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 her 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."