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Rage Before Beauty

Claim:   An older woman takes revenge on the sassy young thing who brazenly zips into the parking space she'd been waiting for.

LEGEND

Examples:

[Harvey, 1987]

Our "For What It's Worth Department" hears from Hershey, Pennsylvania — where the woman in the Mercedes has been waiting patiently for a parking place to open up. The shopping mall was crowded.

The woman in the Mercedes zigzagged between rows — then up ahead she saw a man with a load of packages head for his car. She drove up and parked behind him and waited while he opened his trunk and loaded it with packages.

Finally he got in his car and backed out of the stall. But before the woman in the Mercedes could drive into the parking space . . . .

A young man in a shiny new Corvette zipped past and around her and HE pulled into the empty space and got out and started walking away.

"Hey!" shouted the woman in the Mercedes, "I've been waiting for that parking place!" The college-ager responded, "Sorry, lady; that's how it is when you're young and quick."

At that instant she put her Mercedes in gear, floorboarded it, and crashed into and crushed the right rear fender and corner panel of the flashy new Corvette. Now the young man is jumping up and down shouting, "You can't do that!"

The lady in the Mercedes said, "That's how it is when you're old and rich!"
 

[Fried Green Tomatoes, 1991]

[Evelyn is cut off in a parking lot.]

Evelyn: Hey! I was waiting for that spot!

Girl 1: Face it lady, we're younger and faster!

[Evelyn rear-ends the other car six times.]

Girl 1: What are you DOING?

Girl 2: Are you CRAZY?

Evelyn: Face it, I'm older and I have more insurance.
 

Variations:
  • The make and models of the cars vary from telling to telling, but the theme of the young person driving a sporty smaller car or a banged-up worthless vehicle and the put-upon older person attacking it with something more substantial and valuable always holds true. Our victim never drives a Corvette; neither does the harasser tool about town in a Lincoln Continental.
  • Though the most common form of this legend sees sassy young women getting their come-uppance at the hands of sedate matrons, sometimes it's young men who nabs the parking spots. Indeed, on occasion it's elderly gentlemen who ram the youngsters' cars.
  • The dialogue varies, but the general theme of the upstart being hung with his own line is maintained:
    • "That's what you can do when you can drive!" is answered with "That's what you can do when you've got money."
    • "You've got to be young and fast!" prompts "You've got to be old and rich."
    • "That's how it is when you're young and quick" fetches "That's how it is when you're old and rich."
    • "Face it lady, we're younger and faster!" pulls in "Face it, I'm older and I have more insurance!"
Origins:   Folklorist Jan Harold Brunvand has heard from a number of readers who Cartoon of the legend encountered this tale in the 1960s and 1970s. By 1987 this tale of parking lot vengeance had worked its way into a bestselling novel (Fried Green Tomatoes), which in 1991 was made into a film, bringing the legend to an even wider audience.

The young people in the story are characterized by their brazenly cheeky attitude. By contrast, the middle-aged victim is often described as having waited patiently for the parking spot, even backing further out of the way to allow the spot's previous tenant an easier egress. Our matronly heroine, in other words, believes in the rules. Unstated but understood is the knowledge that ordinarily she is the picture of saintly good manners and refinement, a kindly soul who would never cause harm to anyone.

That she snaps in the face of unspeakable rudeness is a reminder that each of us is capable of losing it. She does not permit gentility to be equated with weakness, choosing instead to vent her outrage on the cause of her frustration. But even in this moment of extreme provocation, she retains her poise, turning the smart-ass comment of her tormentors against them.

In the final analysis, the matron's revenge harms no one but herself. She or her insurance company will be held liable for the cost of repairs to both vehicles, and there's a possibility of criminal charges to be faced (she did assault her provokers, after all). That moment of sweet release may ultimately prove quite
costly!

It's that element of cost versus satisfaction gained and how a real person would weigh them up that makes this tale a successful legend. Was there ever such an infuriated car-rammer? We'll never know. But, real or not, she lives on in our hearts because we need her to.

Everyone has at one time or another been wronged, and everyone has felt the urge to strike a counterblow. Most of us, however, don't indulge in this pursuit because we've deemed the cost of getting even too high to justify the benefits gained. Therefore, a tale about a kindly woman pushed way too far and snapping allows us, the eternally put-upon, a chance to vicariously experience the joys of retribution, joys we're not likely to sample in real life.

Barbara "strife-riled of the rich and famous" Mikkelson

Last updated:   30 March 2011

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Sources:

    Bear, Ted.   "Believability Keeps Best Old Folklore Tales Circulating."
    The San Diego Union-Tribune.   19 July 1986   (Ed. 1,2, pp. 1-2).

    Brunvand, Jan Harold.   The Mexican Pet.
    New York: W. W. Norton, 1986.   ISBN 0-393-30542-2   (p. 67).

    Brunvand, Jan Harold.   Too Good To Be True.
    New York: W. W. Norton, 1999.   ISBN 0-393-04734-2   (pp. 81-82).

    Harvey, Paul.   For What It's Worth.
    New York: Bantam, 1991.   ISBN 0-553-07720-1   (p. 1).

Also told in:

    Flagg, Fannie.   Fried Green Tomatoes at the Whistle Stop Cafe.
    New York: Random House, 1987   ISBN 0-804-11561-3.

    Healey, Phil and Rick Glanvill.   Now! That's What I Call Urban Myths.
    London: Virgin Books, 1996.   ISBN 0-86369-969-3   (pp. 32-34).

    The Big Book of Urban Legends.
    New York: Paradox Press, 1994.   ISBN 1-56389-165-4   (p. 97).