I was clenching my jaw, ready for all-out war with the gentleman in front of me in the Whole Foods parking lot, squeezing his massive pickup truck into the space labeled 'compact'.
He successfully backed into the spot, yet wore a quizzical look on his face as he pondered how he might or might not be able to slip his literal self out of the vehicle, since he was parked so close to the adjacent cars that opening his truck door didn't appear to be an actual option.
We caught each other's eyes and right at that very moment, a car directly across the aisle from this man's current sardine-can began to pull out from a normal-sized (that is, not labeled 'compact') space. I gestured to it with my head, as I annoyedly mouthed to him the words, 'Why don't you park in that one?'
He nodded, then zoomed out of the ill-fitting 'compact' space and straight into the alternate I indicated, with enough room to actually contain his behemoth vehicle. I, meanwhile, zipped my compact (yes, 'compact') Volvo into its appropriate slot not without a bit of righteous satisfaction rising up my chest. Silently patting myself on the back, I thought, Look who showed the big man in the big truck.
As I gathered up to exit the car and head to the store, I peeked into the rear-view mirror and noticed the man outside milling about his truck, biding his time as if waiting to confront me. Aw, shit, I muttered, Now I've got to talk to him. (How much easier it is to gripe and bitch about a stranger's stupidity while safely ensconced within the confines of one's own automobile. Face-to-face encounters are much more dangerous. We must, for instance, contend with how rude we are.)
Still, I climbed out, thinking, Here we go, as I gestured to the man and his happy truck in the full-size space and uttered the ambiguous-but-still-charged: 'That's a much better fit, eh?'
'Yeah, thanks for letting me have that one.' Where I'd expected a fight (or at least a few snide words), I instead found genuine acknowledgment. 'I really need to get rid of this thing,' he offered, pointing at the large truck. 'I've been meaning to for a while, but now it's really time.'
Despite his contriteness, I still couldn't pass up another small jab. 'I hear the resale value's not so good anymore.' Just the day before, I'd read a news story about the plummeting resale value of fuel-guzzling SUVs and trucks, in reaction to soaring gas prices. That was the same day I witnessed the price of gas at my local bargain gas station rise five cents a gallon (from $4.01 to $4.06) between morning and afternoon. [Editor's note: Two weeks later, gas at that station now goes for $4.27.]
He just shook his head and added, 'Yeah, I know. Things are getting tough.'
And there I was, suspended for a spell in mutual awareness with a man I'd been so ready to lob parking-lot rage at just moments earlier. We both knew he'd just tried to cram his too-large truck into the wrong-sized space, which would've created an inconvenience to those drivers parked next to him. He probably shouldn't be driving such an uneconomical vehicle at all. We both knew how much he must've paid to fill its gas tank. We both knew, hell, none of us should be driving our vehicles as often, as wastefully, as we have been for the past many many years. We both saw our habitual actions impacted each other, and would continue to, and we were all in it together. We saw, yes, things are getting tough
' and they're only going to get tougher,' I tossed back over my shoulder at him, in compassion and camaraderie, as I continued into the store to purchase my lunch of fresh-made sushi, organic bing cherries and sparkling mineral water.