Downtown Salem was gridlocked last Wednesday evening. Not exactly like New York City, but it was a pretty good imitation of gridlock for generally sleepy Salem. I’d parked on the right side of Court Street at 4:30 to go to my Tai Chi class.
When I went outside at 6:15 I saw that traffic was barely moving. I went into Starbucks for my traditional post Tai Chi grande nonfat vanilla latte. The barista told me she’d heard there was an accident on Front Street. Plus, the windstorm had reportedly disabled some traffic lights.
I told her, “Fortunately I’m heading south on Commercial. Shouldn’t be a problem, since I don’t need to get on Front Street.” After a few sips of caffeine, I was feeling even better about the situation.
Getting into my car, I saw that the left two lanes on Court were moving fine. These led onto one-way Commercial. My only problem was going to be backing out of the diagonal parking on the right side of Court, where the traffic was moving glacially as people tried to get onto the nearly gridlocked Front Street.
I put my car into reverse. Backup lights shining the universal automotive message, “Here I come; let me out,” I reversed a few feet to more clearly indicate how much I wanted to leave my parking space. I glanced in the rear view mirror and saw that I was hemmed in.
“Patience, Brian,” I told myself. “Eventually that lane of traffic will move a little and the person behind the hemming-in car will let you back out.”
Nope. They didn’t. They inched forward as soon as the car in front of them did. Well, at least now I saw different sheet metal when I looked behind me. I turned on Air America and listened to some chortling about the election results.
Enjoyable, but I still preferred to be moving while rejoicing with the chortlers. I backed up a few more inches to advertise my intention more clearly. Still no Good Samaritan.
This was starting to get irritating. I was going to immediately get in one of the left lanes, so I wouldn’t even be taking up any space in the barely moving Front Street lane. I toyed with the idea of putting the car in park and walking out to have a chat with the driver of one of the cars hemming me in.
“Hey, man, got a car length to spare? I’m an out of work disabled veteran trying to get to church.” Something like that.
Thankfully, a lady finally came along who stopped and beckoned to me to back out. I gave her my finest wave of appreciation in return. And was speeding along Commercial Street a few moments later.
What gives with us Americans these days? Okay, it was stormy and people were trying to get home after a long work day. Yet this wasn’t enough stress to justify acting like a jerk. Letting someone on a busy street back out of a parking space doesn’t require being a Mother Teresa.
It just means being willing to get home a few seconds later. We need to slow down and not try to move so fast, just like Simon and Garfunkel told us to.
I’d continue this rant by pointing out in more detail the ridiculousness of those who leave their Fred Meyer shopping carts butted up against other people’s cars rather than push them a few feet to a cart drop-off area, and also of those who take their (and other’s) lives in hand to pass a couple of cars on a two-lane mountain road just so they can be #13 behind a slow-moving tractor trailer rather than #15.
But I need to practice what I’m preaching. Time to get really slow on the couch in front of our TV set.