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'Nice job parking:' Shamed by a note

Detroit Lakes Newspapers columnist Lynn Hummel recently published his fourth book, "The Last Word," a collection of some of his favorite columns from the past 40 years.

It was late afternoon — dark, windy and very cold. We decided to stop for a quick visit with our friend in the transitional care unit. We drove to the part of the parking lot closest to the entrance and we had the good fortune to find three or four good parking spots. We very casually parked in one of those spots and went in to cheer up our friend as well as his wife and daughter who were there.

When we came out 30-40 minutes later, I found a note stuck to my window. The message was short and blunt: "Nice Job Parking." I stopped in my tracks and sized up the situation. Although I don't think I could see any parking lines on the lot because of ice and snow, I was clearly not parked squarely, and the space between my car and the one on my left was not wide enough for another car to squeeze in, but it would have been if I had taken my time to properly square my car in when I parked.

So along came this stranger, and wanting to park as close as possible to the entrance on this dark, windy and very cold night, found my car, with its odd angle preventing him/her from parking, and being greatly peeved (not his word I'm sure), left me this note. I was dead wrong and ashamed.

I know better. When I'm paying attention, many times I look at some vehicle, parked cockeyed, goofing up a space wide enough for two cars, but thoughtlessly — rudely — making it impossible for another car to squeeze in. I think I am generally conscientious about parking and leaving room for the next guy.

This was not my first citation. I've been scolded before. Years ago, in Boston, I searched and searched for an on-street parking spot where I could leave my car all day. I finally found a space for parallel parking at the curb that had maybe a foot available for maneuvering.

Very slowly I worked my way in — back and forth, back and forth. When I finally got parked, I was practically up against the bumper in front of me and just inches ahead of the one behind.

When I came back, hours later, there was a message on the windshield. It started "You selfish bastard ..." and went on to explain that as a result of my greedy squeeze-in, he/she (the car in front) had to wait hours to get out, probably when the car ahead finally moved. I felt rotten of course, but I'm glad I never had to meet the author of that note.

The two examples are not necessarily comparable. The parking I did for the transitional care visit was sloppy and unnecessarily rude — totally preventable. The selfish parking I did in Boston wasn't sloppy or casual, it was very deliberate, but without consideration of the problem it could cause.

The verdict in each case was guilty. So the moral of the story is this: if it makes you ashamed of yourself to unnecessarily cause somebody else a slight or major inconvenience and to be considered a "selfish bastard," park properly — park within the lines when you can see them, square off in your parking space, consider the other guy, take your time, and (golden rule) don't lock somebody else in a parking space you could never get out of yourself.

I hope I get to meet whoever wrote that last note so that I can apologize in person.

Order Lynn Hummel's new book, The Last Word (171 articles, 310 pages) by sending $15 plus $3 postage ($10 plus postage for additional books) to Pony Express Books, 1948 Long Bridge Road, Detroit Lakes, MN 56501, or order at: