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Western Oz Words: The Parking Game

Margaret Dunn does the parking pavane and experiences parking paranoia in a crowded city car par.

We are always being told of the dangers of stress in our modern life style. It can result in health problems and often leads to attacks of aggressive behaviour, especially on our roads. There’s always a new story coming up about road rage. Most of us have been victims of the bad-tempered driver who thinks he or she has complete freedom to disregard other road users, giving everyone a hard time.

But I have discovered another version of this. Parking Rage - or it might be called Parking Paranoia.

A few weeks ago, I drove into the City with a friend and headed for my usual Car Park. It’s always busy, but with the constant turnover of cars and a little patience I always find a space.

Feeling positive and hopeful (anti-stress tactic), I swung into the Council's money making backgammon board. Half way up the left hand aisle, I just missed a place and realised that several cars were on the prowl - metal monsters searching for prey.

In a side bay an elderly woman was struggling into an ancient Ford and I swung in to take the space. The Ford stuttered out, reversing in my direction. I moved back to give her space, and a driver on the other side blasted his horn and swung his shiny, new Fiesta into MY place. Looking at his grinning, bearded face, I refused to get into an argument, being too civilised for this jungle, but continued my slow surveillance in a kind of Parking Pavane.

Going round for the third time (like drowning on tarmac) the rear lights of a car near the entrance caught my eye. Edging into position, I gave the driver space to back out, but as he reversed towards the exit an old green van buzzed in and settled like some malevolent insect.

I just sat there, trying to be philosophical and telling myself this was all part of life's rich tapestry. A thickset little man with piggy eyes emerged from the van. My passenger, usually polite and friendly, leaned through the open window and called out in an icy voice "Excuse me, we were waiting to go into that space."

The man glared at her. "Well, tough!"

My friend’s reply was "Ratbag" and a cheery wave with one finger. He started striding towards us, probably going to the ticket machine, but I thought it best to move on up the aisle.

Two shining rear lights ahead gave me hope. The driver was standing by her open door - I leaned from the window. "ARE YOU LEAVING?” She moved nearer me and called out "Sorry, I've promised this place to the driver behind you"

In the rear mirror I saw that a black convertible had appeared. Were they using semaphore or telepathy, or what? The voice beside me hissed in my ear: “Just wait it out. The silly old bat has to leave some time.”

My friend seemed to be enjoying this. However, I drove on in my own dogged fashion, and just as I reached the entrance again, a white Mercedes glided out gracefully. With equal grace and great relief I glided in.

As I put my coins in the ticket machine, I pondered how often these dramas are acted out in city car parks. All these raw, human emotions come into play: belligerence, slyness, malice, triumph, all within the space of a few minutes. and simply to find a parking space.

Do we really imagine the human race will ever achieve global peace!!

But perhaps we will… When I next used that parking area, a young man who was just leaving called out to me as I waited for his place.

“Would you like to use this ticket - it still has forty minutes left on it.”


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