The View from a Drawbridge

The random musings of a bridgetender with entirely too much time on her hands.

The day before I wrote this was a surreal one for me. It seemed like an endless parade of the very worst of humanity. I have no idea what I had done to deserve VIP seating for this shameful display, but whatever it was, mea maxima culpa.

It was my day off, and yet I still had to make the drive to Seattle because I had a doctor’s appointment. Fortunately, the building where the doctor’s office is located has a parking garage, and I decided to take advantage of that rather than circle the building for blocks, in the blistering heat, in hopes of finding a more affordable space.

Much to my shock, I got to park at the space closest to the door which is, in turn, closest to the lobby elevators. Dear Husband calls this Doris Day parking, and who am I to pass that by? So, having suitably garaged the car, I made it to my appointment in record time.

Things didn’t start going sideways until after said appointment. I expected to breeze over to my car and toodle off about my business, as one does. But no.

You always see violence going on in parking garages in the movies and on TV. It makes you wonder why anyone would even consider entering one of these places, let alone leaving their valuable car therein. But I had never witnessed anything nefarious within one myself, so I walked into the parking garage without giving anything much thought. My car was right there, just waiting to be ignited. (Well, that’s why they call it an ignition, right?) I could hear a car approaching. That didn’t concern me very much, because, you know, that’s what cars do in these places.

So imagine my surprise when the vehicle in question came around the curve and stopped at a cock-eyed angle, completely blocking the driving lane, and… just sat there. It was creepy enough that I decided to kind of hunker down in my car with my doors locked and wait until this person moved on before I pulled out. I hadn’t been seen.

Then another car came along. The driver waited about 10 seconds, because why on earth wouldn’t car number 1 move under these circumstances? I mean, common sense, right?

Once it was clear that the driver of car 1 wasn’t a team player, the driver of car 2 laid on her horn. Since we were in the bowels of a concrete garage, this naturally echoed off all the walls to the point where none but the dead could have ignored it. The air was fairly vibrating with hornage. And yet car 1 didn’t budge.

Now I was a little concerned. Did this person have a heart attack or something? The building is a medical complex after all. I peeked over my seat. Should I get out and take a look?

Fortunately for me, before I could do this, car 1’s window rolled down, and the lady within screamed, “F*** YOU!!!”

I took that as a sign that she was in great shape, so I stayed put. “Okay, here we go,” I thought.

And then car 2’s window rolled down. She screamed, “Move your f***ing car!”

These were both middle aged women, alone in their nice cars, getting ready take off their earrings and throw down. This left me with nothing to do but clutch my pearls.  And then again with the horn. Enough already!

This prompted the lady from car 1 to leap out of the car. The blaring horn had my ears ringing, so I can’t be certain of what she said, but it was something along the lines of, “B****, you better back off…”

That would have been plenty for me. I’d have thrown it into reverse so fast I’d probably leave my torque converter bouncing down the ramp. GTFO first, call 911 later, you know? But not this lady.

She leaps out of car 2, slams the door and starts screaming. “You are in the f***ing way! Move your G****** car NOW!”

I was wishing I could employ the exit plan that car 2 had so stupidly decided against. Torque Converters can be replaced, right? But by that time my window of opportunity had disappeared. They were facing off right behind my car.

Never in my life have I seen two women punching each other in the face. Maybe I’ve led a sheltered life or something, but oh shit, they were whaling on each other, and I was freaked out. As they tumbled away from me, I heard a man shout, and saw him running toward the action. I took that opportunity to take off.

When I got to the ticket booth, I told the attendant what was going on, and he sighed and immediately reached for the phone. I suspect I’ll never find out what happened next, because I was not about to stick around to talk to the cops, especially since from my perspective, both of those fools were at fault.

Oh, and by the way, the lady in Car 2 was wearing scrubs. I know that our healthcare workers have been under an extraordinary amount of stress for the past few years, and I feel for them, but come on. I’m sure there are much easier ways to get fired than to show up in your own ER, having given as good as you got.

Feeling nauseous from the adrenaline dump, I then had to drive back home during rush hour. And people were road raging right and left. (Did I mention it was an extremely hot Tuesday afternoon?) People were tailgating and honking and swerving. I just tried to focus on getting home in one piece.

But before I got home, I needed to stop for gas, and since the station is right in front of a grocery store, I decided to go in and pick up a few things. Because, you know, what else could go wrong, right?

Wrong. I walked in, and there were no empty carts anywhere in the store. They were short staffed, and no one had gone out to collect the strays in the parking lot. People were pissed. I decided it was too darned hot to go back outside, so I just figured I’d put things in my grocery bags, and if anyone accused me of shoplifting, I’d try not to react like the women in the parking garage.

After I had picked up about half of my items, I noticed that a fresh-faced stock boy had left a line of carts full of things to be shelved in the middle of the aisle and had walked away. So I grabbed the cereal boxes out of the first cart, dumped them into the second cart, and pretty much ran away with the empty. People were eyeing my cart as if it were a porterhouse steak. It’s a jungle out there. What had come over me? I felt no sense of remorse for stealing from someone who is probably still in high school, and most likely couldn’t care less. And besides, to quote Ferris Bueller, “If I’m going to be caught, it’s not gonna be by a guy like that!”

