Car sitting

Something that fascinates me about London is the amount of time people spend sitting in their cars. I first noticed this phenomenon when we were living in Wimbledon. We used to walk around Wimbledon Green frequently, both during the day and in the evening or even at night (this was back before children), and every time we would see at least one person sitting in their car. In the evenings it was sometimes quite obvious why people had chosen to spend time in their car, but during the day it was much more mysterious. Some people would be eating, some smoking, some reading, some sleeping, and some just sitting there for no apparent reason. The road that was most popular for car sitting was a somewhat quiet road lined by large trees on the north side of the Green, with a view out over the pond.
Car sitting was far less evident in Cambridge. However, when we moved to southwest London, I discovered another stretch of road that is highly popular for this particular pasttime, again a rather quiet road, this time right by the River Thames. The road in question floods frequently, in particular around the equinoxes when there is a full moon. It would be interesting to know if any car sleepers have woken up to find their vehicle partially submerged. It is the car sleepers that alarm me. I have not yet learned to walk past people sleeping in their cars during the day with all their windows rolled up and not instinctively wanted to bang on their window. Maybe that comes from having seen The Full Monty more than once, I’m not sure, but every time I see one of them, particularly if they look really very asleep, I have to remind myself that this is in fact a reasonably common pasttime here.
I have also realized that car sitting happens often in the parking lot of the children’s gymnastics centre. This makes a bit more sense to me. The waiting room at the centre is crowded and has a concrete floor, and there isn’t much of a chatting dynamic going on among the parents and caretakers, so a car may seem like a more attractive alternative. But I wonder if there would be as many car sitters were the gymnastics centre in the U.S.– my guess is no, but I could be wrong.
If I were a bit more motivated than I am, car sitting would make another good target for the art project I originally wanted to do with pay phones, back when people still used them. Kind of an art/sociology installment involving taking pictures of the car sitters and recording a brief interview with them about why they happen to be car sitting at that particular place and time. Till then, I’ll just keep wondering.

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