Once in a while I get a delicious taste of the refined life. For instance, this year I was excited to win tickets to our local symphony’s Fourth of July concert. The first part wasn’t so refined because my husband and I stood sweating in the 97 degree heat while my daughter jumped in bouncy houses and collected balloon animals, but then the sun set, we settled in on the grass, the hall doors opened, the refined season-ticket holders filed into their swanky indoor seats, and the symphony filled the night with beauty in swells of sound and patriotism.
Yes, the next two hours were refined, and I felt myself lifted out of my normal life and floating along in the night sky of a half imaginary world where a life of refinement makes you exempt from pain and irritation. I half thought that those season-ticket holders floated along on symphonies and museums and restaurants without life-size pictures of 12.99 steak and shrimp.
But when the music ended, the first firework whooshed up and popped, and then, nothing. After three or four minutes, two more fireworks made a noble effort, but it was clear that something was amiss. The lights came up and the announcer said that due to technical difficulties and for safety reasons, the fireworks were cancelled.
A few halfhearted boos, and we in the cheap seats mixed together with the well-dressed in the crucible, er, the parking lot. We reached the first crosswalk to our lot, lot “O,” and the traffic was so backed up that a car was stopped right in the crosswalk. We stood waiting for the young lot attendant to raise his stop sign and usher us across. He didn’t. One of the refined old gentlemen said, “Hey champ, put up your sign,” and started walking. The kid thrust his sign up, surprised into action. My husband and I giggled. Little did we know, this was only a harbinger of things to come.
Lot “O” wasn’t moving. We were all lined up in our cars, nice and refined-like. Far to our right lay our exit, but just to our left was an exit that had been blocked with temporary plastic posts stuck in the ground. We sat. And sat. The temperature rose in our crucible, and here’s what I found out. The refined crowd is not used to being put in a parking lot crucible. This place didn’t have a VIP lot. Denied their fireworks, they would not be denied a quick exit. The lady in the passenger seat of an expensive convertible behind us got out and started talking to nobody, throwing her hands in the air. When no one came to listen to her, she got back in her car, leaned over her husband and honked the horn. Another man, tall, white, silver-haired, probably retired from a job where he had been paid three times as much as a teacher to boss people around, got out of his car and walked over to the plastic posts.
“No way,” I said. “He’s not going to -”
But he did. He yanked out one post, and he didn’t just lay it aside. He flung it with all his might like a business casual Highland Games caber tosser. Then he shrugged animatedly, like, “Oh yeah? Who’s going to stop me?” One by one, he flung all six posts in the same manner, got back in his car and made his escape, unrefined by the crucible.
Rule followers, my family stayed put, but several other cars screeched away before a young woman parking attendant came and put the posts back up. She stayed and watched us for about ten minutes, and then we heard her radio to the other attendants. “Lot “O” is not moving. Make sure they’re getting out.” So we moved about two car lengths. Finally we came in view of the boy in charge of letting cars out of lot “O.” He looked completely stupefied by his task. He would let one car through and then let the girl across the way send twenty of her cars through. When the young driver in the car in front of us got to the front of our line, stopping so close to his goal, he let out a primal scream. The young attendant, scared stiff now, waved for him to go, but forgot to stand out of the way.
“GET OUT OF THE ROOOOOOAAD!” the driver yelled and swerved around him.
We carefully passed the stupefied boy still standing in the middle of the road and made our way to the exit. Finally. On our way out of the crucible, my husband leaned out his open window as we passed the final lot attendant and said, “Thank you.”