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Sporadic Showdowns and Small Victories

June 29, 2010

For those of you who know me, you’ll know that I’m usually pretty passive, but have sporadic bouts of intense competitiveness. I like to compare them to a midwest show-down, back to back, 10 paces, turn and shoot. They begin and end very quickly, much like my desire to learn how to iron or do volunteer work. Being the sorest of losers, I typically enter into a contest only where victory is an almost certainty. Unfortunately, my breadth of talent is comparable to Christopher Reeve’s range of motion, so the only activities where I’m assured victory may include the license plate game, GoldenEye multi-player, tequila shots, staring contests, and other contests of insignificant skill.

Another surefire way to win a competition is to be not entirely sure that the other person knows they’re competing. I call it passive-aggressive competition. Rather than stand toe-to-toe and duke it out, you simply channel all of your focus into defeating an unsuspecting and unprepared opponent. It’s a lot like playing dodgeball with elementary school kids, or dunking on a fisher price hoop: you’re good at it, but by default.

After a little exercise, this woman and I arrived at our vehicles at the same time, parked facing each other. I, like most people, hate to back out of parking spaces. You have to put the car in reverse, turn your head both ways, etc etc. I think everyone will agree with me that its much better to pull through than back out, am I wrong? (“No.”) So, I was going to wait for her to back out. As we made eye contact, her desire for me to throw it in reverse was evident. In that moment, a tumbleweed bounced through the parking lot, as if it were drawing battle lines. The Stony Pointe shopping center ceased to exist, there was only dirt and dust and an old saloon. The jack rabbits paused, the buffalo stared, and the wind blew with a decisive howl.

We reached for our modern day six-shooters: my BlackBerry was fully charged and full of unread email. Just then, a burst of reflected sunlight flashed in to my eyes. Her iPhone, a portal to endless distraction, full of apps, video, music, superior web-browsing, and other fun things we BlackBerry users can only dream of, stared down on me like the barrel of a .50 cal. I knew I was out-gunned. I only have like 2 apps, and one of them is navigation. I knew I would have to win this with skill, and skill alone…and maybe BBM…or Brick Breaker…or Word Mole.

Five minutes had passed, and we both stood still, like the watchmen on either side of the 38th Parallel, waiting for the other to make a move. I flew through my gmail. I answered my BBMs with diamond-like precision. She looked at me, wondering if I would yield and perhaps be a gentleman; if she only knew. I went to weather.com and checked the radar: it was raining,  but I already knew that. I read about Joran Van Der Sloot stalling the Peruvian legal system and wondered if I would ever have closure. At that moment, I glanced up only to see my oppponent raise her hands in frustration.

In that moment, I knew she was beaten. Being a warrior with a code, I wasn’t just going to mame her and let her squirm away, wondering if I possessed mercy or not. I wanted her to know I meant business. With gusto, I looked at her and I unleashed the nuke of parking space wars: I pulled out the car manual. Hundreds of pages of worthless information. Do I give a shit about how to change an air filter or replace spark plug? Hell, no. Was I willing to sit there all night and become a certified mechanic before I backed out of that parking space? You better believe it. It was in that moment, I saw it in her eyes. Like a lighthouse, the defeat in her face illuminated my path to victory.

Her headlights powered on, I heard the transmission shift, and then she did it: she turned her head to the right; she turned her head to the left. She turned the wheel counterclockwise, and drove away in defeat. I sat there with my head held high, my chest protruding, my body uncomfortably close to the steering wheel.

In my head, I heard the national anthem play. I lowered my head to accept that medal with pride on behalf of an adoring nation. Then another car flashed his lights at me. It was an officer of the law. Apparently the parking lot closes at dusk and there is a “loitering policy.”

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