My husband asked me the other day why I insist on being at work early everyday even if I don’t have meetings or urgent tasks. It’s a fair question, I tend to arrive about an hour before the majority of my team. I certainly love me some routine, and alone time in the office (alone time… just the words make me smile) but the question caused me to reflect and unearth some working mom emotional baggage.
I was 16 years old, proudly wielding a freshly minted drivers license, ready to take my inaugural cruise around town in the family car, a 1987 Chrysler 5th Avenue. The Love Boat, as the car was known in my home, was a giant silver tank featuring plush, tufted couch seats for an ultra smooth ride.
To celebrate my new freedom, I decided to do what any normal teenager would: head to the local Hogi Yogi, where one of my best friends was working.The location was only about two miles from home, so my parents deemed the journey 99% harmless and sent me on my way. What they did not account for was the parking lot.
Upon arrival, I discovered that the lot was small. I wasn’t confident about maneuvering in tight places, so I selected a spot on the outer edge of the lot, alongside the dumpster.
There were a few cops who also had that Hogi Yogi itch, and one parked next to me. After my visit, as I began to back out, this officer who was directly adjacent to my left side also started to reverse from his spot. I wasn’t sure about protocol here: I confess I was inching back at a turtles pace, but caution seemed prudent. The officer, however, was reversing swiftly. I paused, confused. He continued reversing out and added a hard crank of his wheel to the left and he rather spectacularly rammed the right side of his car firmly into my left bumper. A massive black dent now cut through the “SLC PD” emblazoned on the side of his white car. (Luckily my wheels were made of stronger things and there was nary a scratch to be found)
I was mortified, especially because the dufus cop had the gall to accuse me of being at fault! In hindsight I probably should have honked as I saw him swinging into my car, but I could hardly back out of my parking spot with confidence, on what planet would I have the gumption to honk at a cop? Luckily his colleagues were around to check his pride and intervene when he blamed me. While they didn’t see everything happen, they knew I had hardly moved…and that he was a jerk.
Fun Fact: when officers get into accidents, they have to take scene pictures if there is any damage. I was in that Hogi Yogi parking lot for a solid two hours while they photographed, interviewed and documented everything involved in this incident as though we were on Rescue 911. Even though there were at least 3 cop cars already present as a result of the great sandwich rendezvous, they had to call in OTHER officers to asses the situation. By the time they finally set me free I was completely overwhelmed and shook the whole way home. I attempted to enter my house and sneak by the family without talking much about it. But I have 3 older brothers, there was no avoiding confrontation and heckling.
That day would set me up for a lifetime of parking anxiety. For months I wouldn’t drive into parking lots unless it was the ONLY option. Instead, I opted to park on the street (which helped me become pretty damn good at parallel parking, a handy skill for life in San Francisco ) In high school, I was so obsessed with stress-free parking that I would arrive at school about 30 minutes early, just to ensure I got to park where I wanted to. “Teenager arrives early at school, everyday, voluntarily“. Let that sink in.
In my adult life, I still find myself occasionally avoiding parking lots. So imagine the mercury of my anxiety thermometer rising when I saw the cramped space at daycare where we are supposed to park the strollers!
They call it “buggy storage”, presumably using whimsical words to make you feel less glum about what is actually a buggy debacle. It’s large enough to fit a dozen or so strollers, and if people have umbrella strollers and use the hooks, maybe even 20 could fit in the space. The daycare center has about 100 kids, so this place can get packed.
I walk my daughter to daycare on my way to work, so our stroller is a necessity. Full-scheming-transparency: I leave my walking shoes in the stroller because there is no need to carry them into work, but I am pleased at the dual purpose this serves: I like to think they act as a subtle signal to other parents (who I’m sure totally care about the contents of my stroller… I’m a tired mom, let me enjoy my delusions) that I am not just pushing my kid in from the car. (Ought there to be a stroller pass that denotes the level of utilitarianism for your wheels? Having to walk or carry your kid a block or two to a city parking garage isn’t exactly fun, but the wheels I push are covering miles with a squirmy baby every day! VIP working mom parking status, please.)
If you can’t fit your stroller in the allocated space, you have to take it to work, which is a huge pain. Or you can try your hand at life-sized Tetris with all the other strollers in an effort to fit yours in the space. Anyone who has ever tried to push, unlock or fold a stroller knows they are possibly the least intuitive devices known to humankind, perhaps second only to the clock on your car console that you have to program every daylight-savings event.
So, I’ve learned that if I arrive before 8:15 a.m. (and better yet is to get there right between 7:30-7:45!) I will get first dibs on spots in the buggy storage area.
And just like that, decades later, as my life has completely transformed from clueless teen to (pretty clueless) working mom, I found myself subconsciously catering my routine in such a way that I would easily secure a prime stroller spot. No meetings, no urgent deadlines at work, just parking.
And I have never been to a Hogi Yogi again.
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