He was struggling with something he’d likely done thousands of times before; something routine and, ironically, pedestrian since he was in a car at the time. I felt bad for him … at first. Until I noticed what was really going on.
He was an older fellow (in the 85 range by my best guess), but I’m not pointing that out because I think age played a role in his situation. To the contrary. It wasn’t age at all. Not 15 minutes prior, I saw this same gentleman hustling through the produce section, darting past the deli and scooting through the cereal aisle at a brisk, efficient pace, maneuvering his shopping cart like a boss, juking other shoppers as he quickly picked a jar, can or box off a shelf before checking his handwritten list and moving on to his next conquest.
At times, I felt I should look around for a camera crew because it felt like he was in some new Food Network speeding-shopping show. It was impressive, and this coming from someone who is nothing if not quick and efficient while grocery shopping. (OK, maybe not efficient, but always quick.)
But now, in the home stretch, with frozen foods “unfreezing” in the back seat and produce getting riper with each passing second, he was having trouble removing his compact sedan from its parking more than spacious parking spot.
A lot of trouble.
I didn’t have a clock on him, but if I’m guessing (and conservatively at that), I’d say it took close to two minutes for him to safely exit the space.
“So, what was it, Dave? What caused this guy to have so much trouble backing out of his parking spot?” you may be asking.
While I’m not 100% sure, from where I sat (in my own car, waiting to occupy a parking spot not far from where this gentleman was “fighting the good fight”), it might have been caused by (and this is just a wild guess) the 40-pound-dog sitting on his lap.
As someone old enough to be perfectly situated and comfortable in my sandwich generation, I’m not into ragging on the folks of my parents’ vintage, criticizing them for their stodgy opinions, inappropriate behavior or driving skills. After all, they are the generation from whom I learned so much and continue to learn from with each passing day. For that, and for them, I am grateful.
Likewise – unlike some of my peers – I don’t vilify the generation behind me as lazy, uninspired, entitled brats who always have their heads buried in their phones, criticizing their every move … or their driving skills.
After all, this is the generation that will ultimately have to save the world because …
… I do believe it is my generation that has responsible for most of our current problems (along with a lot of bad driving skills), so who am I to criticize anyone?
With that off my chest, let’s get back to the parking lot. Every time this guy made a move, the dog moved, blocking his vision. And there’s no way it couldn’t have been blocking the driver’s vision since it (and I use the pronoun “it” because I don’t know if the dog was male or female) was sitting – and sometimes standing -- on the guy’s lap causing him to stop and gently push the dog’s head to the side.
Again, the car would start to move, and so would the dog. The car would stop, the guy would gently push the dog to the side, tap the accelerator, then immediately tap the brake to move the dog.
Wash. Rinse. Repeat. And so on.
This went on for some time (again, about two minutes by my estimate) before these friends were finally cleared for takeoff and a smooth, comfortable drive home (assuming the dog settled in somewhere other than on the driver’s lap).
About 30 seconds into the situation, I diverted my route and found another place for my own compact sedan. But after parking, I continued to watch this scene play out, mesmerized by 1) this guy’s unwillingness to move the dog to the back seat, or even the passenger’s seat and 2) his Gandhi-like patience as he calmly and methodically nudged the dog ever so gently each time it obscured his vision.
Finally, I exited my own car, and as I passed, I was tempted to stop and offer a potential solution.
Me: (gently tapping on the driver side window) Ah, excuse sir. Sir! (I indicate for him to roll down the window. He does.) Yes, uh, hi there, you don’t know me but … um, hey … not to be a pest or, you know, but anyway …
Him: (furrowed brow, showing none of the patience I saw him exhibit with his dog) Spit it out son! Darn, what is it with your generation? Always mumbling and stumbling. Probably those dang phones you’ve always got your heads stuck into.
Me: (already regretting inserting myself into the situation) Yeah, so, I see you have your hands full, but if I may offer a … suggestion?
Him: Get to it boy, can’t you see I’ve got a 35-pound dog on my lap, and I’m trying to get out of this dang parking lot? (Even though this is a hypothetical scene that never occurred, I still claim that dog was 40 pounds.)
Me: (sheepish) OK, right, I’ll cut to the chase. Now, I’m not criticizing your driving skills, but maybe – just, you know, maybe – if you had the dog sit in the passenger seat, it might make this whole “backing out and getting home” thing a little easier.
Him: (visibly disgusted) And there it is! Your generation just thinks it … knows … everything. What, you think an old guy like me can’t back his car out of a parking spot with a dog on his lap? I was doing this before you were born, buddy! Now get outta my way! Bert and me gotta get home before our Bagel Bites thaw.
I didn’t rap on the window, and we didn’t have that – or any – verbal exchange. Instead, I
created some distance so as not to become the victim of a low-speed, car/dog/pedestrian
accident, which would have caused much more angst and headache for this guy than for me,
embarrassment for all of us and a lot of paperwork for our local police.
As I entered the store, I saw the man – along with his car, his dog and his hypothetical Bagel
Bites – slowly dodging and juking other cars and shoppers as they headed for the open road.
This situation -- which happened Sunday -- proved that I can continue to learn from the generation that came before me. What were my takeaways? First, be patient with others and second, never try to back out of parking spot with a 35- to 40-pound dog on your lap.
I hope he and “Bert” got home OK. I’m sure they did because like he “hypothetically” told me, “I was doing this before you were born, buddy!”
© 2023 David R. Haznaw