Frustration and Impatience: the fast road to Parpsville.

Frustration and Impatience: The Fast Road to Parpsville.

A middle aged white man makes an exaggerated fake smile with his head tilted back as he looks, wide-eyed to camera.
Andy Le Roy in fake smile mode. Photo Credit: Maggie McGinty Photography.

Frustration and impatience. They seem like small change in our emotional landscape, but when we let them fester, the result is less like a nourishing yoghurt for the sould, and more like… well… read on…

It all started, as far as I can figure, when I slipped my wrist band off my wrist as I walked towards my parked car in the multilevel car park next to my gym. I’d had a good program review conversation and workout, and am generally happy with the way all of that’s progressing, thanks for asking! It wasn’t a new year’s resolution, so I feel more connected to the goals I’ve set, but that’s another conversation for another time.

This morning has been a lesson in presence, mindfulness and P A T I E N C E.

We’re all human, and it’s natural to feel impatient every now and then, and I find it kind of interesting to catch myself in moments now and take notice of what I’m doing to myself. How am I responding in the moment, and what effect is that having on my mood and physiology?

Like I said, I felt pretty good walking out of the gym this morning but when I slipped the wrist band off, I remember consciously telling myself “this is an unusual break in your habit/routine… you normally slip it off in the car and hang it straight onto the gear stick so you know where it is.” Then I answered myself, as you do, and told myself “it’s OK, you’ve got it in your hot little hand and you’ll sling it over the gear stick when you get into the car.”


Except, I didn’t slip it straight over the gearstick. I placed my towel over the driver’s seat and tossed my bag onto the passenger seat then reached to take my wrist band off, like I normally do and it wasn’t there. Obviously! Having searched between the seats, on the passenger seat and scouted around the car floor in general, knowing that it didn’t have legs and wouldn’t have just walked away, I still couldn’t find it. So I backtracked, scanning the pathway and stairs along the way to see if I could spot it. No luck, so I asked the guy at the counter to unlink the band from my account in case someone picked it up (rather than pay $8.00 to replace it right now… that’s a coffee and a bit in today’s money!)

Back I went to the car, being mindful of other vehicles snaking past me as people entered the car park. More searching to no avail, and the driver parked next to me shot be a bit of an impatient look, so I perceived, because I had my door open and they wanted to get into their car (don’t you HATE it when people do that! It’s been known to grind my gears on other occasions.)

Bummer, I thought, I’ve lost the wrist band. In my second search I subsequently lost my car keys *sigh*. Luckily they were on the passenger seat where I’d dumped them as I continued my frustrated search. It was time to go after making sure it wasn’t under the car. Nope. Just get in the car and head home, mate. You’ve looked everywhere logical. So my point of frustration was well and truly set before I turned the key in my ignition and shifted into reverse gear, ready to back out of my parking space. Just as soon as the driver behind me finished their Austin Powers style 100-point turn to get out of their own parking space.

It’s around this point where I typically start to play the “why can’t people just learn to reverse properly?” tape in my head. I’ve definitely picked it up over the years from other sources, but just as definitely been renting space in my mind long enough for me to consider it a long term companion to have and to hold, like my very own. I’ll even add some helpful mansplaining that accompanies the dialogue: “you know, if people realised that by turning their wheels in the opposite direction while they’re moving once they’ve safely cleared the parking space, they could just gently accelerate forwards and complete the exercise in two steps instead of a hundred (clearly an exaggeration, because I’ve bothered to count the number of manoeuvres and the maximum I’ve seen so far is about six. Still too many, but not the highly inaccurate one hundred.)

I digress. Have I tested your patience, making you tense with frustration that I haven’t got to my point yet?  Because at this point of the story, other drivers in the car park are starting to parp the driver causing the hold up. You know what a parp is, right? It’s that little “toot” you give someone else to politely say “hurry the **** up!” I hadn’t parped yet, but eventually let a little toot free, feeling completely justified and vindicated by the short burst of solidarity parps that followed. Everyone was clearly frustrated by now.

I’d switched between reverse and neutral several times by now in an attempt to try and let the presumably nervous driver behind me know that I wasn’t about to reverse into them. They could, indeed, finish reversing out of their spot they had already three-quarters vacated. Away they drove and the traffic… kept sitting there… that’s actually when I checked over my shoulder and realised that the driver I’d been focused on wasn’t the cause of the traffic jam. It was someone further up. I wish I’d realised this before I decided to parp, but we’re all yelling at clouds in the sky from our own little worlds sometimes, aren’t we?

