…or trying to find a parking spot on a busy beach day.
I couldn’t find parking yesterday at the beach. I wasn’t alone. There were many people on the hunt too.
Uncertain of how long it would take to find one, I dropped the kids off so they could meet up with our friends who already set up camp at the beach. It would probably be less painful for me if they weren’t in the van while I played the odds, followed strangers and desperately hoped, prayed, and wished for what seemed to be always just out of my reach.
As I chased spots and people, I noticed the seriousness of it all: the game faces of what appeared to be very experienced parking-spot spotters, the weariness and irritation of the mom with a full van of kids that were too little to be dropped off, the couples fighting in the car who couldn’t agree on whether to wait a little longer or just leave, the rage of two drivers arriving at the same time for one single space.
There isn’t a lot of camaraderie or feelings of fellowship in these types of moments. We’ve all had them. The grocery store: the every man for himself race to the cashier who just opened her cash. The airplane: everyone fighting for coveted carry-on space in the overhead compartments. My dining room table: the fight for that last piece of dessert where everyone ends up resenting that one cookie that has to be split five ways. But finding parking spaces can bring out the worst in people – I am no exception. You feel helpless, completely at the mercy of the parking gods. You curse and make all sorts of deals with the Higher Power in the same breath.
But as I sat (and sat and sat) in my van waiting for a space to become available, my tension rising, I noticed something. I saw people constantly going up to the parking ticket machine and looking confused. Parking at the beach is one of those city conundrums. As opposed to the rest of the city lots and street parking that charges for parking from 8:00 or 9:00am, at the beach, paid parking isn’t required until 5:00pm. I sat in my van and watched people try to stuff their money and credit card in without success. I watched them read the sign, turn to leave, and return to read it again. I watched people go back and get their significant others and even children for them to read the sign too, double checking that there wasn’t some sort of fine print they had missed.
I finally parked my van close to one of these ticket machines and began advising people on the FREE parking situation. I can’t tell you how happy this made people. I get it. They had just went through the frustration of trying to find a spot and the relief of finding one. But now I get to tell them how their life is just about to get a little sweeter: FREE PARKING!
They at first look at me like I am mistaken but I always smile and say, “Oh no, you heard me right. Starts at 5pm…but I suggest setting an alarm on your phone to remind you if you decide to stay later – I’ve gotten burned before.” After my PSA, they express an amazing amount of gratitude and proceed hand in hand with their loved ones to enjoy a day at the beach.
And all I am doing, as I’m waiting for a parking spot, is saying, “Hey! I have some good news for you.” I get to be the messenger of a little bit of goodness for an instant. I got so lost in this activity that I actually missed a parking spot open up.
Throughout my wait, I was getting encouraging texts from the mamas on the beach, assuring me that the kids were fine. After about half an hour of my wait, one of the mamas came and delivered me some special coffee she had brought for us to share at the beach. She figured that I needed it stat. My own messenger of goodness bearing gifts no less! She told me the kids were fine and wished me luck. At that point, coffee in hand, I felt that I was ready to wait it out for as long as it took, cheering people up along the way. Within a few sips of comfort in a cup, I found a spot. (And perfect timing too, as I had suddenly felt the need to go to the bathroom.)
I texted the beach crew and there was a collective cheer that I swear I could hear from the parking lot. As I unloaded my car, feeling a little lighter than I first pulled into the lot, a car pulled out next to me, and someone took the spot immediately. The couple got out of the car looking battered and war-torn. We exchanged niceties and a common appreciation for having finally found a spot.
As I walked away, I turned around and said, “By the way, parking is free until 5pm!”
We are all just walking each other home.
100 scribbles…hurriedly writing the here and now.
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