Yesterday, for the first time in my new career, I parked in one of the Pro spaces at Home Depot. You know the ones, up front, reserved for contractors and professional builder types?
It reminded me of the first time I filled in a bubble on a form declaring my occupation as Writer. That is to say, I felt slightly presumptuous. As I docked between tool trucks topped with ladders and lumber, I half-expected someone to lean out a window and put me in my place: “DIY parking is over there.”
(As with so much of the catastrophizing that swirls in my head, that did not happen. In fact, the first person who spoke to me was a colleague who was headed to the same job site I was headed to.)
If a stranger had challenged my Pro status, who could blame him? I mean, why would anyone assume that a middle-aged mom—wearing a floral-print blouse and toting a sky-blue handbag—was patronizing Home Depot on a professional contracting errand?
Yesterday was not the first time I silently declared a new identity in a parking lot. There was also that time when my grocery store designated primo parking spaces for Pregnant Women. The first time I showed up with a bun in the oven, I was the only person on the premises who knew I was expecting. I hadn’t upsized to biggie pants yet, but I was decidedly knocked up—and exhausted—so I parked in the Mom spot. Then I wondered how many shoppers—with no intimate knowledge of my uterus—bad-mouthed me on my way into the market.
I confess, I think about what other people might think about me, because I can’t help thinking about other people. For example, when I see a woman park in a pregnant parking space, I think about what’s going on in her head. Is she ready? Happy? Nervous? Scared? And yes, I wonder if she’s even pregnant, or if she just didn’t want to walk an extra aisle.
My recent parking lot existentialism at Home Depot got me thinking: What can we really know about another person just by looking at them?
I once saw this sign (or something close to it) in a high school hallway, which stuck with me:
“If you think you see someone using the ‘wrong’ bathroom, consider the possibility that they know more about themself than you know.”
Sound advice, for high school lavatories and beyond. Because, as far as I can tell, we’re all just trying to figure out what we are—mother, writer, builder, or something else. What’s the point of putting other people in their place, when it’s hard enough deciding where to park ourselves?