you are in a bad neighborhood. Always walk with a purpose, even if you don't know where you parked. Others don't need to know that*

3. The weave-and-walk shopper. You all know who you are and we hate you. If you forgot where you parked, that is completely okay. However, please see above....please extend your arm and at least pretend to hit the "panic" button on your key fab. This immediately lets everyone else know that you do NOT know where your car is. It could take a while. Continue driving, move on...

The people that CHOOSE to walk in between cars and through rows are annoying and pretty inconsiderate. You KNOW where your car is parked, but rather than walking in strategic, reasonable, and obvious routes, YOU think it's more fun to deliberately walk like you are in a corn maze. You get more "what the hell" points, if you continue this behavior when a car is clearly "stalking" you in the lot. At least have the decency to acknowledge them and point toward the direction of your car. You get brownie points if you mouth, "I'm the red Explorer". Or, "I'm not leaving". You know, REALLY shake your head side to side...exaggerate the "NOT" in leaving.

4. Plants and other Awkward Cargo. This one is obvious. Don't bother following people pushing 2 by 4's or pine WILL take a while. However, if you are really bored, it's often entertaining to watch how the common consumer tries to tie down a king mattress to the hood of a small car. Delivery is usually only $50.00, and it's typically worth it, people. Most of us get a kick out of passing you on the road. We really appreciate your arm sticking out the window and gripping whatever is on top. Like your hand is really going to hold down drywall, buddy.

I follow the "3-row rule" (actually, I made that up). You drive down only 3 rows. If you do not find a spot or a person that falls into one of the "good scenarios" within that to the back of the lot and walk. Unless you have a sprained ankle or need to return a washing machine, walking is usually the best bet. You will be in the store and trying on that cute wedge in a size 8 before most idiots out in the lot put their car in "P".

Now that we have gone over the basics, here is where the real problem lies. The feeling of entitlement and ownership of "public space" in this country baffles me. How many times have you said (sometimes in nicer words than others), "HEY LADY, you took MY spot!". Not to sound like a 5-year old, but I have to ask...was your name on it? Nooooooo. What qualified that spot to be "yours"?

As I was inching down one of the rows in the parking lot at Kroger this afternoon, I followed the best scenario. A young guy was walking out with a case of beer (I guess that is a good scenario in more ways than one, but anyway). He was parked in the first spot next to a handicapped spot. I was driving toward the store, following him from the "front" if you will. I immediately put my turn signal on, and as he pulled out, a dark blue minivan turned the corner like a crazy mom out of a PTSA meeting, and slid into "my spot". No turn signal. No regard for the safety of shoppers. And certainly did not acknowledge me waiting and my intent to drive into the spot. I intentionally waited there until the driver got out of the van. "PSh. I thought to myself. You can have "my" spot. You AND your "I love my Pug" t-shirt. Loser. I felt better in knowing I was better than her in little ways, my car being one of them. Isn't it funny how we do that? If she was in a REALLY nice car, I would have said.."Who do you think you are? Just because you drive a Range Rover you think you own the lot?", opposed to, "Wow. You can take your old beat up Kia and HAVE my spot". I'm amazed with how angry I get when someone takes "my spot". But, what can you do? Chase her into the store like a crazy person, yelling foul words? Flick her off? Scowl at her? Honk your horn? I mean, right?

Kroger owns that space. While maybe 1/10th of a cent that you are spending on that half gallon of 2% may go to maintaining that "space" is far from "yours". Yes, I know you shop there every single Sunday, but again...NOT your space.

This phenomenon extends deeper into society then shopping malls and grocery stores. Private ownership of public space occurs at sporting events, movie theaters, planes, waiting rooms, casinos, and restaurants.

How many of us have asked a COMPLETE stranger next to us in Gate C15, "Hey, would you mind watching my stuff while I go to the restroom?". "Sure, no problem", they always say back. Why don't more people respond with, "I'm not so sure I feel comfortable to be responsible for your belongings while you pee". People leave the well-being of their laptops, carry on's, food, guitars, etc. in the hands of complete strangers! The ONLY thing you have in common with this person is your 5:44 flight from DTW to LGA. I mean, right?

What these people are "watching" is not necessarily just your copy of Cosmo or your Northface fleece.What they are doing, in essence, is holding "your" seat. Same with movie theaters. "You go get the popcorn and Sour Patch Kids and I will save you a seat". Seinfeld had a great episode on this...saving seats in theaters. What gives YOU the right to "hold" a seat for someone else and, furthermore, who decided that a jacket or sweater was the universally recognized garment for "occupied". Seats taken, can't sit here.

How about at bars. I was at Memphis Smoke last night, up on the roof. Place was PACKED. My group eyed the crowds and the picnic tables that were scattered around the patio. Most of these tables could comfortably sit 8, but many only had 3 or 4 people present. My sister looked at me and said..."Why don't we try to sit next to those guys. There are only two of them and they have that big table". It worked. They were cool about it, until our guy friends sat down. My sister's words? "Hey, do you guys mind sharing your table?". It's not THEIR table, though. I mean, right? They didn't pay for it. Did they make it? No.

Sporting events and concerts are no exception. You don't OWN that seat, you are simply "renting" it for an agreed amount of time and/or conditions. Usually, if it's reserved seating you are okay. General admission? Gooooood luck. There is essentially nothing stopping anyone from "taking" your seat. I don't care how many times your friend says, "she will be right back". Is this an American thing or a universal practice? I'm confused.

If it's an American thing, then I think we can guess where it originated from. By default I think "we" feel a sense of entitlement and/or ownership. The American "seat" was essentially already taken when the pilgrims landed on Plymouth Rock. * I know the pilgrims were NOT the first people to "discover" America. For the sake of fluidity and argument, just go with it*. The Native Americans were just that...native (at least MORE native than those that followed). They had their jacket on the seat. The WHOLE lot was filled with their cars. I mean, right? Apparently, they were in a tow-away zone. Doesn't really seem fair, eh?

Or, maybe it's human nature to have the "mine" mentality. "That's MY seat. That's MY parking spot. That's MY table." What makes it yours? What are the terms of this temporary ownership?
Were we always like this? Will we change? Is this even a bad thing?