Hair Curlers Optional
The first thing you need to understand about Parking Lot Culture (PLC) is that it more than just exists: it comes and goes, ebbs and flows, waxes and wanes, twists and turns and rocks and rolls, while it also hems and haws. It is teeming with life and energy, even as it lounges lethargically on its side.
If it did not seem just a tad peculiar, I would come right out and admit that I have become an expert on the subject, through no other formal methodology than that of observation. I have become an authority on PLC because, well, I hang out in parking lots a lot.
I mean, I help grocery shop, including expertly sacking the groceries, meticulously placing the tomatoes and avocados on the bottom of the bag so they don’t fall out. I go into Pierson’s and check out all of the ornamental flower options with Annie, and I am happy to stand in lines to pay bills and perform those kinds of errands. I do it with ease.
However, I do not like venturing into big department stores, the ones where a guy like me can-and does-get routinely turned around.
Can you say “directionally challenged?” I can get lost in a corner Seven-Eleven; it’s a gift. I’m the type who gets easily confused, trapped in a maze of sugar, clothes and glitz. I do not like jockeying for position in front of the cargo pants displays, nor do I like folks hovering behind me.
I have no need to keep up with the latest fashion trends, as long as I have lots of pockets and I do not like crowded venues, even ones which are singularly attractive.
Thus it is that I spend a fair amount of time in our little pickup truck, out in parking lots. Hey, I can handle some gnarly venues in Ukiah, whether it is Gall-Mart, Spaceway, or the Lost Office to mail a package. I ain’t skeered, but that being said, there are pitstops along the highway of life that are more designed for Annie than for me.
She loves antique shops, thrift stores, fabric boutiques, and quilting venues, and she enjoys spending a minute or two engaging in the art of just browsing. She has little money to spend, so it’s not like she goes on binges, plus I enjoy riding shotgun on her travels.
Besides, some parking lots have decent art work.
I always go into the various businesses long enough to establish that I have a high regard for the shop and its contents, before fading to the friendly confines of the truck. I just like to clarify that the scruffy-looking dude out there in the parking lot, is actually attached to the saucy and chic Annie. Nothing cements a male’s legitimacy in this world, like that of being associated with a beautiful woman.
After all, if she lets him hang out with her, he can’t be all bad, even if he shuns the shop experience for that of the outside world. And make no mistake, that outside world is teaming with activity; you know this if you are an inhabitant of it for any more than two minutes.
I mean, say there are only ten available parking places in the little backlot behind the upscale antique shop(pe), and all of them are filled. A minimum of three of those vehicles will be occupied, more often than not, by more than one person.
Extrapolate that out to the expansive Gall-Mart lot in Ukiah, and you have enough PLC to start an army. The uniforms of the troops are diabolically simple: sweat pants and tight-fitting tops, with hair curlers optional.
This army produces a cacophony of noise, from the incessant chirping of horns as folks lock up their whips, to the slightly more urgent blaring of the same horns as the alarm systems are activated by…the barking of the great dane in the back of the truck in the next slot.
Horns and dogs are as inevitable as sound systems. I was going to say music, but it’s not about the tunes: It’s about the volume. We’re not talking ear-splitting, we’re talking about splitting the atom. And it’s being done via the base component of multiple sets of 808 drums, amplified by the best systems that Dolby can provide.
All of this ambience is available to me on a continuous basis, heightened by my own personal encounters, which are inevitable. If I choose an outlying spot, inhabited only by a smattering of vehicles, I am certain to draw a crowd like a stoner with a sack of OG Kush at Reggae on the River.
|Meet Suzy Puente|
I might be reading my book, I might be working on a piece of writing on Suzy Puente, my new computer, or I may be lucky enough to find the the establishment provides internet access.
Whatever, I stay occupied.
Just don’t expect wifi at Ellie’s in Ukiah. I made the mistake of asking for the password to access their internet, and was informed by a quite-flustered wait-person, that the internet was only available to the hierarchy. That wasn’t his word but that’s what he meant. He was abjectly apologetic.
Folks routinely pull into the parking lot…and just sit there. No one gets out, there is no indication that anyone is about to get out and life goes on.
Primping? Maybe. Completing a phone call/text? Probably. Making a store list? Yeah, whatever. There are a hundred possibilities, including being merely a chaperone or a gopher. All exist more or less independently of one another, and yet all form a cog in the machine that is the PLC.
I’m part of this Parking Lot Culture, by definition. Oddly enough, homeless individuals are rarely part of this army. For some reason they are not welcome around unguarded personal belongings of others, especially vehicles, and are frequently harried into moving along. Weird, I know.
I have observed multiple clandestine rendezvous between two parties, who each arrived in a separate vehicle. Items have been exchanged. Knowing, even smug glances have been exchanged. Business has been conducted in these parking lots, none of it mine.
Like Sergeant Sholtz, I see nothing, I hear nothing (metaphorically if not literally) and I know nothing.
Well, that’s not accurate. I know enough to keep both windows all the way down for efficient ventilation.