BY LAVINIA PLONKA
I wish I were a good gardener. Oh, I bring in a bumper crop of kale or beans, even managed to harvest a few of my own tomatoes. But when it comes to eggplant or okra, I turn to the wonderful farmers at the West Asheville Tailgate Market. Ditto with eggs. Between the coyotes and the bears, no way am I running around defending chickens, as much as I love the idea of strolling about the yard and filling my basket in bucolic bliss. I am one of those privileged Americans who can afford $5 eggs and $4-per-pound eggplant. And it feels good to support the local economy.
The other day, I rushed from my office to get to the tailgate market by 3:30. I rushed because for three weeks in a row, I waited till I was done with work at 4:30, only to find all the eggs were gone. I wanted those damn, beautiful, big local eggs. When I arrived, I maneuvered through parking anarchy to find a space. While some people had tried to create a semblance of parking order, most cars were parked willy-nilly — sideways, front to back, across the entrance. I found myself inwardly thanking my husband for his years of taunting my lack of parking skill. I had learned to ace the parking challenge just to spite him and now congratulated myself on squeezing my Honda Civic into an impossible spot. I’d get out … somehow.
After spending way more money than I planned (but oh-so-happy with the extra potatoes and okra), I went back to the parking lot. To my left, a red SUV growled ominously. To my right loomed a big, shiny pickup truck. Blocking them, and my exit, were two cars. Behind my car, a gigantic, mint-condition 1988 blue Cadillac dwarfed the grim octogenarian driver, who sat staring straight ahead, clutching the steering wheel. Behind her, in a green SUV, a 40-something woman was immobilized. What the heck?
I walked up to the Cadillac. “Hi there, are you going in or out?” I asked pleasantly.
“I’m trying to back up, but she won’t let me,” the matron replied.
I looked at the situation. The woman in the SUV now had a frozen fear-grin on her face. The two vehicles on either side of her allowed ample room to back up. I walked to her car. “You need to back up so she can get out.”
Her eyes widened as she looked from side to side. “I back up?” she asked in accented English (I will not reveal what kind of accent).
“Yes, just back up so she can get out.”
Her smile still frozen, the woman began to inch backward, heading straight for a utility pole. Not only did she not understand English, she clearly didn’t understand reverse. I quickly ran behind her and tried to direct her toward me. Instead, she backed away from me, nearly knocking into the trapped pickup truck. Finally, miraculously, she backed into a corner, which just barely allowed the Cadillac to scrape past and exit. I then directed her forward again, because she was afraid to leave her corner. As she pulled into the vacated spot, she turned and grinned. “Hooray!” she yelled. The guy in the pickup rolled his eyes.
I backed out myself and got out of there as quickly as I could. As I exited, streams of hungry West Ashevilleans were getting cornered in various ends of the chaotic parking situation.
I remember when the West Asheville Tailgate Market opened and the vendors sat surrounded by the lonely splendor of unsold produce. I am thrilled to see the amazing bounty and the success of the market. It would be so wonderful for everyone, if maybe … a traffic cop? a volunteer parking guru? a retired school crossing guard? … someone might condescend to be available to assist parking-challenged shoppers. I realize it might be a thankless job. There may be griping and resentment. But think of the wonderful little old ladies who will thank you.
Lavinia Plonka teaches the Feldenkrais Method at Asheville Movement Center and is the author of Meditating with My Hair on Fire.