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RUTLEDGE: Early birds at work are dedicated — to that prime parking spot


Saturday, November 18, 2017

I have been blessed for most of my professional life to have jobs that leave little or no room for complaining. The pay has never been great, but I knew that going in. If I wanted bigger paychecks I could have started an obedience school for cats.

The worst thing about my writing career is that it has rendered my lower back muscles too weak to support the rest of my body in the standing position for long periods. When a job affords so little strife, the natural inclination is to find something, anything, to fret over.

For me, it’s parking issues.

I have not advanced to a career position that warrants having a parking space emblazoned with my name or title. But that has never held me back from assigning myself a particular parking space, or from getting worked up about it when someone else snags “my spot.”

During my years at The Daily Reflector, that spot was just about as far away from the employee entrance as a person could park. During my last few years there the spot had the best shade on the lot.

Eastern North Carolina has some of the Coastal Plain’s most brutal summer heat. A shaded parking spot is prime real estate. I claimed mine years before the adjacent ornamental tree grew a canopy that could cover a windshield.

When you’ve invested that much time and effort into staking a claim, wheeling into work to find some interloper in your spot can sour a perfectly sunny disposition.

During my last year at the Reflector, a mystery nightshift employee from another department began leaving his car in my spot all day. I had no recourse but to quit my job and move to another state.

Now I’m confronted with a similar injustice at the community college where I work. The custom among professionals working in academia is to back into the parking space. It lessens the chances of being run over by a student at the end of the day.

My claimed space is the widest on the lot and bordered on one side by a curb. Other commuters like it for the same reason I do: Having the curb on one side makes backing in a one-and-done endeavor.

I bided my time for that spot, waiting out two longtime college employees near retirement when I arrived. Another person wanted it but was unwilling to challenge my half-hour-early commitment to keeping it.

Then, out of nowhere lands a mystery early bird in a blue SUV. I even came in 45 minutes early one day, and the Blue Intruder was already perched.

Again, I have nothing to complain about. The spot next door is every bit as good. And using the Blue Intruder’s driver-side mirror as a guide for one-and-done parking works just as well for me as the curb worked when I had the coveted spot.

Each day when I leave work, the Blue Intruder has already flown. Early in. Early out.

Someday I’ll make it out in time to actually see who it is—and whether he’s crawling in through the passenger side or the rear hatch.

Contact Mark Rutledge at mrutledge@reflector.com or like him on Facebook at Mark Rutledge Columns.