Little Incivilities

It’s raining, blustery, and cold. I pull into the parking lot of the local Safeway. I’m in a bit of a hurry, but who isn’t at five P.M.? I’m in luck! A young woman is loading her groceries into her SUV. She returns her cart to the corral, climbs up into the driver’s seat, switches on the ignition…and sits there. Behind me, a line of cars is building. I scoot to the side as far as possible and put on my turn signal. Gusting winds shake my little sedan. I wait, hopeful.

What is she doing in there? Something on the seat beside her requires her urgent attention, it seems. She’s not tending to a child; in fact, she seems to be alone in the car. Her motor is running, her lights are on, but—no movement. She hunches forward.

Ah. The phone.

Perhaps she absolutely must attend to some urgent business. Maybe she’s just received a job offer, and is consulting her mate or her mom for advice. Perhaps negotiations at the office have broken down, and she must act now to save the project from utter failure.

But how long does that take? It’s going on five minutes now since she climbed into her car.

Maybe she’s just received some tragic news via text, and needs a moment to process her emotions. She doesn’t look very emotional, though. In fact, she appears to be frozen. Is she in distress? Has a huge spider crawled out from under the seat? No, surely she’d exit her vehicle if that were the case. I wait.

Oh, I get it—she’s no doubt waiting for someone who’s still inside the store. Perhaps her friend had to pee, or ran back to grab a forgotten item on her grocery list. I wait. No one joins her.

Most of the drivers behind me have given up by now, have passed me and are heading for the far reaches of the parking lot. But damn it, I’m not going to give up on this prime parking spot that’ll save me from getting drenched in the driving rain. I wait.

Behind me, someone honks. Look, Dude, I left you plenty of room to pass me, and my turn signal’s on. Am I blocking someone’s egress? Nope—all clear. I wait. The SUV non-driver hunches. I give my horn a little tap, just a tiny toot, and then give her the “What’s up?” shoulder shrug. She does not look up from her phone. She does not shut off her engine, to demonstrate her intention to stay put. She hunches. I wait.

Another shopper emerges from the store. Alas, I’m blocking her access to her car. She glances up at the SUV-sitter and shoots me a sympathetic look.

I admit defeat. Clearly, the SUV driver has some sort of extraordinary problem that requires intense concentration. I can’t keep this other driver waiting because, as Mama taught me, it’s rude to keep people waiting.

I drive off, breathing deeply, trying to keep this little mishap from spoiling my day. I find a parking space at the far end of the lot and brave the nearly gale-force winds that rip my umbrella inside out and plaster my glasses with icy rain. Just as I reach the front of the store, I spy the SUV driver—putting down her phone at long last, a carefree expression on her face, and driving off.

I really want to believe there’s such a thing as karma. May Princess I’m-the-Only-Person-in-the-Whole-Wide-World-Who-Matters get what’s coming to her. And thanks to all those who give a thought to their fellow humans and wait to check their phones until they’re no longer holding up traffic. Your mamas taught you well.

Leave a Reply