Monday, February 25, 2008

Abandon All Hope, Ye Who Enter Here

Being unemployed and everything -- although not for much longer -- I have lots of time to think, as I've mentioned before. So lately, I've been pondering a lot about what it means to live in the present.

Oprah and the like are always touting how important it is to live in the present, in the moment. (Don't you miss the days of talk shows with the whiny Phil Donahue, where you were guaranteed to see some good old fashioned housewife drama, not have THE SECRET, whatever that is, pushed down your throat.)

Anyway, I've been thinking about just being. It's a tall order for me. I spend most of my days dwelling on past happenings, or looking forward to future events. Like today, I've been thinking about the past (Driver's Ed in high school, the Pierogie Cook-Off I went to on Saturday, the Jimmy Kimmel tribute to F*ing Ben Affleck, etc.) and the future (starting a new job, making a roast chicken next weekend for the first time, hanging out on my balcony in the spring, finding a pair of plaid clam digger shorts).

More often than not, I'm anticipating the next event to happen in my life. Even when I was traveling last year, on the trip of a lifetime one might say, I was often thinking about where I was going next, instead of just enjoying where I was. I was in the middle of Namibia, climbing 200-foot sand dunes that look straight out of The English Patient, and I was contemplating what I was going to wear to my friend Phil's wedding in New York the following month. Really? I mean, I dig the dress that I bought, but I think I could have waited until I was back in the US to contemplate such things. But even in everyday life, I feel like if you are constantly looking to the future or the past, you are destined to miss out on so much in life.

There was a brief moment this past weekend, though, where I was completely in the present. I can't say it was pleasant, but for about ten minutes, I was just being. Just being enraged, that is, while driving around the Costco parking lot looking for a parking spot.

The Costco in Arlington, VA is the only one around here. So everyone goes there. And for some goofy reason, I decided that it was worth driving down there to save a few bucks. I ventured down to the already crowded Pentagon City area, and pulled up to the gated Costco parking lot. I'm pretty sure the Pentagon City Costco parking lot was supposed to be Dante's Tenth circle of Hell, until his editors made him cut it out because the audience would not even believe that kind of horror exists.

It's pure insanity -- with people walking everywhere, cars lined up five deep to wait for one possible parking spot. No one watches where they are going, with their carts full of oversized packages of toilet paper and peanut butter. (Me -- I just wanted a big thing of cheese, and some cheap alcohol. Maybe some multi-colored baby peppers. Is that too much to ask?)

I was so in the moment as I drove around for fifteen minutes, barely avoiding hitting other cars or pedestrians traversing through the parking lot. Did I mention no one watches where they are walking? It's worse than that, though. Instead of politely moving to the side of the parking aisles, everyone pushes their cart right up the middle of the aisle, as if the super-wide aisles were made just for their cart full of oversized bags of Tyson's Chicken Chunks. And the whole time, I wasn't thinking about the future, or the past. Just about how I was going to park somewhere without killing someone first.

By the time I got in the Costco, I was too flummoxed to even shop around. I grabbed the cheese and a bottle of wine, and ran for the check out. But, I did have a brilliant idea. Prison overcrowding? A problem no more. For the worst offenders, they can just be sentenced to drive in circles in the Costco parking lot for twelve hours a day, without being able to park. I started thinking about what sort of things I'd need to do to get my plan approved to solve this prison overcrowding thing, and how the people across the land would love me for being so brilliant, and how I'd parlay that into a guest visit on Oprah, and then maybe buy some fancy red-sole Christian Loboutin shoes to wear on the show like Oprah does.

And just like that, I was fixated on the future, and no longer living in the moment.


Rebecca said...

Costco is of the devil.

Anonymous said...

The Arlington Costco isn't "the only one around here." There's one in Beltsville, MD (north of the IKEA). Usually it's much less crazy than the one in Pentagon City.

lacochran said...

Great post! If you want to be truly in the moment, consider staring at a flower while hanging from a cliff by a root that a tiger is gnawing. At least that's what the Buddhists say. Or something. Congrats on making it through the Costco zombieville.

Kelly said...

Just park in the garage on the far side of the lot. It's free, and there are always plenty of spaces, because everyone else is piled up trying to get a space in the lot.

And to anonymous, there is no possible way that you can tell someone who lives in Arlington that Beltsville qualifies as "around here." It's on the other end of the earth and paying for the gas would negate all savings gained from shopping as Costco.