Never fight for the best parking spot (for myself).
Don’t Google it, okay? Just don’t. Let me fill you in, but first take a ride with me . . .
Imagine you are in your car. No, forget that. We are imagining, so let’s optimize it. Imagine you are in your dream car. You pull into the parking lot of a busy store, not a care in the world.
You heed the arrows on the pavement and go the appropriate direction—down one lane and then up another. Head on a swivel, you hunt.
Then gloriously: taillights aglow! You see a car preparing to back up just one row away. You accelerate your dream car, hardly noticing the other vehicles, pedestrians, and shopping carts all about you. You whip the car around and begin driving down the next lane, gliding nearer and nearer to the now-in-motion exiting vehicle. And, by proxy, nearer and nearer to the store. Appropriately we’ll call it Target.
Then you stop. Glare.
Another car, facing you and disregarding the arrows, is also waiting for the nearly vacated parking spot.
You gun your dream engine. Lock eyes with your newfound foe and prepare for battle . . .
How does it end?
Oh, you are reasonable, sitting here on your phone reading this or at your office sipping coffee and working away. You would never let your emotions get out of control in this circumstance. You’d never honk, yell, gesture, or drag your opponent out of their car and beat them mercilessly with an umbrella or purse or shoe or your very fists.
But that is what everyone thinks. Even the people who have done those very things. Don’t Google it, okay? Just don’t.
Trust me, though, it is an occasion we could call “high-traffic.” And the people driven mad in these scenarios aren’t even driving dream cars!
Growing up, we’d be made to play this game called “Steal the Bacon.” Only there was no bacon, and you didn’t get to keep what you stole. We’d line up facing our opponents, who’d be similarly aligned over on the other side of the gym. We’d face each other and snarl. Then the “teacher” would yell a number, and the kid on each team who bore the called-out number would race to the “bacon,” usually a decrepit old bean bag, attempt to snatch it up and bring it back across his team’s line. Didn’t get the “bacon”? Just try to waylay your opponent’s path—tag or tangle them in some way or another.
Looking back, the game was stupid. Sure, it taught competitiveness, but it also should have taught that some things aren’t worth competing over even if some “teacher” says so.
Tickle Me Elmos. Beanie Babies. I-Phones. Twitter mentions. Titles. Facebook likes.
Some years ago I joined a large company. It came with a large parking lot thrown in. Worse than trying to find a “good” spot was leaving for the day and walking toward the wrong spot. Sometimes you’d get nearly within arm’s reach before you’d dismiss the day’s burdens long enough to realize, “Hey, that’s not my car! I parked somewhere else today.” The worst part of this scenario was when people were outside smoking, people with whom you’ve already conversed and wished farewell in long, drawn-out fashion. Yet here you are, inexplicably moseying by this gaggle anew, headed the other direction. Idiot forgot where he parked, you can almost hear them thinking between puffs of condescension.
What differentiated the “good” parking spots from the “bad” ones? Well, proximity to the building primarily. So I’d spend most of my day in a building wishing I were outside, but on arrival at that building I would waste time—in an empty attempt to save time, mind you—in order to park in a spot that would have me outside for the shortest possible duration.
One day I decided that fighting for the good spots was a totally absurd notion. It was a sprint for a decrepit bean bag. I have a limited amount of decision-making capabilities in a day before depletion sets in. (So do you, by the way. If, of course, you are human.) Depletion decreases wisdom and morality, while increasing stress and fatigue. And depletion builds on itself in terms of detrimental effects and recurrence, for a person spends part of his today overcoming the lapses of yesterday. Tidying such lapses wastes time today, accelerates depletion, and thus sets the snowball of calamity in motion. As part of an attempt to melt away this mental menace and reduce cognitive waste and strain, why not start by removing the arbitrary decision of where to park from my day?
Added to the benefit is that I always know where my car is, the smokers don’t judge me, I get more exercise, the stroll gives me time to think a bit, and I get to serve those who now have one more close spot to squabble over. Maybe one less assault will show up on the internet because of my willingness to avoid the battleground?
Some answer this approach skeptically: But what of the weather?
On hot days, I’m more refreshed, upon arrival indoors, by the wonders of air conditioning. On wet days, I am thankful for a roof; on cold days, warmth. The only thing I waste, arguably, is a bit of time. But if you add the efficiencies gained over a lifetime, one could probably reasonably argue it is break-even if not a time gain. Especially if I avoid being beaten by or becoming a lunatic.
And speaking of lunacy: I find this happens a lot in life. Competition and routine dictates what is a winning and losing position, and I follow these precepts in rote, whether sensible or not. In nearly every human situation there are “best” options that, when one steps back and considers, aren’t really all that favorable or worth determined pursuit. By not competing in all of these makeshift, meaningless competitions, I have far more energy to vie for the things that really matter to me. I also have far less stress. Going to the mall no longer begins with the worst of Darwinian Theory. There are no opportunities for road rage when no one wants what I’m after.
Instead I walk by all the cars parked closer than mine and feel charitable and kind for my willingness to take a less sought-after commodity. Good feelings tend to engender good behaviors. Parking lot savvy can actually make me a (slightly) better human!
With rules, however, there are exceptions. For this one, it is awareness of others. In this case, others who might be in my vehicle. Let us suppose, on this visit to the mall, my wife is with me. She is nicely adorned—new shoes, hair done, make-up skillfully applied. She looks great. The day does not; it begins to rain.
I now have a decision: Love my rules or serve my wife? Many times I slip into behaviors that choose the former. I have convictions! Standards! I’m disciplined! In my life, I am a good soldier! Only I forget that the best of all soldiers is the one that serves and protects, the one who lays his own life down for others. Rules are helpful to add discipline to our lives, but knowledge and love of the other are the truer guides. Wisdom trumps policy. So park close or, better yet, drop her off at the door.
My goal throughout my thirties has been to assess my worldview and have no rogue notions—to eliminate instances where heart, speech, and deed don’t align. This is impossible to accomplish, of course. But there is success even when the job is incomplete—a partial meal beats starvation every time.
So I drive on contentedly toward the back of the lot, and pull into a place of my choice. I’ll save myself frustration, door dings, stress, energy, and time. And with those precious seconds saved, I’ll have more time for that which truly matters. I’ll have time to Google: Parking lot mayhem. I’ll look on at the burgeoning results from afar in wry bemusement.
Never fight for the best parking spot (for myself).
(Quick Virus Application (QVA-19) – Without a commute, places to go, or people to see, I can use that time to continue watching puzzling YouTube videos or I can look inward for some puzzlement that I can do something about. What do I believe? and Why do I do that? can be powerful questions that we don’t ask ourselves nearly enough. What if you tried it? One day this week, just question everything you do. Why do I get dressed in this order? Why do I use a new cup for water each morning? Why do I structure my day like this? What are the must-haves in my day and why? When do I partake in these “essentials”? And so on. Just try it for a day or two and see what you come up with. My guess is that you will find some extraneous practice, some rote, nonsensical behavior that undermines wellness or productivity in your life. Treat it like you are looking for a parking space. Just drive around the lot of your life with your eyes open.)