DEAR MISS MANNERS: On a recent Saturday, after eating lunch, I walked out to where my car was parked on the street. A car pulled up near me and the woman driving asked, “Are you leaving?” I responded, “Not yet.” I realize, in hindsight, that she must have misheard me as saying “Yes.”
I got in my car and got ready to brush my teeth. You see, I have an orthodontic device, and, pursuant to my dentist’s instructions, I have to take it out to eat and then brush my teeth before I put it back in. I had water bottles set up in the car for the purpose of rinsing and spitting.
As I was brushing my teeth, the woman in the other car pulled up in front of me. As I brushed, she occasionally inched closer to my car. Finally, she did a three-point turn and parked on the other side of the street.
This all happened within a matter of minutes. As she walked by, she shouted to me, “I thought you said you were leaving.”
“I said, ‘Not yet,’” I responded.
She then said that I could have pulled up and let her have the spot while I brushed my teeth, and that what I did was rude.
“Really?” I said. When she said “yes,” I responded, “Have a nice life.”
She then said, “Go away! Go back where you come from!” (That was kind of an odd thing to say. This took place in New York, and I’m from Connecticut.) I left, so that was the end of the exchange.
Most of the people I have told about this incident thought that I had the right to keep the spot until I was ready to leave. One friend told me that what he says in such a situation is, “I need a few minutes,” which would be less likely to be heard as “Yes” than what I said.
However, one friend said the kind thing to do would have been to give her the spot and then brush my teeth elsewhere. Honestly, that did not cross my mind at the time. This friend also thought that our exchange was ridiculous for two adults. What do you think?
GENTLE READER: The etiquette around parking spaces is closer to that of checkout lines than that of rental apartments. People at the back of a line can expect those in front of them to make reasonable efforts to expedite things. People moving into a new rental can have no reasonable expectation that you will clear out weeks before your lease expires.
Miss Manners realizes that the person coming and the person going may have different ideas of what is reasonable. Whatever your own definition was, it will go over better if you acknowledge the other party’s needs by appearing to go as quickly as you can. The other party is then expected to refrain from glaring or showing other obvious signs of displeasure.
Had your response to “Are you leaving?” been, “I’m so sorry. I’m almost ready but I do need a minute,” you might have avoided the subsequent unpleasantness. (c) MISS MANNERS
This is so entertaining! It’s like play-by-play drama. He said, and then she said, and then he said… I’m riveted.
Here we have a letter writer from my own heart, one who narrates his life like it’s a story to be shared and in fine detail, complete with dialogue and commentary from his friends. I love this guy! (Granted, I’m not sure why I’m assuming his gender as male, but why not?)
While I agree with Miss Manners’ theories and techniques for avoiding unpleasantness, I disagree with her analogy of expectations. No one should ever lay claim to a parking spot that someone else is presumably about to vacate. Just trust me on this–it will only lead to heartache. Just find someplace else to park, or at least don’t breathe down the exiting driver’s throat.
I think my beef with it is that as a paranoiac, I don’t want to be forced into answering a question being asked of me by a complete stranger, and a stranger with an agenda at that. I’ve never been in this position, but if it were to happen to me, it would go like this:
Complete stranger: Are you leaving?
And then I’d leave, probably while fighting off waves of macabre laughter. (Sometimes it’s disgustingly entertaining, being me.) It’s just… you know… I hate being put on the spot to 1) engage in a social exchange, and 2) give something to someone who’s being grabby.
In my neighborhood, there’s a bigger issue of people who park and then let their lights run and/or their engines idle. Whenever I go to the gym, it’s after dark, and when I exit the gym and get into my car, I’m constantly afraid that the lit-up cars are going to start moving and crash into me as I drive past them due to incompetence on the part of the drivers. I also worry while getting into my car that their cars will start at the wrong moment and run me over. They could put my mind at ease (and save the environment) by, I dunno, turning off their cars…? But that’s too much to ask. [Eyeroll.]
And often, I’ll be walking LuLu around the block after dark, and there’ll be a car or two in the parking lot across the street. The cars will just be sitting there with their bright lights shining all over me and LuLu. I often take the opportunity to make a few rude hand gestures to practice my shadow puppetry.
(Kids, don’t try this at home.)
And sometimes, a car will face me and LuLu directly while it’s exiting the parking lot across the street. The car will stop instead of pulling onto my street, and its lights will be blinding me. I’ll just stare at the car, like, dude, you’re really irritating me. Keep driving. Don’t just stop your car there. There’s no traffic in sight. You can pull out anytime. Any day now.
My steely death glare eventually inspires them to take action and drive away into the cold, dark night.
I don’t know why, but it’s a huge pet peeve of mine.
But anyway, I think the lady who got mad at the letter writer was being a bit entitled. I understand that she wanted a parking space, but it would really vex me to have to interact with a stranger about such a thing. And if said stranger misheard me, I wouldn’t want that to become my problem, no matter what, hard stop. (And I’ve had hearing loss since birth.) It was presumptuous and pushy of her to ask in the first place. That she misunderstood his answer and glowered at him as he practiced good dental hygiene and then lectured him is disgraceful and lacking in proper decorum.
If you want to poach a parking spot, that’s fine. But don’t be pushy to the point of asking a stranger if they’re done with the spot and then criticizing the stranger when you misheard his response. That all seems so wrong to me. “Have a nice life,” was a good comeback.
[If you’d said,] “I’m so sorry. I’m almost ready but I do need a minute,” you might have avoided the subsequent unpleasantness.
No… you need to mince words when someone’s driving. What if there’s a car behind her, waiting to drive past? I think it needs to be short and simple. One thing I’d recommend as someone who’s hard of hearing would be to nod or shake your head effusively as part of the response.