Ease up on the gas, that’s the first thing. Drop your speed to just a little slower than “necessary”, because to do this right you can’t be getting ahead of yourself.
And there could be kids around. Maybe yours even, if this is one of those times when you don’t know what they’re up to. As always, you’re in a china shop, so be gentle.
When you see a vacant spot, your natural tendency might be to thrust your motor-carriage in there as quickly as possible, antsy that some circling vulture in a Jeep YJ and white sunglasses will wheel in there first and pretend he didn’t see you already headed that way.
That won’t happen, but you should be prepared to let it. Letting angst park your car for you is a rookie mistake. There is a better spot farther away. Walking a little more is an advantage, unless you think (as many do) that walking across a parking lot is a wasted and purely obligatory part of a person’s life. Clearly you wouldn’t be reading this if you were truly convinced that the worthwhile part of life happens only once you’re across the parking lot, inside Wal-Mart or Safeway or whatever.
If that first spot is your spot, and you can take it with grace, then do so. Or keep moving until you find one. You’ll find one.
Park. Turn off the ignition. Before you exit the carriage, pause for a moment. Now, I should clarify that by pause I don’t mean “wait.” There is nothing to wait for if you are pausing. To pause is to stop and pay attention. To wait is to stop your body while you continue to the next moment in your head. For a proper parking-lot-crossing — or a proper anything-else — we want to avoid this.
So pause, and at least remember how cool it is that you were able to sit all the way here. Your ancestors would have been too humble to even joke about a chair that hurtles across cities. You sat all the way here. Good for you, for living in such a time. If you do nothing else right today, at least you sat at fifty miles an hour.
Feel your weight in the seat, because you’re about to relieve it of its thankless services and let the pavement take over. Open the door, and as you do so, listen to exactly what it sounds like in the moment that inside becomes outside.
It’s a remarkable sound, and while you have a chance to hear it several times a day, you probably pass up most of those chances because your mind is somewhere else. Since we’re doing a high-quality crossing of the parking lot for a change, make sure you’re there for it this time.
Now you’re outside the car, standing on a great asphalt platter. This is not a bad time to stretch, but you don’t have to. You might as well. Stretching is something people generally don’t regret doing.
When it’s time to walk across the parking lot, don’t walk like everyone else. Most of them won’t even really be walking. Look around, they’re probably more marching than anything. Maybe scurrying. They want to be anywhere but walking across a parking lot.
A lot of the time when we’re walking, we’re doing it just so we can be done with walking. There are times when that’s not true though. If you can walk across a parking lot like you’re walking in a bathrobe from the shower to the kitchen on a saturday morning, then you can make vast swaths of your time on this earth much better. This is no joke. If you get it, you get it.
That bathrobe pace and posture is the proper way to cross a parking lot. It should feel like you’re traveling alongside the pool to the snack bar — nothing disagreeable about the in-between part, and it shows in your face and your pace. I guess the verb we’re looking for is basking. Bask while you walk. It doesn’t need to be “nice” out. Yes, you can bask in cold air too. You can bask in rain. And if it’s sunny, well, lucky you.
Even if you run into an anxious car waiting for you to cross a lane, do not hurry! You have the right of way but you may still be tempted to trot a little bit here. Don’t do it. Let them wait. Remember, waiting is a choice, and they’re sitting in a motorized throne with music and climate control. Continue your poolside pace, and don’t forget to enjoy this part too. Deciding not to worry about making someone wait is one of life’s great feelings.
Eventually you’ll run out of parking lot and you’ll find another door. Make sure you are there for the moment that outside turns to inside.
Do this. Millions of people live and die without ever suspecting that joy can be had in the simple act of crossing a parking lot. If you think this post is ridiculous, you may be one of them.
Photo by David Cain
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