A Trip To The Store

This afternoon I went to a megastore that I hate shopping in but sometimes can’t avoid. The trip was to be quick as the only things on the shopping list were various fruits, lime juice, and packaged A-shirts that shall not be referred to as “wife beaters.”

The boyfriend and I cruised into the parking lot and I honed in on a spot. As I parked the car, some wild honking occurred behind me. I noticed a white car pulling in across the row but paid little attention. We walked indoors and I aimed directly for the men’s section to buy the packaged A-shirts, when the boyfriend noted that someone was following us. All I heard was a mutter mutter mutter teach him some respect.

“This is an interesting maneuver,” said the boyfriend, referring to my beeline shopping technique.

“Are you talking to me?” A little man with an Italian accent popped in front of us with his young son in tow. He was visibly pissed off and wild-eyed.

“I was not talking to you,” said the boyfriend.

The man walked off with his son and I went back to browsing the shirts for my size. But the man came back.

He approached the boyfriend, wound up like a spring. “Did you not see my turn signal on? I was waiting for that parking spot.”

“No, sir.” I said. “I did not see your parking spot.”

“Well, that’s just great.” He walked off again with his son. I reached for a package of shirts and he was back, again addressing the boyfriend. “You need to learn how to drive.”

I did not see your turn signal,” I said. “I’m sorry, sir, but there’s nothing I can do about it now.” He looked like he wanted to hit the boyfriend and I debated calling for security or pointing out that aggression isn’t exactly the best way to teach another respect. Nor was his methodology a great model for his young son who stood behind him seeming quite embarassed.

“Oh you didn’t? Well. Well…” He turned around and stomped off again.

Before he returned. Again. To refer to us as crackerjack something or others.

“Go away, sir,” said the boyfriend.

He did eventually, but not before pacing about and mumbling to himself about how disrespectful and stupid we must be, since I so purposely aimed to single-handedly ruin his day by stealing a parking space. It immediately occurred to me that the man refused to address me, the real offender, because I was a woman and for whatever reason he wouldn’t have felt right showing such aggression to a woman. He was so angry he probably didn’t know what to say or do.

We went about our shopping half certain that the man would pop out of an aisle to kick our disrespectful asses, and I wondered whether or not he was having a bad day or really was a raging asshole with entitlement issues.

I paid for my groceries and we left, but not without checking my car for dents or key scrapes. Unfortunately, I will probably think about that man all damned day.

14 comments for “A Trip To The Store

  1. Nancy
    May 22, 2005 at 7:29 pm

    In California, incidents of road rage can be reported to the police. I think it is a good idea to do so because this type of thing does escalate to acts of physical violence. We have people shot on the freeway for minor driving mistakes. What is the difference between intervening early in domestic abuse situations and intervening early in these sorts of impulse control problems?

    I agree that his attitudes toward women were revealed by this story, but if we do not take the laws that exist seriously, then how can we improve levels of civility in our society? If you were by yourself, would he have taken his kid home, stalked you until you were in a non-public place, then beaten or raped you in order to put you in your place? How do you know this wouldn’t have happened? In a parking lot incident following a baseball game (in California), two guys argued, then one went home to get a gun and returned and shot the other guy (who had gone home because he thought everyone was over). I think we have to stop tolerating bad behavior that crosses the line into violence, including the kind of assault committed by the guy in your story.

  2. May 22, 2005 at 8:05 pm

    The issues of “road rage” that occur yearly are in the two-digit range. They’re really not that big of an issue, and just what is “civility” anyway?

    That reminds me of another parking spot story. My roommate and I were going to a Fry’s about two years ago, and I had paused to let someone pull out of a parking spot so that I could then have it. The next thing I know, the person behind me goes squealing past me in a fit of anger, then steals my parking spot … right before my very eyes.

    I was shocked, as that’s the only time someone had been *that* forward about stealing a parking spot … I was even MORE shocked when the woman who got out of the car was a grandmother-type… white hair and all, who must have been in her late 70s / early 80s. I couldn’t believe it!

