another happy family.
© 1996 Jamie Zawinski <>

I was looking for street parking in the financial district, on a weekday, at 2pm. After a few minutes it occurred to me that this was in fact what I was doing, and I abandoned that idea forthwith. I turned left into the nearest massively-overpriced parking structure, and followed the oily, curving cement ramp up six stories.

Since this city's capacity for automobiles is roughly an order of magnitude less than the number of automobiles present, this lot was running under the ``valet'' model of operation; you were supposed to leave your car keys, and they would pack it in with the other vehicles, shifting and shuffling the cars around until they were able to re-excavate yours upon your return.

As I turned a corner in response to waved directions, I pulled up behind a large car from which a large woman was in the process of decanting herself. She was not a happy woman. She was, in fact, screaming at the top of her lungs, though perhaps, given the glass-shatteringly-high pitch of her nasal voice, shrieking would be a better description.

What she was saying to the increasingly-distressed parking attendant over whom she was towering was, and I quote,

She was waving her arms and shuffling from side to side, leaning in close and putting her nose right in front of his. The attendant seemed terrified. He was not a large man, and appeared completely unprepared for this onslaught. I thought she might be about to hit him. I'm guessing that that thought had crossed his mind as well.

He hunched his shoulders, quivered, and backed away, and she finally turned and waddled towards the back of the car. Her four daughters emerged while she opened the trunk. The youngest, a skinny blonde girl who couldn't have been older than about 9, reached into the open trunk and pulled out a large Barbie-like doll.

Her mother had something to say about this. It went something like

Every time I heard this woman's voice I had the urge to find a table to hide under. Her voice had the kind of power that one usually only finds in the lilting tones of nails on a chalkboard.

At this point, the oldest girl, of perhaps 15 years, rolled her eyes and looked very much like she just wanted to curl up and die. ``Hell,'' her face said, ``couldn't possibly be worse than this.'' Somehow the doll-fancier won the argument, without saying a word that I could hear, and the whole happy family wandered off, with the doll in tow.

And all this while, enormous plumes of thick white smoke were pouring from under the hood of the car.

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