Last week hubby and I managed, by chance to make it to Kohl's annual winter sale - this is, of course, when we stock up on clothes for our children to grow into. Anyway, this was purely by chance, and we got there very early - just as the store was opening (another amazing stroke of luck).
As we were leaving the store laden down with bags and were walking across the parking lot, we happened to walk past a woman trying desperately to maneuver her very long car out of a tight parking space.
Without thinking twice my husband put his bags down, trotted behind her car, and began to make the universal symbol for, "You're okay, keep coming on."
The woman driving, however didn't see it that way and she stopped her car dead still, sat rigidly, and refused to move. She began to motion vigorously for hubby to move on.
Of course, once hubby figured out what was going on, we moved on. We didn't want to be featured on the next episode of COPS for trying to help a woman back out of a car spot!
This reminded us how different our lives often are when we are immersed in a military culture. For instance, think back to any time you've ever had to drive on base. Imagine yourself at a crosswalk in your car. ANYONE can be a traffic cop! My husband, his Basic Training days long behind him, still snaps into parade rest with an arm in front of him when we cross the street with our large and roiling horde of children. This he does without thinking. And without embarrassment. And no one seems to find it odd behavior, either.
In fact, I've seen other people do it in a myriad of circumstances. You don't need an orange net vest and embarrassingly shaped flashlight to direct traffic on base when there are people who need to cross the street. Some of the volunteer road guards even make a little dance out of it.
But being a road guard off base? I. Don't. Think. So. At least where we are stationed, you would probably just get mowed down.
Something else I've noticed - when you are on base, even a general will trot double time across the street and wave thanks for your patience. I had never really noticed this behavior before until I could compare it with the behavior of drivers and people walking along the road when we were stationed in New Jersey. Yeah, it's a whole different world. I gave my customary, "Hey, thanks for stopping!" wave at one shopping center and got honked at! They waved back, too, but it wasn't quite the same wave...
And finally, we come to directing people in and out of tight parking spots. Having been afflicted with some truly enormous minivans in order to carry around our personal Air Force Squadron of children, I've had to get out of some of the tightest spots known to man. It never fails on base that whomever is walking behind me will stop, survey the situation, and then wave me out.
Then again, we are Air Force Family, and so it just may be that we keep running into people who are used to guiding C-130s down the runways.
Actually, it's not true that these things are solely seen on military bases. I've been waved out of parking spaces in other places, too. Just not with the same frequency good humor. I do have to say, though, that I've never seen a civvie-clad road guard off base. It might have something to do with speed limits being above 25 mph.
So maybe the woman we tried to help out had never seen complete strangers who willingly embrace parking duty. I'll give her the benefit of the doubt. But just for me? I'm going to hope that the next time we've got our school bus sized minivan at that Kohl's, some military person with a penchant for traffic control is there to help.