    I’m convinced that this weekend has been a bad vehicle weekend. I just recently bought a newer car, so I planned on giving my older car to charity. I haven’t quite gotten around to arranging a pick-up time, but on my way out to run an errand yesterday, I found that some vandal had come by and broken the driver’s side window. I didn’t clean it up or anything … hopefully the donation tow truck will be here on Monday morning. :(

  3. May 22, 2005 at 10:16 pm

    My goodness.

    The Partner and I went to a megamart yesterday for random electronic supplies, and it was quite busy. They are remodeling the building, and the construction had the parking lot constrained to only one path of traffic. I took the first parking spot I came across since the weather was so beautiful.

    As we were walking through the lot, we noticed a rather long string of cars all waiting on the front car, who was waiting for a close spot that was currently occupied. I’m not sure how long the car had been waiting, but the people were just beginning to put their bags into their car. Gaging from the back-up, it must have been at least a few minutes.

    Suddenly a woman jumped out of her vehicle, which was about five cars back, and stormed up to the first car. Before she even reached the vehicle she started YELLING, “Move that damn car! What the hell is wrong with you, you selfish sonofabitch? Don’t you see the line waiting? Walk a little!” She walked straight up to the driver’s side, which had the window rolled down, and said, “What the hell is wrong with you, you stupid BITCH? MOVE!” and she stormed back to her car.

    It was the most outrageous thing I’ve ever witnessed in a parking lot in this town. I was certain the woman was going to do physical harm to the other woman.

    Probably out of spite, the woman in the car remained waiting for the close spot, even through the honking of the cars behind her.

  4. May 22, 2005 at 10:45 pm

    Nancy wrote:

    In California, incidents of road rage can be reported to the police.

    Unless the police of California are overstaffed, I can’t imagine how reporting such a thing to the police would have an effect. I doubt that anger over a stolen parking spot is high on the priority list for police time and effort. But then, the chances of me voluntarily calling the police or expecting anything good to come of it are zero. Heh.

    The parking space confrontation does remind me of an argument I read many moons ago. Decades ago there was a spate of interest in something called “Body Language”. Popular books purported to teach us how to read the true meaning of what somebody was saying by examining how they held their body, moved their eyes, etc.

    The only thing of use I learned from reading that stuff was a section about how “personal” space grows once we get behind the wheel until it gets to about 12 feet around the actual space taken up by one’s car. That’s why taking “my” parking space is tantamount to stepping on my foot or elbowing me in the ribs.

    You were wondering if the fellow has “entitlement issues” really gets to the heart of the matter imo. Our culture puts so much emphasis on owning a car, on having that car represent oneself, on viewing a car as a statement of where one is in the class heirarchy.

    Imagine how frustrated the man must have been when he was capable of confronting your bf and not your fine self!

  5. May 22, 2005 at 11:03 pm

    The real tragedy is that he might have had his shopping list memorized instead of written down, and the incident could have caused him to forget to purchase the 5-gallon drum of Kaopectate.

  6. Quisp
    May 22, 2005 at 11:59 pm

    I am reminded of the pivotal scene in “Fried Green Tomatoes,” which differs from your story in a couple of crucial ways. Instead of an Italian guy, it’s Kathy Bates. Instead of following you around like an asshole, Kathy Bates repeatedly smashes the shit out of [your] car. I can’t remember if she got an Oscar for this or not. Instead of being scary and criminal (as the guy in your story clearly is), it’s a touchstone of 90s female empowerment.

  7. May 23, 2005 at 6:31 am

    I must say, the concept of free, convenient parking sounds so decadent from across the ocean. There is one small grocer in my town that has free parking, but the spaces are so small, I’ve been locked in more than once. (I have one of the smaller Mercedes, not a behemoth SUV.)

    But I remember fondly the days when I too would go to Target, hunting for one of the free spaces, in order to get any one of a zillion available items, served by courteous personnel in a prompt manner…

    In other words, Americans have no idea how lucky they are when it comes to parking and other conveniences.

  8. May 23, 2005 at 9:47 am

    Actually, I’d be willing to trade abundant parking for decent public transit. I’ve got special circumstances, but I enjoyed that aspect of living in Europe before I had medical problems that limited my ability to drive.

