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Monday August 19, 2013 MYT 1:48:00 PM
Monday August 19, 2013 MYT 1:50:56 PM
by william citrin
All logic and rules of communal civility are abandoned in the pursuit of space.
RECENTLY, I was enjoying some authentic, alfresco Malaysian dining on the sidewalk outside a mamakrestaurant, sipping teh tarik perfectly paired with the spécialité de la maison — le roti canai, when this dude parked his butt in my face.
Well, it wasn’t technically his butt, but rather the shiny, jet-black bulging butt of his brand spanking new Mercedes, which he parked illegally up against the curb next to me.
As I inhaled the exhaust fumes emanating from his rear end, two questions sprang to mind:
·Why is this dude (whose car is probably worth more than the mamak restaurant itself) eating at this establishment?
·Why can’t he afford to pay RM5 to park his ridiculously overpriced chariot in a proper parking lot?
When it comes to parking in Malaysia (and all around the globe for that matter), all logic and rules of communal civility are abandoned.
The parking lot is a sphere where primal instincts take over, where humans wantonly mark their territory not by urinating, but by parking their motor vehicles wherever they want.
In Malaysia, parking space hunting is a national pastime. I’ve witnessed normally-functioning human beings (by my standards, but I consider myself normal and I regularly talk to my couch pillows) reduced to a zombie-like state, ceaselessly circling jam-packed parking lots in search of the perfect space, staking out shopping centre exits in their cars and menacingly following innocent shoppers back to their vehicles.
The typical Malaysian parking lot is a lot (no pun intended) like the American Wild West in 1800s, a free-for-all with drivers rushing frantically to stake their claim to the most prime locations.
For many, this parking space pursuit has risen to the level of obsession.
One Malaysian friend confessed to me that before he falls asleep every night, he closes his eyes and imagines he is circumnavigating a fully-occupied parking lot in his car searching for a space — but tragically he always conks out before he can find it. (In case you were wondering… before I sleep I always imagine I’m swimming in a river of oozing, golden cheese.)
Malaysians have elevated parking to an art form, creating spaces where they didn’t previously exist in middle of streets, parking lots, on sidewalks, driveways, byways and in between and in front but oftentimes right behind properly parked cars.
Double parking has reached epidemic proportions here, with innocent people being unjustly imprisoned for protracted periods of time on a daily basis.
I came up with the idea for this very article while being boxed in on the street outside my office, slamming my fist on the horn and cursing that devilish double parker (it turned out to be an elderly lady picking up her laundry).
“I will write and rant about this in The Star,” I swore at my windshield; and I, a man who is good to his word, have done just that.
The interesting thing is that, in most cases, there are ample spaces available a stone’s throw away from where these double parkers have rudely abandoned their vehicles.
So it’s not a matter of the minimal additional distance one would have to jalan-jalan to reach one’s destination if parked properly, or any inconvenience thereby caused.
Indeed, when it comes to parking it’s not about the actual place; it’s about the principle — the right to park where and when and how one wants.
Parking wars are being fought here every day in defence of this right.
I myself became embroiled in one such skirmish recently. It was a classic conflict: the “Same Space, Same Time” scenario.
It happened one Saturday in the parking dungeon of a shopping centre when a woman in a Kancil and I, like two vultures swooping down for the same carcass, made a play for the same sweet spot.
It was a photo finish and I won by a nose, easing into my newly-claimed territory and emerging victorious from my ride.
The woman, however, was not prepared to surrender and idled there with her window rolled down.
“That is my spot! I was waiting here with my signal on. Give it to me!” she exclaimed.
The sensation I experienced in that moment reminded me of how I felt when, at a bar in my university days, a stranger at the next table leaned over and said, “Dude, can I try one of your nachos. They look so good…” I felt positively violated; how dare that nacho guy/parking space lady demand something from me that is mine?
“I didn’t see you there,” I lied.
“Move your car.”
“Look lady, I got some place to be,” I said, and that was true: I had an eyebrow-waxing appointment.
As I walked off, I found myself pondering the philosophical implications of this incident: “Is that parking space really mine? Am I so selfish that I could leave a helpless woman stranded all alone in parking purgatory in her little mousedeer mobile? Was I going to be late for my eyebrow-waxing appointment? Is there any place around here where I can get some good nachos?”
No, I didn’t lose any sleep over that episode because at the end of the day, all is fair in love and parking wars.
Editor of books and magazines, lover of black coffee, electric toothbrushes and endangered species, daddy, dreamer, LRT commuter, international man of mystery, William Citrin is currently working on a series of publications promoting the education industry here.
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