After work, I stopped at Walmart to pick up a few things in their grocery department. I have a love/hate relationship with Walmart. I love their prices on groceries. However, I hate going to Walmart. Nearly every Walmart I have visited is exactly the same. Scummy, dirty, inconsistently stocked and filled with the absolute dregs of society — both shoppers and employees. I've been to a lot of different Walmarts and it's uncanny how you see the same people in all of them. (The first Walmart I was ever in was in St. Catherines in Ontario. Who knew there were scummy Canadians?) Everyone in Walmart looks as though they'd rather be somewhere else ...and I can't say I blame them. But their prices on groceries are so unbelievably low that I feel silly shopping anywhere else. (Last week, I bought a package of eight hamburger roils for 67 cents. Now, come on!)
There's a Walmart just a few blocks from my job and I stop there often on my way home from work. I usually prepare a list of items I need before I enter the store to make sure I am in and out in ten minutes or less....and I usually am. Today, my list consisted of just three items — milk, a loaf of bread, and butter. This should take under five minutes.
I pulled into the parking lot and drove up towards the building to find a parking space. I saw a prime spot right next to the row of reserved handicapped spaces. As I flicked my turn signal and began to swing my car into the space, I saw a man pushing a shopping cart in my direction. He was a tall thin man, probably in his mid-seventies. He was one of those guys that has a permanent scowl on his face, as though he is coming to the end of a life that done him wrong time and time again. His mouth was curved into a frown that betrayed years of disdain and contempt. He tightly gripped the handle of the cart with thin bony fingers, but he also may have been using it for support under the weight of that enormous chip on his shoulder. As I slowly guided my car into the space, he frowned harder, made a sweeping gesture with his arm towards the front of my car and mouthed some words that I could not make out. I threw the shift lever into "PARK," pulled up my parking brake, unlatched my seat belt and slowly opened my door... just enough to get out but not so wide as to bump the adjacent car.... which I would soon understand to be the older man's vehicle.
The man stopped briefly right in front of my car, right by the pylons holding the "handicapped" designation signs, and then he pushed his cart to the passenger side of my car and grumbled something under his breath. I managed to get "didn't leave me no room" before he trailed off. He was about a foot away from me and the situation was becoming crystal clear. I dared park next to his car in his parking lot. My selfish act of parking was now forcing him to put his two small bags of purchases in his car by way of the door on the other side. He was tense and fuming.
I looked at my parked car. I was well within the yellow guide lines painted on the asphalt. I was not crooked nor did I overshoot the front of the designated space. I may not have stopped my car equidistant from either side of the space, but I was absolutely within the boundaries. Absolutely.
I spoke up — something I don't normally do. "I can move my car.," I offered, but I followed that proposal with a stern, "You don't have to be rude."
The old man frowned even harder. "You're the one being rude!," he spat and he pointed in the direction of my car, "Parking like that!"
I raised my voice a bit."I said I'd move my car. All you had to do was ask!" I climbed back into my car, started the engine and backed up into a space on the other side of the parking aisle. This took all of two seconds. I repeated the standard series of "parking the car" formalities and headed to the store. The old man watched me park and exit my car. As I passed him, he managed to choke out a strained "Thank you," but I wasn't convinced.
I did my shopping (five minutes worth, like I figured) and returned to my car. Considering how slowly the old man moved, I was surprised that he was gone from the lot. But as I approached my car, I saw something under my wiper blade. I gulped and thought the old man left me some kind of nasty note. As I drew closer, I saw every car around mine had the same thing shoved under their windshield wipers. It was an announcement for a restaurant opening in the area. I was relieved.
A lot a people have misunderstood me. I have been pegged as angry and sullen — even a curmudgeon. I am not. I am actually a pretty nice guy. I hold doors open for people. I gladly allow people to enter traffic from a parking lot or an adjacent lane. I say "please" and "thank you" and I do my best to be courteous and polite. I am not aggressive... until crossed. I am a reactor, not an instigator.
But, I'll be damned if being nice doesn't get tougher and tougher every day.