Cars, trucks and parking
The words drifted in with the breeze through the open office window:
Jeeezus H. Kriste. There’s nowhere to park with that little asshole parking like that. He’s blocking all the spots.
Interesting, I thought, they very likely could be talking about me. It was one of my neighbours. He sounded irate. I decided to stay inside.
The next week we ran into each other. We both exchanged pleasantries.
So, buddy, why do you park your car like that?
Ah-ha! I though, I’m the little asshole! Amazing. Someone thinks this nearly 50 year old is little.
Also? I’ve been a big enough asshole much of my life that the title of ‘little asshole’ was a small comfort.
I was flattered and pleased realizing that it was me they were swearing about the week prior.
Well, I started, if I put my car there like that you can fit four cars in front of the two houses here.
He looked as though I slapped him.
Four cars? He continued, When you do that, your car and only one truck can park there. Me and Bert drive trucks. If you parked differently we could all fit.
Right. I drive a small car. You drive a long truck. I don’t think in truck. Let me move my car
Things got sorted out pretty quickly. I think in ‘car’. They think in ‘truck’.
We had different stories about a very simple thing.
How we negotiate space is quite primitive, primal and linked to our survival. When we get territorial we become neither rational, nor reasonable.
I get it. Territory is important. We are pretty hard wired to have our suspicions about people encroaching upon us. And. We can be both irrational and unreasonable, while at the same time being incredibly reasonable and rational.
It’s pretty easy to think the worst about people.
I know this well.
For a long time we had a neighbour who parked in front of our house. He lived there for fifty years - ever since immigrating from Greece. He always parked in front of my house. The spot in front of his house, he always kept clear - just in case someone was coming over.
He was kind, friendly, outgoing and gregarious. Everyone liked him.
Everyone but me.
HE PARKED IN FRONT OF MY HOUSE!
And, when he did, he pulled back from the driveway and made it so only one car could park in that section. If he pulled forward, you’d be able to fit two cars there.
For a long time, I thought it was personal.
One day I asked him: Dimi, why do you always park in front of my house when there’s room in front of yours?
I park here so I can be facing work tomorrow morning. Makes it easier to arrive and easier to leave.
Well then, I continued, why do you pull so far back from the entrance to the driveway, we could put two cars on the street if you pulled up a couple of feet.
His response floored me.
I park back so that you and George have an easier time getting into and out of your driveway.
He wanted to help. And yet, it still pissed me off. To this day, I would park my car there just to ‘win’ that spot.
We all seem reasonable to ourselves.
Connection and learning can happen when we consider that the stories in the heads of other people are just as true to them as the stories in our heads are to us.
But when the default assumption that people’s unawares activities are malicious and that things are being done ‘to you’ out of malicious intent, it’s difficult for any learning to take place.
So, when territorial disputes take place -whether it’s space in the fridge, on a countertop, sidewalk or highway, what stories do you tell yourself?
Does the fight flight impulse create a lens of negativity that you see things through?
Do you let the little assholes explain themselves?
Perhaps it’s merely a case of one person thinking like a truck driver, and another like someone who drives a small car.