23 December 2008

the meaning of community

So I'm sick. And I had my yearly "girl parts" appointment today, the first doctor's visit since being back in the US. So it was automatically traumatic, even if it went perfectly. Ha. Couldn't find the office buried in the middle of the hospital complex. 15 minutes late. No idea what the prescription said. Everything actually went very smoothly. I was in head cold fog, but managed to smile and nod and do the right things at the right times, as you do.

On the way home, I stop at local pharmacy (rather than evil CVS) to minimize the trauma and maximize the potential that I might, indeed, fill that prescription. I miscalculated. It's the 23rd, and yet school is still in session? There are about 20 private schools right next to the little shopping strip with the pharmacy, and so parking/driving was a bit, well, let's say third world. I pulled well past the school mess and managed to find a space--for those of you who know us, this is problematic as we love our cars and in fact don't go out unless we know there's a place to park--end space, protected on six sides from door dings/bumper rash/tree and bird droppings. So I found a space. I parked carefully. A passer-by came up--nice woman in her 30s--and waved my door open. I opened it, sniffled, squinted, said: yes? And she informed me that in fact, had I parked a few feet back, someone could park in front of me. And had I parked a few feet forward, someone could park behind me. And I should think about the community when I park, think about others.

I was non-plussed. She wasn't angry or agitated, just a bit preachy, which is fair enough I suppose. I said: yes, I know I parked this way. It's so that no one will hit my car when they park. She said: well, that's less important than caring about the community by parking so others can park. Now, having learned from Northern Exposure that sometimes the best cure for a conversation you don't understand is to stay silent and look slightly confused, I tried this. It worked. She walked away saying Merry Christmas; I said: okay, thanks! Merry Chrismtas! got out of my car and ran into the pharmacy.

It was weird.

And it got me thinking about community. She didn't want to commune with me in any way. No name, no introduction, no--hey, do you live around here too? You new to town? No interest in connecting with me as a human being. So it can't be about that, surely. What if I'd asked her if she'd like to join me for coffee at the nearby Starbucks to discuss said community? I don't know. That would have been communing. We could have discussed parking issues, perhaps gotten at what was wrong with her day. What kind of family she had visiting. What kind of car she drives.

I'm not a very community person, to be sure, what with the whole misanthrope thing. But perhaps community is also about accepting the eccentricities of those in your community who are a little (or a lot) different than you. She clearly has issues with not having enough parking around her house/business/life. I get that. I get the tire-slashing rage at lack of parking. Empathize. Been there. And she can have that issue. I have an issue with people damaging my property for no reason, causing me endless days of hassle, real money with insurance agents/plans, lack of transportation, and all over the holiday season when these things would really really be a pain. I know I'm weird. Other people don't have the car thing. But I do. So perhaps community is about recognizing that hey--that crazy lady with the new silver Mini just parked like an ass. She must love that car. Ah well. I guess if she drove an SUV instead of the shortest car in America (Smart car aside) she'd be taking up about the same amount of room, right?

And if we were all automatons parking properly, then frankly I wouldn't have this parking issue. But we're not. And that's what's interesting about community. It's about differences. People coming together despite and because of them. So thank you, fellow community member on the side of the road, scolding me despite the season. Go forth and do what makes you happy. I'll continue to park obnoxiously when I have to drive, 'cause I'm a bit weird. Coffee's on me next time we meet.

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