Coming home at 9 one night, I had to park 30 feet from where I usually do.
There are two rows of parking outside my apartment building. One row faces the building. The other row, which is across the street, faces into the woods.
I was across the street.
Thirty feet away.
Never miss a local story.
Facing the woods.
And I was angry.
This is just great, I fumed to myself, parking is out of control here now. Who are all these people anyway? What? Do they all slide down the dinosaur, punch their timecards and then come home at the same time? And never leave? Why aren't they out having fun, living life, parked somewhere else? Why don't we have assigned parking? Making me have to park all the way over here ...
Thirty feet away.
Across the street.
It delayed my arrival at the couch by one single second.
One second produced this much drama because life is too simple here sometimes.
Nine times out of 10, I park only dozens of footsteps from my destination, whether it's the grocery store, the beach, the hairdresser's or the coffee shop.
Center row. Center spot. My car and me.
That one time out of 10, though, feels personal, as if the universe didn't make way for my highness this day, didn't part the crowd, empty the streets, roll out the carpet for my arrival.
It feels like my particular burden, my diagnosis, my dumb life.
Those are the days when I have to parallel park at the Promenade in Old Town Bluffton in front of a crowd of breakfast eaters. Or park around the corner on May River Road, which feels disconnected and in a different temperature field. Or park at the far end of the lot by the trash cans, which feels like a punishment.
Those are the days when my FitBit strains with that addition of 40 steps.
I don't know, FitBit, do we have enough battery power for this challenge? Will I get a badge for this one?
And yet if I'm in a car with someone who is hunting for a "better spot," I want them to park far away, as far from the door as possible, however far parking right this second will mean.
"It's OK," I'll say. "I don't mind walking."
And I really don't.
This is because everything is relative.
Bluffton Town Council recently approved two-hour parking restrictions for Calhoun Street. People are tired of not being able to find parking, apparently. A time restriction makes it fair for all.
But was there really a problem with parking? Or was it more like a problem with parking where we wanted to park? Was it because we all wanted to park in a spot that would shorten the ambulatory portion of our journey? Or was there legitimately no parking for anyone, anywhere?
I have to say, I have never had a problem finding parking in Old Town Bluffton. Really. I'm not just saying this to make a point.
Sometimes the parking is closer to May River Road. Sometimes it's closer to Bridge Street. Sometimes it's down another road altogether. Sometimes it results in an extra 40 steps on my FitBit.
The child in me whines. The adult in me takes pleasure in the 1-minute walk, in the Spanish moss, bumpy sidewalks and better view into people's yards and windows.
Yes. I look. It's hard not to sometimes.
During the Christmas parade in Old Town last year, I was at Corner Perk. I had gotten there early and had forgotten there was a parade that day -- even though I work for a newspaper, yes, I had forgotten.
I stayed and watched from the window for a while. I got emotional at people's happiness. Then I left. Or I tried to leave, anyway. Someone had parked me in.
I wasn't mad -- though I wanted to be. I wasn't about to be the Grinch in a literal Whoville happening right before my eyes. But I wasn't the only person parked in. It was every car for itself out there. How was this allowed, I wondered? Don't emergency vehicles have to be able to reach all corners of the earth at all times?
This is how things get ruined for everyone.
Recently, I've noticed people parking along the parts of the sidewalk that jut out from the indentations that indicate legal parking on Calhoun Street in the Promenade. The awkward placing of their cars creates an uneven roadway and seems dangerous, though I don't have stats on that. It's probably not even prohibited. It just seems wrong.
The Promenade is private property, though, so the Bluffton Police Department doesn't monitor the parking there. Maybe they should. People use Calhoun Street as a throughway in the Promenade. It stands to reason.
Anyway, having parking restrictions in Old Town changes the game. I don't disagree with them necessarily. If we need some order, we need some order. It just changes things, like inviting a small alligator to a pool party. It might just bite.
Now there will be tickets. Perhaps some towing. Maybe this paves the way for meters or some other paid-parking method.
It's inevitable really. As Bluffton grows, as the competition for space grows, even as more parking solutions are added, we're going to have to get used to farther walks from our destinations. We're all going to have to learn to parallel park in ways that don't leave space for another car between us and the sidewalk or result in a peal-off of embarrassment after two failed attempts.
Actually, I'm really good at parallel parking. It's the only thing I do well.
I still don't like doing it in front of breakfast eaters, though.