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The Perils of Parking Lots

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Perils of Parking LotsHaving learnt to drive at a mature age, and only in the face of dire necessity, I cannot say that it is one of the things I most enjoy doing. Of course, on a Sunday morning or afternoon, with the roads cleared of excess traffic, it is wonderful to be cruising along in my wine-red car, with the latest hits from ‘Radio Mirchi’ enlivening the moment. But at other times, where the slight slope on a traffic light makes me slide backwards towards an auto only a nano-millimeter away behind me, and the said auto driver begins a furious onslaught with both horn and gunthroat, I feel that driving is the absolute pits. 

I also have a decent collection of scratches on the less than two year old surface of my car – some inflicted by my encounters with tricycle carts, some by my daughter and son’s brushes with other moving objects while they drove. Its obvious that driving around, in the relatively disciplined traffic of a modern Indian metro has never been incident-free for me. 

However, only one situation produces a road-rage so white-hot, so blinding in intensity for me that I have come close to hitting someone several times in the recent past (with due apologies to Navjot Singh Sidhu, the epitome of this particular brand of fury) and that is, the peculiar behaviour of parking lot attendants.   

It is an established fact that parking lot attendants in Indian metros seem to have received some special training at a concentration camp somewhere, that makes them stand idly chatting to their peers till a car has actually come to a halt in a parking slot. This is the cue for these worthies to come darting forward, stand in front, or on the side of the car where the owner-driver has just creaked on the hand brake, and is rolling up windows and collecting cell phone, preparatory to getting down. With eloquent hand gestures, and helpful suggestions, these attendants begin to tell the owner-driver how his or her car should actually be parked. The fact that they could have done this with better success before the said car had come to a complete halt seems to bother them not a jot.   

I might have considered my particular ill-treatment at the hands of uniformed parking lot attendants a coincidence, if it were not such a universal experience. I happen to be close friends with the proprietrix of a rather classy gift-shop-cum-café in my city. Twice, with two different attendants on duty, I have slid into the parking lot of her establishment, and parked my car, only to have the attendant come racing up to me and ask me to re-park, when mine is the only car in the whole parking space! Other friends have also shared their parking horror stories with me at the hands of watchmen (as they are called in Mumbai) or guards (as they are called in the North and in Delhi). Becoming a parking lot staffer seems to unleash a hidden streak of sadism in men from North to South, East to West. 

On the other hand, my son seems to suggest that it is my own category – middle aged, female, nervous about driving, that really suffers at the hands of parking attendants. If you are one with your car, he reasons, you can manouvre it any way at any time and at any one’s request. I suppose this could be true, and I do not contradict my son.   

But if ever I’m guilty of culpable homicide not amounting to murder, the victim may well be a parking lot attendant. 

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