Partnering… in tight circumstances.
I was early to an appointment the other day. Wait. Let me say that again. I was EARLY to an appointment the other day. Not just in time. Not comin’ in hot. Not bending the corner on two wheels. Sensibly, sweetly, early. A profound experience really. To witness the breath. The inward gratitude. The moment to prepare for what is to come next instead of winging it hoping that my past self, at one point, put the right folder in the bag for my present self to use. I delighted in my perfectly, parallel-y parked vehicle while the sun streamed through the windshield and Tchaikovsky streamed through the sound system. Zen. Other cars came and went as the traffic light changed a block ahead, pedestrians passed through my view and kept on their way, sirens a distant reminder of the city life just past my dashboard. I was in a bubble. I sat in witness to life from a protected 30 square feet of space. All mine.
Don’t get me wrong. I’m never, if rarely, late. But to be early, to not flee my vehicle praying that the parking space that was magically free right where I needed it to be wasn’t somehow completely illegal? This was new. And so too was the chance to witness what else might happen to that precious 30 square feet while it stoically occupied a parking spot waiting for my return. Comfortably tucked into the two white lines that denoted my space, I assumed all else being equal, nothing would change. How silly. Just as I settled in for my worry free moment, the driver of the vehicle in the parking spot in front of me slid behind the wheel and started her up. Without a glance, she accelerated forward and backward, twisting and turning her whale-on-wheels until it pulled free from the confines of its spot…leaving me with complete heart failure. Eyes bugging in anticipation of the thump against my bumper; the infinitesimal gap left between my car and hers, my fury at the “almost” was instant, along with the recognition that I had no recourse, given she didn’t actually hit me! I felt helpless. And powerless in the face of a stranger who, judging by her acuity, must be no stranger to the circumstance.
As I travel along at light speed, I like to find these fateful moments that, from time to time, connect me to the potential reality of those around me. An architect for instance. Equally wise to the infrastructure of a job site, the process of construction, the pathway and the rules of engagement as I am. Nonetheless, at times, I bet it feels like you are the one sitting in the parked car watching us navigate out of the spot ahead of you. You know “we’ve got it” but that doesn’t mean you don’t hold your breath when it feels like we’re skimming it a little too close, when we’re bit too cavalier, when we move just a bit faster than you feel we should. You may even wince or look away, trying to have faith. That’s anything but a partnership.
What if instead, we rapped on your car window, let you know what we are up to, how we think we’ll manage the tight squeeze, how many turns we think it will take and ask if you could spot us? What if we held firm to the wheel but tapped the brake to manage the pace and the technique? What if we simply stopped for a minute to ask your opinion before it was too late?
The woman parked in the spot in front of me was probably running late. She probably didn’t even notice I was still in the car and even if she did she assumed her expertise would be enough for the both of us. She got away with it this time but left me feeling a bit worse for the wear and unimportant in this moment that so fully enveloped both of us. She made it hers; not ours. I know it’s not exactly the same thing, but I am grateful that fate allowed me to be early for this little experiment to remind me why partnering, especially in tight circumstances, is critical to mutual success. That, and being on time.