WACHS: Ever wondered why we do what we do… or don’t?


Were there such a thing as living multiple lifetimes on this side of the Great Divide, I’m pretty sure I’d devote one of mine to a lengthy study of human nature.

Not really sure what could be done with the information that would be revealed but it would be interesting and possibly help understand why we humans do the things we do… or don’t.

For instance: a few days ago, I made a run (not literally) to a local grocery. It was one of those larger establishments with a parking lot the size of Rhode Island. Through the years, parking lots and I have come to an understanding on several points.

One is that I will not attempt to squeeze my tank-sized van or 4-door pickem-up truck into a space designed for a baby stroller or MG Midget. Another is somewhat similar in that I will, as often as it’s available, park in a space at the end of a line.

That little piece of standard operating procedure came from Shirley’s uncle who was a professional (read: “Trailways bus”) driver. His reasoning, which I adopted long ago, was that whether you were driving a solid gold Cadillac or Granny’s old clunker or something in between like a silver Edsel that by parking on the end, your vehicle could be clanged only on one side by a next-door vehicle when that driver flung open the door.

On this particular day at the grocery, apparently everyone else in the world had completed their shopping or the store was out of a favorite brand of something like maybe peanut butter because the parking lot was virtually empty, including a row of spaces some 40-plus spots long, front and back.

Given that there was no apparent need to worry that the side of the “Party Wagon,” an affectionate name for the 12-passenger van I can get into without assuming the shape of a soggy pretzel, would be dinged, I parked somewhere in the middle of a row, the only vehicle within a quarter of a mile.

After a quick purchase, I headed to the van and discovered it wasn’t alone anymore. Another shopper had arrived and apparently liked the same location so he/she picked a spot in the same general area… no, wait… not the same general area but nose to nose with my van.

Now, granted it wasn’t beside my ride, just nose to nose. So here’s the question: Why?

Why, of all the spaces, that one? Obviously, it was available to be used as a parking space, but what was the draw? Was it so my van would have some company with whom to swap spark plug stories or tales of carburetor woes? Did the other driver want us to become fast friends?

Or was it so the driver could find his ride? I can’t say much about that because I’ve been known to misplace mine; the parking deck at UNC Hospitals is the worst. But on this particular day, the one level lot was all but vacant.

Now, I know that in the great grand scheme of things this isn’t a big deal, especially compared to matters of world peace and eternal consequences. The biggest issue of that moment turned out to be that rather than go forward to leave, I had to back out.

Still, I couldn’t help but wonder about the whole notion of human nature, which sometimes is determined by location and personnel.

For instance, have you ever noticed that often when a group of folks are dining out or at some social event featuring food that the chicken-wing plate will sit there with one morsel left or the last chip and salsa in the bowl is crying out to be consumed but no one will make a move? Many may eye but few will try to wipe the plate clean.

That was never an issue in my boyhood home. Although there are a few years between my two brothers and me, when younger and all at home we had many meals around Mama’s table with our folks. And while Ma and Pa would often pass on that last piece, we Three Musketeers seldom did.

It wasn’t like we counted who had what and how much but we were members of the “Clean Plate Club,” meaning just that — your own and any others in the vicinity.

Wonder what that says about human nature? Maybe that you had to learn to move fast for if you thought long, you thought wrong. Since there aren’t multiple lifetimes, some of these questions must remain unanswered, unless you know.

If so, please contact me.

Bob Wachs is a native of Chatham County and emeritus editor at Chatham News & Record. He serves as pastor of Bear Creek Baptist Church.