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Friday, September 24, 2010

Parking Lot Dickery

As a self proclaimed prick I take pride in my acts of dickery. However, I at least try to do no harm. It’s all about the absurdity of a situation for me. What’s the one thing that could make an event turn completely on its axis and shoot off into another direction? Kind of like when Christ Pontius, on Jackass, would dress up like a Chippendale dancer and just show up somewhere. Most of my shenanigans are done for comedic effect and usually result in no one being hurt, especially me. And be relieved, no Speedos or thongs are involved. In any case, I was reminded of a particular stunt I pulled, soon after I began working at my current job, after a conversation with one of the people who witnessed it.

It was back in 2001 and our office was in the outskirts of Pittsburgh near the offices of WTAE Channel 4. It was a building that was used, not only by us, but by other companies so the parking lot was full of cars and parking was at a premium. Unfortunately, I was on a later shift since I had just started working there and since I didn’t have to be at work until 10:00 am, I was left with whatever parking space I could find. On the rare occasion that I had to come in for training or had the 11:30 to 8:00 shift, I was able to snag a nice space up front on the top level. I either was there before the rush of people or as those who went out for lunch had left. Parking on top was ideal because it was a short seven or eight steps from the ground while. Otherwise, I was forced to circle the lower level of the parking lot which was tight to maneuver. Luckily, I had a 97 Cavalier which didn’t take up too much space.

Pretty much everyone on my team was screwed because we handled West Coast customers and had that weird 10:00 AM to 6:30 PM shift. Our desks were right up against the window, so we could see all the lucky bastards who had earlier shifts leaving for the day. However, there was this one guy we couldn’t place. He must have worked for one of the other companies in the building because he was always leaving at 4:00. No one had those kind of hours where I was at. We didn’t care who he worked for, he was evil and needed to die for having a life. We sat our desks and when 4:00 hit we’d stare out at the parking lot and fire mind bullets at him.

It’s amazing how you can live vicariously through others just by watching the parking lot. There was the people who drove the big SUVs and we imagined they were upper middle class yuppies who had three kids in soccer and after school activities. This was all before 9-11 and life was different. People drove big cars and had big houses and didn’t think in ten years they’d be going through a recession and have to worry whether they still had a mortgage they could afford. Then there was the corvette that belonged to someone who didn’t have a job near important enough to actually own one. It was probably someone compensating for something or having a midlife crisis. But most intriguing was the person who parked far away from everyone else, usually towards the back of the parking lot. With everyone jockeying for prime parking spots, this person was bucking the trend and staying away from people. But why?

It wasn’t the soccer mom with the SUV. It wasn’t the corvette owner. It was a Pontiac Grand Am, for Pete’s sake. It didn’t even look brand new. It looked like a late 90s model. Who the hell owned this thing and felt it was so important that it had to be isolated from the possibility of being breathed on by other people? But all this speculation went away as 4:00 rolled around and our favorite mind bullet target appeared in the parking lot. Tall and skinny, he walked with a nerdy gait and carried a briefcase. Completing his look was a Member’s Only jacket that looked straight out of Burt Reynold’s 80’s collection. As he trotted up the steps he began to pass one row of cars. Then he passed another row. Oh my God! He’s the guy. He walked up to the Pontiac like he was approaching a King Cobra poised to strike. If he moved to fast, the slightest change in wind direction could cause it to age or something. That sealed it for me. In my best Jack Burton voice I said, “Son-of-a-bitch must pay!” [machine gun cock]

The next day I arrived at work to see my new best buddy, once again, parked at the back of the parking lot. I instantly made a bold move. I parked right next to him. There was even a real choice spot up in the front of the lot, next to the steps, but I didn’t care. I was going to be a dick for the sake of being a dick. This was one of my pet peeves. When someone thinks their car is so new and shiny and untouchable that they feel the need to park away from everyone I want to just key the damn thing. Worse yet is those who decide that they don’t want to park far away to prove their point so they take up two spots allowing for extra room on either side of their doors. I’ve always wanted to stop these people and say, “You know what? If you think your car is some inherent danger, you shouldn’t take it out of the garage.”

So, this situation was double jeopardy in that not only did this guy get to leave early, he feels his car is in danger and has to park far away. “Commence dickery,” I thought. I didn’t park right up against him, but close enough to his passenger’s side to give the illusion that I could ding his Pontiac, getting out. Of course, I was very careful in getting out of the car as to not actually hit it. Remember, no one gets hurt. It’s all about the illusion and absurdity. I do another little gag when I’m walking up towards our break room, which has all glass in the front that faces the hallway. When I see someone coming out and they aren’t paying attention to hall traffic, I slightly knock on the door and then hold my nose like I just got hit in the head. It usually gets a reaction of “OMG! I didn’t see you!” Which I let them believe they actually hurt me for like two more seconds then I let them in on the ruse. Like I said, I’m a dick but just for laughs.

After a long day of answering the phone I couldn’t wait until 4:00, even though, I had two and a half more hours to work. I had clued my coworkers into my dickery so we could all watch the show because while our mind bullet sniper sessions were great watching what happened next was priceless.

4:00 on the dot and ‘Member’s Only Man’ began his nerd walk. He made it up the steps and started towards the back of the lot and paused. The lot was half empty on top that day so there was no need to use the back row in the first place. But there my Cavalier was, snuggled up alongside his Grand Am. He took a few seconds and then approached the car. He seemed unsure as to what was happening but it was great to watch. We all laughed out loud at him when he stopped in his tracks. He got in his car and drove away and the joke was over. Or was it? Not by a long shot. He almost escaped. He almost got away unscathed but he made one fatal mistake.

The next day, when I arrived at work, I couldn’t help myself. Once again, the parking lot was half full and the perimeter spaces, along the wall of the lot, were all empty. As I made my way into the lot I saw Member’s Only Man parked on the opposite side, all alone. I couldn’t believe it. He moved. He actually moved because, the day before, I parked next to him. Unreal and opportunistic for me. Not only did I park next to him, again, I parked backwards so that my driver’s side door was facing his. Like before, I was careful not to hit his car, getting out.

4:00 rolled around and a larger crowd now gathered at the windows to watch the show. Nerd walk up to the lot. Pass by rows of cars. Stop dead in tracks. I could only imagine what was going through his mind. “Was this a trap? Is there someone with a camera watching? “ He started looking around the lot for someone, anyone watching from the bushes. He slowly walked up to his car. Now, usually, comedy comes in threes. But I was willing to end the joke right here and now to save on it becoming stale. However, you can’t write this stuff. Sometimes the jokes come right out of the situation and I was inspired to go at least one more day because he actually checked his door for dings. He was honestly afraid that I dinged his precious Pontiac. So, not only did I continue it one more day, I went the rest of the week.

I suspect that he was on to us because the next day he challenged me by not moving. He must have sensed that we would have to be watching him in order to continue carrying out the joke. Eventually, I got tired of parking far away and just ended it. But not before another co-worker joined in and parked on his other side on the third day. That was too funny. He tried to play off the reaction but it was obvious he was beginning to realize he was being made fun of for his parking choices. After that he started parking with everyone else and I felt satisfied in my attempt to be a dick for no reason.

I don’t know what happened to that guy and I’ve stopped doing things like that at work because I usually get in around 7:00 AM, which is before most people. I still see some, parking their shiny new status symbols far away from people, but we are also in a different building with only our company as tenants so it would be pretty easy to figure out who was doing the dickery. Still, it was fun while it lasted.

For those about to mock, we salute you.

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