So the traffic’s moving slowly. Really slowly. Nobody seems to be able to see my reverse lights and the opportunity to nab an actual top-notch parking space. I slowly edged back so they could see me and it worked. A break in the entering queue of traffic meant I could execute my two-point turn and make my way home. Yay!

Did I mention my point of frustration was already high because I’d lost my wrist band? OK, so what happened next notched that up even further. As I carefully reversed, I was grateful for the automatic “jam on the goddam brakes” feature (or whatever it’s called) in my car because a pedestrian decided to walk straight in front of my reversing vehicle,  out of nowhere. My view was obstructed by the pillar next to my car at that point as I edged carefully back. The brakes slammed on. I swore in the person’s general direction, but I’m pretty sure they didn’t even notice they just narrowly avoided getting bowled over. It would have been a different story if my car didn’t have that fancy optional feature. I took a breath and continued reversing. Just as I was about to enter the lane and make an exit, an exiting driver scooted past in their car while I was moving into the lane and I was grateful, again, for the “for **** sake, slam on the goddam brakes” feature.

By the time I now gingerly reversed into the exit lane my stress level was high and I looked for the quickest exit point from that carpark. There was no stopping me!


As I entered the main road I noticed I was feeling really tense after that whole exit strategy. I could feel the tension in my neck and chest, where I typically hold my stress; my breathing was shallow and I’m pretty sure I was making that cat-bum face by pursing my lips in indignation. For what, though?

For the time being, the location of my wrist band was unknown, and out of my control. Maybe someone would find it and hand it in. Either way, $8.00 wasn’t a huge penalty if I actually needed to replace it. If anything, I learned that I need to be more mindful when I’m breaking routines, or micro habits, so I don’t lose track of things. That’s why I put that little habit of waiting until I’m in the car before slipping off the band in the first place, right?

As for the near miss with the pedestrian and nearby cars, I really could have avoided that experience for myself by making the acknowledgement in the previous paragraph before I shifted into reverse. The second fruitless search had frustrated me further and I had grown impatient. Impatient enough to just want to get out of there, even though the traffic was jammed.

I could have used that traffic jam as an opportunity to pause mindfully and gather my thoughts while others around me parped away, because they had started well before my little contribution, and would have used their own feeling of frustration and impatience to “really show that driver who’s boss” with or without my contribution. I would have realised that the impatience and frustration I was was feeling was also replcated in the other dirvers around me and, grateful for some movement, they didn’t want another pesky driver (me) crossing their path by reversing out of their parking spot. That’s what caused this palaver in the first place.

I could have just sat there, mindfully, for five minutes (or less) while the traffic cleared, and given myself a less stressful reversing experience overall. Except for the pedestrian. That’s on them. Seriously, if you’re walking through a car park and a car is reversing, it’s important to realise they might not be able to see you (the moving vehicle is a good indicator of that) and it’s really not best practice to walk in front of a moving vehicle. Again, not in my control, so I’ll just be grateful nobody was injured, other than my deflated mood.

By the time I got home my mood had lifted because I had decided to sit with these feelings and this process to work out why I felt so tense and was giving myself the green light for a crappy morning. I’d worked it out. By being present with myself and questioning my thoughts and beliefs, I could see the cognitive mountains I’d been traversing were actually molehills.

In the driveway at home, I opened the back driver’s side door one last time and immediately spotted my wrist band.

Attending to something outside of heightened emotion: productive.

Saving myself $8.00: priceless.

Or something like that.

The more I explore mindfulness, the better acquainted I become with myself and what I’m doing to myself when I run on auto pilot.

And it’s not just in car parks where this is useful. Workplaces are full of people running on often useful autopilot routines, but when we stop listening to ourselves and each other, the parping begins, and can get ugly. It can happen in any relationship or context.

Annie Harvey is a mindfulness QUEEN and it was incredible to be able to chat with her about mindfulness and supporting good mental health in the workplace. Some other great minds joined us for this conversation as well, offering their own unique sotry and perspective, including Sally Goldner AM, Hugh Kearns, Suzanne Mercier and Jane Madden.

Take some time out for yourself now and have a listen.

What little triggers can you identify in yourself that have the potential to send you to Parpsville? Now that you know, how can you avoid doing that to yourself?

Share your thoughts below!

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