Saturday, 10 February 2007

Moral Cowardice and Self-loathing

Yoda, Master Po and Mr. Miyagi all agree: the person I’m really angry at is myself. I’m angry because I’m a confrontation-averse, unassertive, passive coward.

To people without children, you may not realise the importance of ‘parents with prams’ spaces in shopping centre car parks. You may even begrudge the centre management’s decision to reserve spaces for a group of people with no legal claim on special parking spots, and whom you may never have any desire to join. That, to paraphrase Britney’s crappy cover, is your prerogative.

But, if, like me, you have small children and, like me, find it extremely difficult to remove said children from your car when you’re parked between a door-blocking concrete pillar and a road-and-car-space-hogging Brobdingnagian road tank, you may appreciate the extra width of a parents-with-prams spot. What luxury it affords! One can actually open the doors on both sides to unbuckle car seats and extract helpless bundles! One can manoeuvre prams alongside instead of leaving them in the path of car park hoons and ungainly trolley-tractors! If one can actually snag one, that is.

At my local shopping centre, out of hundreds of spaces there are only five of these much sought-after spots. Competition for them is fierce. More often than not, I miss out, but that’s okay – I can park somewhere less convenient and make do, and hope for better luck next time. And then I see them – the person sans both pram and children, strolling insouciantly towards their car which I now see has no child seats, parked in what should have been MY spot! Like a man-sized cauldron from a bad ’30s movie about jungle-dwelling cannibals, it makes my blood boil. But I stomp off and fume in silence.

This has happened many, many times, and I was finally moved to action by an obviously unentitled car arrogantly taking up two parents-with-prams spaces. My ‘action’ involved an apologetic, I-know-it’s-not-your-fault-and-there’s-probably-nothing-you-can-do rant to the beleaguered girl behind the concierge desk, and a polite, benefit-of-the-doubt note on the windscreen. What I really wanted to do was key the car, and suggest management tow it away.

Then, just a few days ago, I had the perfect opportunity to speak out on behalf of cheated parents. It was my lucky day and I’d scored one of the coveted car spaces, but as I was preparing to leave I noticed a car waiting to pull in to my spot, a car containing not a frazzled parent with small children, but two women about the ages of my mother and grandmother. If you’re so infirm you can’t park in the next aisle over and walk an extra two metres, I thought, frowning at the car which was inconsiderately blocking other through traffic, then you should obtain a disabled permit and park in the appropriate space! Passive-aggressive as always, I slowed to a sloth’s pace, packing away the pram and pulling out four times more slowly than usual. The inconsiderate, self-entitled biddies took my spot.

I had said nothing. I could have smiled, walked over to the driver’s window and politely and respectfully drawn to their attention that the space they were after was reserved for parents with prams. They might have replied rudely and parked there anyway, or maybe they might have been contrite and parked elsewhere, but I’ll never know.

Failed yourself, you have, Grasshopper-san!

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