  9. May 23, 2005 at 12:01 pm

    Nancy, do you work for the States Adjacent to California Tourism and Promotions Board? LOL Sounds like a lovely place :-P

    Anne, this is why I recommend not shopping at Wal-Mart.

    There was an interesting study about parking approaches (i.e., are you a circler? an opportunist? a take-the-first-spot-that’s-open-er?) and personality types. It makes sense, but it’s funny that something that mundane is also that revealing about how big an asshole someone can be.

    My parking jobs indicate I’m an agreeable person, but the way I like to brake-check people who ride my tail while I’m already doing 10 over the limit tells a different story.

    Oh, and one more semi-related thing… For those of you who spend time on The Campus Right Nearby, there’s a neat little grocery needing your support in the Villiage (“Food Mart”, I believe) that has some fresh produce, milk, frozen stuff, and tons of spices and mixes for Indian and Middle-Eastern cooking. That and the Farmer’s Market (yay!) have been really helpful in staying out of the Mega Marts lately.

  10. Jenny
    May 23, 2005 at 3:11 pm

    Sally, I completely concur. Having lived in both extremes: a large city in England and the hell that is Southern California sububia, I pick decent mass transit over free, easy parking any day. So why am I still here in SoCal? Still trying to figure that out myself.

    Re: Fried Green Tomatoes

    I never got the impression that Kathy Bates wasn’t supposed to be considered more than a little crazy in that scene. I didn’t see it as saying that it was ok for her to do that, but not ok for guys, but that bottling up your rage is as dangerous as not trying to control it at all – both tend to lead to destructive behaviour.

    Besides, it was a life-changing moment in the sense that she finally refused to be treated like trash, not that she now had permission to be a jerk for no reason. After all, the fact that he took her spot wasn’t what set her off, it was that he insulted her on top of it, as if the fact that he found her so pathetic meant that she deserved such treatment in the first place. Just like in Thelma and Louise, she was going to walk away until he turned the fact that she was a woman into an excuse for his behaviour; which to me, makes both scenes more of a metaphorical response to excuses for sexism than a literal prescription for feminist behaviour.

  11. May 23, 2005 at 11:25 pm

    i seem to remember kathy bates smashing the car of two young female twits who knowingly and blatantly stole her parking space, and i loved the scene. as i recall, her rejoinder when they complained about her smashing their car went something like “because i’m older and have more insurance.”

    in the bigger sense—it’s a movie folks, don’t take it so seriously.

  12. Jenny
    May 24, 2005 at 12:21 am

    Wow, it’s obviously been too long since I’ve seen that movie, because now that you mention it , you’re right, I remember it being two younger women as well.

    But – “it’s a movie folks, don’t take it so seriously”

    God, I hate it when people say that. I understand and agree when it comes to the idea that a particular scene in a particular movie will give kids ideas, blah blah blah, but on the other hand – its a work of art, and I’ll analyze it all I want, just as I analyze books and paintings. I personally think it would help if more people were “literate” when it comes to movies and television.

    although, of course, staying on topic is usually a plus :)

  13. Thomas
    May 24, 2005 at 9:33 am

    Lauren, I think this illustrates why all the gun-rights folks have it right. You see, you got followed by this guy, who was obviously furious, and he kept coming back, and … nothing. You were left with a vaguely uneasy feeling. BOOORING!

    Now, in gunmaniaworld, he comes over spouting rage and pulls a weapon, but you and your bf have the drop on him. It’s a three-way standoff when the store security SWAT team comes running over with shotguns at the ready, and … you’re in your own personal Quentin Tarantino movie. Plus, this approach has the advantage of a decisive resolution. And, you make the nightly news!


  14. May 24, 2005 at 2:56 pm

    Jenny: You’re pushing two scenes into one. One of the reason Bates freaks out so much when the girls steal her spot is that there is an earlier scene where some young male pushes her, making her drop her groceries, and calls her something like “Stupid old fat cow” or some other derogatory comment designed to make her feel bad. To which she responds by crying and asking why he was so mean to her. So when she is later empowered by the idea of Tawanda, she bundles up the idea of the young man’s aggression with the new incident. :) Just to clear it up.

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