I had just a few minutes to run a quick errand before checking into the hospital for surgery. I pulled into a downtown Chattanooga parking garage, and the attendant, an older woman, struck up a conversation. When she found out I needed to park for less than 30 minutes, the following dialogue ensued:
She: "Oh, honey, you don't want to park in here! You can park on the street and it only costs 50 cents for thirty minutes."
Me: "I don't mind. I'm not good at parallel parking."
She: "You just hold on a minute."
Proceeding to leave the booth, she walked out to the street.
Upon her return: "There are several spots right up the block. You'll find a big one, and your car will slide in easy as pie!"
Me: "Really, it's ok. If you could please just lift the gate, I'll go on through."
She (steadfastly refusing to lift the gate): "There is just no reason for you to park in here. I'll help you get out."
She went back outside, waited for a break in traffic, then stood in the street and directed me to back my car out of the garage. I was forced to parallel park downtown, which was good for me because I’m not usually brave enough to try.
I dropped 50 cents in the meter, ran my errand, and still had 10 minutes remaining. Never mind the overall experience took a quarter of an hour longer than if she'd just lifted the gate in the first place. Bless her heart.
The reason I was looking for a parking spot was due to more southern sweetness and hospitality. As part of my ongoing Great Social Media Selfie Project, I had planned to meet up with my Facebook friend Wendy. We have been online friends since 2008, but had never met in person. Due to the number of times I have posted its praises, she happens to know that I am a die-hard pimento cheese fan. So, along with the selfie, she had promised a big ol’ tub of delicious pimento cheese for post-surgery consumption.
Anyone watching never would have guessed that we’d only just met. We hugged, talked, and laughed, and then she sent me on my way with a sack full of Dish T’ Pass goodies emblazoned with my new name: Ginger Claremohr. It was the first time I’d ever seen anyone else write it, and it warmed my heart that others are embracing the upcoming change.
As I walked back to my car, I remembered that last year at this time, I was waiting to cross in nearly the same spot when an older model vehicle came tooling up the street. I waited for what seemed like forever. Finally, the car came to a complete stop in front of me, and the window slowly lowered. An elderly black man with white whiskers and gold teeth peered out and stated, “You are the most beautiful flower!”
He continued puttering down the street while I stood there with a big, dopey grin on my face.
Maybe it’s not just in the south where these types of sweet and memorable moments take place, but I’ve yet to experience anything like it in Pittsburgh, Portland or Kalamazoo. Perhaps if I hang around in the south long enough, a southern gentleman will teach me how to parallel park. Although, if a Yankee wants to teach me, that would be dandy, too.
Ginger Lumpkin is an author, motivational speaker, and mother of five. Follow her on Facebook (Ginger Claremohr), find her on the web: www.gingeretta.com, or contact ginger.columnist@gmail.com.