Last month some friends and I rented a car and drove upstate to the outlet mall.
They have a parking lot up there that’s bigger than many small towns. We arrived early and found a parking spot close to the stores. A few times during the day, I carried our shopping bags back to the car, put them in the trunk, and went back to shopping. Every time, cars would slowly tail me as I walked through the lot, anticipating that I would leave and free up a choice parking space.
I didn’t feel much empathy for these drivers. There was abundant parking elsewhere in the lot. And for people who actually need close parking spaces, there are designated ADA spots. Being followed was creepy. I’m used to the city, where interactions between pedestrians and drivers are inadvisable, since they sometimes turn south. At the mall, I avoided eye contact with the drivers and tried to act invisible.
That was a poor strategy. On one trip to the car, as soon as a driver realized I wasn’t leaving, he lost his shit and beeped the horn. A nearby pedestrian scolded me: “You should have told him you weren’t leaving!” I threw my hands in the air. “I’ve been doing this all day!” I said, exasperated. “He doesn’t know that!” the other pedestrian shot back.
Clearly, I was a stranger to these parts. In the outlet mall parking lot, people live by a code, and I had broken it.