Rude Behavior

Sometimes civility is lost between the parking spaces at Costco.

Tucson is fast on its way to rivaling Southern California for the distinction of having the rudest people in the Southwest. Not rude in the sense of lacking information on the finer points of eating an artichoke, but rude in the sense of thoughtless, self-absorbed, self-centered and all-round obnoxious.

Flash: Life does not end at your navel. There are other creatures on the planet who, although they do not dwell in your narrow circle, are equally deserving of respect and consideration. But come to think of it, maybe some people are incapable of practicing either respect or consideration, and no amount of Clockwork Orange behavior modification would lead to an iota of change.

In the 27 years since we landed in this desert paradise, I've noticed a gradual uptick in offensive behavior and uncivil exchanges. This may be a national trend, or it may be explained by an influx of those aforementioned Californians, or perhaps it's the "too many rats in a cage" syndrome, since the number of persons harmoniously inhabiting our desert outpost peaked about 400 years ago. Whatever the reason, these days people seem more apt to sneer than smile.

On a recent too-hot-for-fall afternoon, I find myself in my least favorite place doing my least favorite thing at the dumbest time of day. Anyone with any sense is home enjoying a siesta or at least nodding off at their desk. But some fools (myself included) are stuck in polluting, gas-sucking cars idling on an asphalt parking lot radiating as much heat as the first circle of hell. Welcome to Costco on a Friday afternoon.

If you're lucky, and it's one of those days the universe isn't playfully placing obstacles at every turn, you pull into the lot and effortlessly find a shaded parking space within sight of the megastore's entrance. Don't count on this. More often, you join the parade of slow-moving vehicles driven by shoppers eager to get parked, get out and get buying. When you spot a car's backup lights, you stop, wait for it to pull out and quickly claim your spot. Usually.

But sometimes some twit--who seems to materialize like some dreadful apparition from a Stephen King novel--manages to zoom into your space as you were about to turn in. Ouch. Now you have at least two options. If you are blessed with an abundance of grace, good will and Buddha nature, you might just smile, repeat a calming mantra and move on. Alternatively, you grimace, get annoyed, then wheel off to another round of circling the parking lot.

On this occasion, I wait patiently for what I believe is a person about to drive off. But what I think is someone loading her stuff is actually a young woman unloading her child from an SUV. (These days, between the intricate car seats and several-hundred-dollar strollers you purchase--or risk being accused of child neglect--it takes a good 10 minutes to extricate your kid from a car.) She finally succeeds and walks placidly toward the entrance.

Lucky for me, another car next to hers is backing up. As this car drives off, I notice the parking space due north of it is also vacant. In this area of the lot, cars are parked facing each other in two parallel rows. As I start to make my turn, a sporty white Mustang zooms into the space.

And get this: In order to save herself the onerous burden of walking the length of one car, she passes on the space she, were she incarnated as a person mindful of others, would have taken. But no, instead she parks her ass in my anticipated spot.

Ever the optimist, I start waving, smiling and making an unmistakable "move it back" gesture. After all, I naively think, no decent human being is going to ignore a simple request from another weary, hot, fellow traveler. Back it up so we can both park and be on our way. Think again.

Not only does this biped bitch ignore my frantic plea, but as she walks in front of my car, she turns toward me, opens her arms wide and taunts, "Hit me, you gonna hit me?" It's at this instant, I realize why carrying guns is not wise. The next moment I recall my mother's favorite one-word piece of advice, "patience."

At another moment in time, under another set of circumstances, perhaps in a parallel universe where she mocks someone suffering from an acute case of road rage, there isn't a doubt in my mind this offensive, self-centered, sorry excuse for a human would find her brain splattered on her precious Mustang. While I find such over-reaction horrific, the sad truth is, these days, some fools believe offing someone for such behavior could be defended as justifiable homicide.

So think of it this way: If you can't be civil because you lack the upbringing to know it's a good and decent way to go through life, you ought to consider civility a necessity in order to save your sorry ass.

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