Aristotle believed that “man by nature, is a political animal”. I believe this to be true, no more so than when I am confined in a car with my mother, and we find ourselves traversing the politics of a busy parking lot.
The modern zeitgeist is littered with personality tests. Tag yourself memes, MBTI types and horoscopes have us in a chokehold. Amongst the mess and multitude of the human experience, we crave neat little boxes to put ourselves in, labels with which to define ourselves in contrast to other people: we want to know are you a Carrie, Miranda, Samantha or a Charlotte? Anyways, I’m here to tell you to grow up. Stop taking those damn buzzfeed quizzes because there’s only one real way to find out what kind of person someone is. And that is by dissecting how they deal with parking.
Allow me to elaborate. The way I see it, it all boils down to three kinds of people in this world. People who park like my mum, people who park like my dad and people who park like me. (RIP Sigmund Freud, you would have loved this article). Feel free to tag yourself:
The conflict seeker (the Amanda’s mum)
The battleground (the parking lot) is where you come to life!! It’s all a game to you and the prize is scoring the closest possible park to the venue. You circle obsessively, you don’t care if it makes you late to your event: the bottom line is your shoes are fabulous (if hard to walk in) and you will not be doing any more walking than necessary. Anyone who stands in your way will be decimated. No one is safe, not even the sweet old couple trying to get across to the supermarket. You could parallel park in your sleep, or in the midst of traffic with road-rage afflicted drivers honking at you.
The conflict avoider (the Amanda’s dad)
You submit to your opponents (the other drivers eyeing up the spot you’ve been indicating into for the last 3 minutes). Making people wait is your worst nightmare, so parallel parking is OUT of the question!! One time it got so bad that you panicked and pulled out of your park so fast that you reversed straight into the man waiting for the spot. You like to visit malls in off-peak hours to avoid that stress. You are very nice and easy to please and likely are very satisfied by the first available park that you spot.
The conflict denier (the Amanda)
The driving habits of your parents fucked you up so bad that you just don’t believe in carparks anymore. In fact, the second you got your licence you started parking two streets away from the venue. You fancy a stroll in the sun before the main event anyway (rain is nice too).
Or maybe you’re none of the above. When you brave the neatly sectioned hellscape, you remain calm. You don’t waste your time battling for parks but you do take your time checking your rearview before reversing out. Regardless of where a person places themself on the sliding scale, it is undeniable that car parks, like trains, buses and airplanes, can share a particular charged and hyper-politicised atmosphere. It’s something about hurried people in busy places, a lack of resources that almost always eventuates into competition. It brings out the extremes in people.
There exists a certain tension between my brown mum and every white guy she has ever beaten to a parking spot. It’s not just once we’ve been hit with that uncreative refrain: ‘go back to your own country’. And while it seems odd for a car park to be the backdrop for dissecting critical race theory, it also makes perfect sense. There is no reason to complain until you have to compete for something that you perceive as belonging to you. After all, we rarely hear qualms about immigrants occupying difficult, unstable, low-paying jobs: unpopular night shifts or fruit picking. While essential, nobody else wants to do them. But when you take up too much space, or space that others feel they have a stronger claim of ownership to, this becomes a problem. When competition comes to a fore, this tension simmers not only between my unshakeable mother and white people: I’ve seen it come from other ethnic minorities too. We create neatly painted sectioned car parks, road rules and etiquette, but revert rapidly to self-interest and seeing each other as threats when we perceive a lack of resources.
Our chief reporter (and my favourite girl!!) Talia Nicol notes that when she uses the disabled car park for her chronic pain condition, fibromyalgia, she garners “dirty looks” for not “appearing physically disabled”. It’s classically “middle-aged white women that will have something to say, the Karen’s if you will. Telling me I can’t park there, even though there’s literally a disability car permit registered to my fucking name hanging from my windshield”. Resentment, racism and ableism builds in the strangest ways when someone is seen to be taking up space that is perceived to be ‘not theirs’. I figure it is similar in keeping with the sudden surveilling, videoing and reporting to police of black people in public spaces for random and non-illegal infractions like using the barbecue in a park.
Since these spaces are so apt to tension, the way someone tackles them speaks volumes about who they are as a person. Want help in accurately sussing out a new friend, or person you just started dating? Forget asking for their star sign: get them to drive you to the mall! Go on a bus ride together! Are they polite to the bus driver? Do they thank them when they get off? Do they stand to provide seating to those who need it more or do they sit in ignorant bliss in accessibility seating? Sure, crying babies are a bit of a nightmare, but if your hot new date is giving the stressed out parents the evil eye, maybe it’s time to give them the boot. The way I see it, the biggest green flag is being able to maintain compassion and empathy in stressful, rife public spaces such as these.