The real parking problem in Los Angeles is not the dearth of spaces or the high cost of meters. No, the real problem is that scourge of the surface street--space thieves. You know, the guy who pulls a U and then backs into the space you've clearly been waiting for. Well, I've found the way to deal with these people. Have a baby.
I used to be the kind of person who would grin and bear it. I'd remind myself that the guy probably had a gun. I'd smile wanly as he strode past me, as if it really didn't bother me that I faced another 10 minutes of parking-spot lottery. I believed that niceness would earn me something. Low blood pressure. Peace of mind. A parking space in heaven. I believed that if enough people were patient and nice, L.A.--and the world--would be a better place.
Then I had a baby. Now, when I cruise the parking lot looking for a free spot, my kid is wailing for lunch, attention and the toy she's launched into the back seat. I am operating on 2 1/2 hours sleep. I have no patience for nice. I have no time for nice. Now, I throw my car into park, march over to the guy, twist my face into a mask of disbelieving irritation and say, "Excuse me."
There's usually no need to elaborate. People look at me in mock surprise, mumble, "Oh, sorry," and pull out. But I do have a speech prepared. "Excuse me," I'll say. "I'm a mother of a toddler, and while I have to give \o7 her \f7 some leeway in boorish behavior, it's not part of the social contract for me to extend the same privilege to someone sentient enough to earn a driver's license."
The possibility that the driver could stick a gun in my face wouldn't make me pause a second. I am, after all, a mom. I could simply hold out my hand and say "Give me that gun. Now."