Spreading Kindness One Double-Parked Car at a Time


Earlier in the day, I’d parallel parked on the crowded neighborhood street. Now, I was running late to pick up my kids. As I approached the car, I saw that not only had someone double parked, blocking me in, but also, the driver parked in front of me was struggling to maneuver out of his too-tight space. I could feel myself begin to fume.

Come on! I thought, drive your car, get out of my way! I quickly realized that the double parked car was his. He was trying to jockey the cars. But he was inept, inefficient. In my rush, my frustration levels rose.

I don’t have time for this! But, I took a deep breath and outstretched my arms, indicating just how much space he had available to reverse before smashing into my minivan. It took him six or so passes to get the right angle, but once he did, he pulled forward and was free. I almost was able to exhale.

Before I could rejoice, a second driver suddenly came swooping in, blatantly stealing the newly opened space.

Whatever patience I had mustered was gone. Oh, no, no, no, you don’t! I need to get my car out of here! I marched up to the driver’s side window and knocked on the glass. But, instead of cursing him out (what I desperately wanted to do) I explained: the driver who had just pulled out, was freeing the space for his other vehicle that was double parked next to mine. And I needed to leave. Yesterday.

The driver indignantly said, “No. I’m here. It’s fine.” But it wasn’t fine. He didn’t get it. I wasn’t letting him get away with stealing the space, keeping me trapped.

So for the second time in 10 minutes, with my temper screaming at me to let loose, I took a deep breath instead. I used my words. Practiced kindness. “Listen. He needs to move his car into this space. As soon as he does, I’ll leave, and you can have my space.” 23 words. That’s all. Tensions dropped. Smiles broke out. The formerly grabby driver relented, nodded, and pulled out of the stolen space. The parallel-parking-challenged man appreciatively touched my arm. “Thank you,” he said.

I got into my car. Gave a breath of gratitude for composure, empathy, patience. Turned the ignition and drove off to get my girls.