During the holidays, it’s every man for himself

There must be hundreds of thousands of parking spaces in Dallas. They’re literally everywhere, covered and uncovered, wide and narrow, brightly striped and barely visible.

There are so many parking spaces that, for the most part, I take them for granted.

But for some reason, that changes during the holiday season, doesn’t it?

The spaces don’t change, of course. They’re still doing what they do best: collecting oil droppings and cigarette butts.

But the perceived value of a parking space in December, as compared with the value of that same space in January, rises exponentially and sometimes catastrophically.

I’ve never understood exactly why that is, even as I confess to participating in the value-inflating process.

The rest of the year, I’m pretty indifferent about one parking space versus another, maybe because they seem so plentiful and welcoming in February and March. But for those few weeks in November and December, the value of a close-in parking space becomes almost unaffordable in terms of the mental anguish required to snag one.

Maybe it’s the endless spooling around and around that helps develop the nasty attitude so prevalent among parking-space scouts during the holidays. To find a space close to a store’s door, you have to be more than lucky and living right: You have to be aggressive and opportunistic and maybe even a little unreasonable.

People who might wave someone else into a space the rest of the year aren’t likely to do that if the next-best alternative is hundreds of feet or several stories away. Facing that choice, the kill-or-be-killed instincts encouraged in video games too often seem to kick in.

I’ve been involved in more than a few parking space stare-downs over the years, my hands fidgeting on the wheel as I lock eyes with another driver eyeing the same spot as we both wait for the current occupant to back out, generally at a snail’s pace. Whether I’m the first to have my blinker on or not, there are those people who will try to beat me into the space, even if they morally (in as much as there is morality in hunting for a parking space) have no right to do so.

And if beaten to the spot by a more aggressive competitor, what can you do? Keying a door or leaning on the horn are possibilities, although I suppose those actions don’t really reflect the holiday spirit.

The temptation is always there to hop out of the car and offer the other guy some friendly advice about life, but that type of confrontation generally isn’t going to change the fact that he or she now has a parking space and I don’t.

I’ve even heard of people, particularly selfish people I might add, who send a person to stand in an empty spot and hold it until the car arrives — another idea guaranteed to raise tempers and blood pressures.

There really is no answer to the holiday parking space battle other than common courtesy, but that doesn’t make a parking space thief any easier to forgive or forget.

After all, during a season known for peace and good will, what could be more important than getting into a store five minutes faster?

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