Driving a 1998 Subaru wagon with 205 thousand miles on it doesn’t put me in a hurry to get anywhere. I find keeping a lackadaisical throttle foot to be an effective survival technique, designed to milk every remaining mile out my noble Japanese steed. It’s also indicative of my thrift-artist financial situation, which as it stands requires I shop religiously at Costco as if it were a giant welfare box store.
If I need groceries, I go to Costco. If I need a shirt, I go to Costco. If I need tires, I go to Discount Tire; Costco’s nitrogen-filled tires scare me. But that doesn’t affect my general complacency when tooling around a Costco parking lot to find a vacant space, nor does it negate my outrage at the affront to my dignity that took place there recently.
As I’ve established, Costco is a pillar of my life. You know the Kirkland Signature brand of everything Costco sells? That’s a product of my hometown – Kirkland, Washington; I practically invented that crap myself.
Still, I don’t roll into a Costco parking lot expecting to be treated as royalty, much less find a parking space anywhere near the front entrance. Even if I did, I would still park a half-mile away in the back of the lot, just to avoid the ravenous crazy people who think if they cheat a walk by parking in a front row stall they won’t have to spend forty-five minutes PUSHING AN OVERSIZED SHOPPING CART AROUND A WAREHOUSE.
But I’m used to these lost souls stopping their cars directly in the flow of traffic, sometimes with their blinkers on, waiting patiently for another shopper to unload two months’ worth of groceries into their vehicle. It doesn’t bother me at all – I just drive around.
And then one day it happened. Never, ever in my tenure as a Costco Gold Star member have I seen the parking space sloppy-seconds maneuver performed in tandem by a duo of able-bodied shoppers. But there it was, splayed out before my front bumper: Two cars, facing the same direction, each waiting for a parking spot on opposite sides of the aisle.
They were completely blocking the lot’s entryway traffic in both directions.
The calm inside me began to bend, rapidly losing its elasticity. I couldn’t back up to avoid the obstruction. A line of cars had formed behind me. A minute passed… a minute and a half. It was already too much. What in the hell were the rest of us supposed to do? We were being held hostage by these louts!
I tooted my horn just long enough to emphasize a moderate degree of frustration. The lady holding up the left of the blockade turned on her blinker and pointed out her window to identify the spot she was waiting for, as if all of us had mistakenly assumed she was stopping up rush-hour traffic back to the Costco gas station for no good reason.
I don’t do road rage. What happened next was going to be a vigilante display of social justice that couldn’t be stopped or reasoned with.
Any man worth his Costco card knows the corners of his car like a cat knows its whiskers extend to the width of its body. By the looks of the terrible scene, there would be just enough room to squeeze my Subaru between the vulture lady’s car on the right and the rear bumper of the vehicle being loaded with a Kirkland Signature bounty on the left. Whether my roof-rack would clear the underside of the open hatch was up for grabs. Cats don’t have whiskers on top of their heads.
I inched through the opening, making sure to alleviate the uncomfortable tension of the pass by pointing through my windshield at where I intended to go. And it was done. Someone with a car that could easily be totaled from a minor fender bender had taken a stand against a bully, one who thought putting every Costco shopper in the greater downtown Seattle area behind her own convenience was her right for paying a $55 membership fee.
She might not have learned a lesson from my livid close quarters roll-by, but at the very least her arrogance was challenged by that of another. If she didn’t appreciate the gesture I hope she stopped to wonder why.