Sunday, 16 March 2014

Road Rage (in a car park)

First thing yesterday morning I had to take my daughter to Blackheath Hospital for a consultancy appointment (nothing serious, I hasten to add!).  We arrived with twenty minutes to spare and I mentally rubbed my hands with glee.
            ‘There’s a lovely little cafĂ© around the corner,’ I said to Eleanor, ‘we’ll go and grab a cappuccino before your appointment.’
            ‘And a nice fat slice of cake?’
            ‘Of course!  I’ll just park the car and we’ll be on our way.’
            Easier said than done.  And, as it happened, the only cake we ended up encountering was the bun fight in the hospital car park.  As I crawled through the narrow entrance, it was immediately apparent that the place was full.  I scanned the choc-a-bloc parking bays, and offered up a few silent prayers.  Hurrah!  Straight in front of me was a woman reversing out of a space.  Except she appeared to have a particularly diddy car.  And mine was, like my derriere, a little on the ample side.  Still, if bottoms can squish into chairs, then cars can squash into parking bays.  All it took was a bit of maneuvering.
            ‘I don’t think you’re going to get into it, Mum.’
            ‘Nonsense.  If I squeeze myself into this alleyway to the side, I can then reverse back and…oh!’
            Some dear kind sweet thoughtful soul had taken advantage of my sideways manoeuvre and zoomed into my space.
            I buzzed the window down.  ‘Excuse me!’ I called politely to the dear kind sweet thoughtful soul, ‘but that was my space.  I was just preparing to reverse into it.’
            The dear kind sweet thoughtful soul gave me a steely glare.
            ‘It’s my space now.’
            Well there was no arguing with that, was there!  I gave the dear kind sweet thoughtful soul one of my ‘looks’ whilst taking ten seconds out to sit firmly on my hands lest they do the sort of hand signals that aren’t part of the Highway Code.
            ‘What a flaming cheek,’ said Eleanor.
            ‘Never mind, I’ve spotted another one.’
            ‘Over there.  Somebody is leaving.’
            ‘On it.’
            I rammed the car into gear and shot forward.  YESSSSSS!  A stream of cars were coming into the car park, bunging up the aisles, causing chaos, drivers’ heads rotating three-hundred-and-sixty degrees in an effort to seek out an elusive space – but I had it covered and my imminent space was secure.  Except…what was that driver over there doing?  A swish BMW had stopped and was signalling, indicating that he was after my imminent space.  More buzzing down of windows took place.
            ‘Excuse me?’ I smiled pleasantly.
            The man blanked me.
            ‘He’s going to nick your parking space, Mum.’
            ‘Oh no he’s not.’
            ‘He is.’
            He was.  I jumped out of my car and marched over to the BMW.
            ‘Hi.’  My next attempt at a polite smile probably looked more like how the Joker greeted Batman.  ‘This space that you’re waiting for…well I saw it first…so it’s mine.’
            ‘But I’m closest to it.’
            ‘I don’t care.  I was here before you and good manners dictate you acknowledge that and let me park my car here.’
            ‘You ain’t parking your car here, lady.’
            ‘Oh yes I am.  Watch me.’
            ‘It will be my pleasure.’
            ‘Good.  Have fun watching.’
            ‘Are you a magician or something?’
            ‘What sort of daft question is that?’
            ‘Because while you’ve been telling me that you’re parking in this space, the original car has left and a Mini has parked there instead.  So are you going to somehow magically park your car on top of that Mini?’
            ‘Hurry up, lady.  I’m waiting to be entertained.’
            Muttering oaths under my breath, I returned to my car.
            ‘Mum, we’re going to miss our appointment at this rate.’
            ‘The next space is ours,’ I snarled.  ‘And if anybody tries to stop me I’ll–’
            ‘Look!  He’s leaving!’

            ‘Oh dear God and Mother Mary and anybody else up there listening, just get me into that parking space!’
            A van was moving out of a sideways bay.  This meant having to do what nearly every woman dreads.  Parallel parking.  I zipped over, put my hazards on, slammed the car into reverse, lined up my passenger door with the car to the side’s rear door, swung the steering wheel hard left ninety degrees and prayed very hard that my car would go in first time and…yes…yes…it was happening…absolutely fantastic…what a sensational bit of parallel parking…someone should film this and use it to demonstrate to Learner drivers all over the world exactly how you should parallel park because this was beyond brilliant…except…what the hell was that?
            Behind me a horn had sounded long, loud, and protesting.  I craned my neck to see a little old lady in a Micra beeping me and halfway into my parking space.
            ‘I don’t sodding believe this!’ I fumed.  ‘Well two can play that game.’  So I hit my horn too.  For a while we duetted.  After thirty seconds a cacophony of horns joined in because, of course, this stand-off over a parking space was causing major havoc with the other circling predators.  And then the little old lady began edging forwards.  Good heavens!  She was calling my bluff and going for it!  Ten out of ten to her for sheer bloody-minded courage.  I instantly wimped out and drove forward again.
            ‘What a nerve!’ Eleanor said.  ‘And she’s got to be at least eighty.  You’d have thought the older generation had manners.’
            ‘Unfortunately there are some members of the older generation who think that just because they are Golden Oldies, they have the right to be rude.  Look at Victor Meldrew.’
            ‘Ah, never mind.’
            And then a miracle occurred.  A man knocked on my window.
            ‘Do you want my parking space, love, only I saw what happened there and I’m just about to go.  And the wife is with me, so she’ll make sure nobody barges in.’
            You see!  There is a God!
            ‘Oh thank you, thank you, thank you,’ I said to the nice man, and God, and Mother Mary, and anybody else who cared to listen.
            And so it came to pass that the sun shone down, birds tweeted, flowers bloomed and I parked my car with no mishaps, while a huge thunderbolt burst out from nowhere and turned the little old lady’s Micra to marshmallow.  Well, actually, that last part didn’t happen, I made it up, although I can’t deny the thought didn’t enter my head.  Which reminds me.
            A group of pensioners were discussing their medical problems at the Day Centre’s coffee morning.  ‘Do you realize,’ said one, ‘that my arm is so weak I can hardly hold this coffee cup?’  ‘Yes, I know,’ replied the second, ‘and my cataracts are so bad I can’t see to pour the coffee.’  ‘I can’t turn my head,’ said the third, ‘because of the arthritis in my neck.’  ‘My blood pressure pills make me dizzy,’ lamented the fourth, ‘but I guess that’s the price we pay for getting old.’  ‘Well, it’s not all bad,’ piped up the first, ‘we should be thankful that we can all still drive…’


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