As I wheeled the cart away, my items comfortably ensconced therein, I considered the irony of stealing a cart so as not to look like a shoplifter. I headed toward the deli section. On a day like this, I deserved elephant ears. Nothing less would do.

My timing was just abysmal that day, because I rounded the corner just as a very large man grabbed a tiny woman by the arm and spun her around. That was going to leave a mark. He bent down, inches from her face. His eyes were bulging, his face was red, and he spat out, “WE’RE TALKING ABOUT TWO DIFFERENT THINGS!!!”

Whatever that means. My instinct is always toward rescue, but I couldn’t have overpowered that guy. And besides, the woman just rolled her eyes at him as if she was used to such treatment. (If he’ll do that in a grocery store, she’s probably used to a lot more behind closed doors.)

I stood there at a distance, bearing wimpy witness, until he let her go, though. She just scoffed and walked away. I wish I could have told her that his behavior is unacceptable, but I feared escalating the situation. And she was an adult, after all. If she wanted rescuing, she could have run toward the cashiers and screamed bloody murder. If that had happened, I might have mowed him down with my stolen cart to increase her lead. Oops. But there’s only so much you can do for people.

I finished my shopping, feeling sad and tired and wanting nothing more than to go home to Dear Sane Husband.  Naturally, the checkout lines were long, so I just stood in queue with my eyes closed, waiting for this fresh hell to be over so that I could stuff my face with elephant ears on the drive. At home, I’d create a distraction from all the self-soothing carb crumbs covering the front of my shirt by giving a couple ears to DH. That would make him, effectively, an accomplice.

After finally getting past the cashier, I headed toward the exit, past the jewelry department, through women’s wear, feeling disgust that they are already trying to sell sweaters when it’s 90 degrees out. And then I walked into the alcove, the sliding doors within reach, my car within sight like a light at the end of a beastly tunnel, and that’s when I saw a guy off in the corner. He was conveniently located where he couldn’t be seen from inside the store. He was dressed in black from head to toe. He had a duffel bag that appeared to be at least three feet long. He was squatting down with his back to me, and he was rummaging through it as if he were on a critical mission.

I didn’t stick around to see the contents of that bag. I ran to my car, hopped in, pulled to the other side of the parking lot, and called the store. I asked for security. But what I got was voicemail. FFS, if someone is calling security, maybe there should be someone available to answer the phone! I called again and pressed zero and got some teenager who clearly hates her job. When I told her about the sketchy guy rummaging around in a big duffel bag in their north alcove, she just said, “Okay…”

Useless. I sat in the parking lot for a second, thinking how crazy the cops were going to think I was, because there’s no law against rummaging around in a duffel bag. But after the day I’d had, with its constant reminders of how uncivilized and hate-filled people have become since 2016, and how many innocent people have died because of it, I had no choice but to call 911.

After the usual explanations and descriptions, they said they’d send someone out, and I truly hope they did. They had my number if they had any questions, so I took myself out of firing range as I dove headlong into my elephant ears. Home has never been so sweet.

I spent the evening in a stupor, and that night I slept as if I had been hit with a brick. No one ever called, and I didn’t read about a mass shooting in women’s wear the next day. So maybe sometimes a duffel bag is just a duffel bag. Unfortunately, these days, you can never be too sure.

Now is the perfect time to stay at home and read a good book. Try mine! http://amzn.to/2mlPVh5

2 thoughts on “Witnessing the Fall of Civilization

  1. Lyn says:

    All that anxiety inducing exposure to anger and violence, in one day, is bound to have a negative impact on your physical (elephant ears carbs aside) and mental health. I’ve become so homebound because of the physical impact on my chronic conditions that my exposure to public displays of eco-anxiety and eco-grief is minimal. Mostly hearing neighbors fighting in their apartments or the parking lot. I close windows, put on headphones and try to avoid them, but then endure an increase in heat and risk heat stroke. There’s no escaping, so the psychological profession has created a specialty of eco-grief therapists. Being in the most vulnerable category, I should be a permanent fixture on their expensive couches, but can’t even afford air conditioning during a heat wave. (Would only feel guilty for contributing to climate change anyway. Air conditioning directly translates to a release of about 100 million tons of carbon dioxide each year) NPR has many climate change health impact articles that give advice on actions to minimize them. Unfortunately, I’m too physically heat compromised to benefit, but hope you can use them to navigate the daily eco-anxiety you’re dealing with. Here’s one to get you started: https://www.npr.org/2021/09/11/1035241392/climate-change-disasters-mental-health-anxiety-eco-grief
    Wondering if my increased sarcasm is an eco-grief symptom or just a by product of my recently watching the series ‘The Good Fight’ which by season two had me… 🤣… anyhow, keep fighting the good fight in your unique way.

    1. I think sarcasm is definitely on the rise, along with loss of patience and angry outbursts. Everyone has a lot of negative energy and no appropriate way to release it. Which makes interacting with strangers a bit scary. I hate the idea of you sweltering in your apartment. I hope these fires aren’t impacting you too much. We got the smoke up here yesterday and it was miserable, but I knew it was short lived. Thank you for the article link! I’ll check it out.

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