Monday, November 14, 2005

driving lessons (accent 5)

A little tip from me to you when you start to work for a major multinational corporation that hires highly qualified people from all walks of life and all corners of the globe - watch out for the other drivers in the parking deck/lot/area.

I'm NOT kidding. It's life or death out there. It's a place in which the most junior exec can vent her frustrations over a bad morning or afternoon by ignoring all rules and taking on all comers who might cross her path, a place in which the Senior VP just might drive a crappy car and if he cuts you off you'd better NOT flip him off in retribution because he's got your tag number baby and can make your life very miserable in the future. Everybody must be treated fairly if you want to survive that concrete jungle.

Everyone except for crappy drivers. Fair and mature treatment of this portion of the driving population is stilted because a good number of them simply do not know how to drive. You've all seen them, those swivel-necked chuckleheads who are are stymied and mystified by things like turn signals and maintaining a constant speed and gentle braking. In the parking lot they will cruise at 5 miles per hour, making you, who normally zips up and down looking for a place to park that isn't too crowded because you're not all that comfy with the idea of swinging into a slim space between 2 cars that are worth more than double your car's top dollar value, have to grit your teeth with impatience and aggravation and the clear notion that you are superior in so many ways to this DOLT in the car in FRONT of you. Periodically, they will slam on brakes when a butterfly sneezes because that could mean that someone somewhere is starting their car and just might be actually pulling out and the unbelievably AWESOME space about to be vacated might be right in FRONT of them and they'd better just sit tight and wait to see it if it is, while a line of smoulderingly angry people behind them pound their steering wheels and shout in wretched irritation and righteous parking deck anger. What's worse, when the subpar driver in questions DOES find a spot in which to park, it will take them several tries to sqeeeeeze into the space they've spent 10 minutes waiting for, and then as a final coup de grace will open their door too swiftly and smash it into the car next to them. They will then fail to take notice of the dent they've just generated in the neighboring car and will busily gather their coffee cup, lunch bag, and overstuffed briefcase in an effort to perform the literal modern-day equivalent of staring heavenward and whistling nochalantly when trying to avoid the accusatory eyes of their fellow men and women who happen to have seen ALL the backward behavior and poor citizenship, and are shooting death rays out their eyes and hoping that maybe someday soon Mr/Miss bad driver will have just a teeny heart attack and have to stay on bed rest for several weeks before resuming any driving duties so as to give the rest of us a break.

It was my very first real paying corporate job that taught me to watch out like a hawk for other drivers in parking lots, because they're distracted by their nervous search for just the right spot in a vast cavern of available spots, or they're just naturally really crappy drivers with no depth perception and very poor low-light vision. Or, they think they actually might OWN the lot because they've worked at company X longer than you, which is how my first new car was totaled......

Which is a story! It goes like this -

It happened one lunch time several months after starting my new "professional" job as a REAL scientist, and I was driving out to lunch with some friends through a very large open lot arranged in a grid pattern and with no indicators as to who had the right of way. I was headed out toward the access road in my little foreign car, when out of the BLUE appeared this enormous American-made land yacht headed right into the passenger's side of my car! There was NOT time to stop, and smash!!! We were hit! Glass flew, heads smacked against windows, I swore a blue streak and checked on my friends. I was gratified to see that all of them were, eventually, able to tell me their names and didn't seem to be bleeding from the nose or ears. The surreal part came next, when the woman who hit us (going at LEAST 30 miles an hour, in the parking lot!) leapt from her car and commenced to cursing at ME because "she had the right of way!" To which I, because my head was still spinning, calmly replied by asking her to point out the traffic signals or signs that would indicate that she did, indeed, own the road as she so fervently believed she did. This query resulted in the reply of - "well, this is how the traffic went until they closed the entrance down there."

Yes, she believed she had the right of way because she was following the age-old lunchtime migration pattern of corporate workers. One that was SECRET and UNMARKED and I should have known about! What cheek to assume otherwise! What umbrage she took at my questions!

Well, according to protocol the corporate functionaries were alerted about my unfortunate incident, and the day AFTER my accident, which totalled my new car and left me with $4000 to pay on a loan for a car that no longer existed, actual STOP signs appeared in the lot and the migration pattern became UNSECRET and MARKED. Stop signs that, if they'd been there the day before, would have clearly indicated that the ancient lunchtime migratory pattern had changed, and I was right, and she was wrong. Wrong! I joyfully gloated in this knowledge while nursing whiplash and calling my other 3 friends who were in various stages of disrepair from the same unhappy incident.

Small victory, and serious lesson learned. Watch your back out there; it's dangerous in the lot.

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