Tic Tac Park


I was thinking about action-reaction the other day. More specifically, I was thinking about how people think and behave when given different set of situations within the same overall scenario.

Consider: Parking your car.

It was early in the day when these thoughts began pestering me. I had a few errands to run, and I pulled into an almost empty Walmart parking lot. As I maneuvered toward the doors, I considered what I needed to get inside, and made a decision to park closer to the pharmacy side. Lot almost empty, I was able to park at the front of the row.

When I came out of the store, two cars had parked near me, and for whatever reason, I wondered which one had arrived first, and why they made decisions like moving through spaces (so they could leave without putting the car in reverse). Then I began to wonder what would happen over the next few hours as more people arrived.

Letís leave the Walmart parking lot for a moment.

Think about Tic Tac Toe.

All of the options are available on the opening move. You could play a corner, center, or middle edge space. The opponent hasnít played yet, so there is no blatantly specific reason for making any selection, other than personal preferences and playing styles.

To my knowledge and experience, most people pick center. And over the years, Iíve seen articles explaining how such a move affords the most options, even with sloppy and mistake-filled play, to achieve a tie or win. I have also heard plenty of arguments for selecting a corner. Evidently, with disciplined play, it pretty much assures a tie while leading to a quicker win if the opponent missteps. Rarely, it seems, is an opening move a middle space along the edges. Plus, all of this said, I have not studied the statistics and probability of Tic Tac Toe in depth to make myself some sort of grand master.

The relation to our parking lot pondering arrives with move number two, and subsequently move number three. Itís when the reactions begin to come into play that the fun begins. You take this Ė I take that. You move here Ė I move there. And so on.

An open board, with nine options available for selection, presents every possibility to the person with the first move. A board with even one space removed from consideration presents decisions and predictions.

Back to Walmart.

Maybe your preference is, when available, to park so that you can simply shift into drive and leave. Maybe you like to be next to a certain door of the building. Maybe you like to set things up so at least one side of your car is at the end of a row. Maybe you hate the ends of rows.

Often, we donít have much of a choice. If itís busy, there may only be a couple of spaces to select. This is especially true if we do actually care where we park.

In the wider tangents of my thoughts, it seems like many of the things we do are not the actual first selection (so to speak). We donít usually face the open board. InsteadÖ

The weather might determine if we can mow the lawn or paint the house.

The different brands offered can factor into which grocery store we frequent.

The flow of traffic and speed of cars ahead might influence which lane we select on the highway.

Heck, if you use coffee pods, you might make your first decision of the day based simply on whatever pods are near the unit.

This isnít an essay about Tic Tac Toe. Or Walmart. Itís just a meandering debate about the patterns of choices we make. Scratching the surface on why we do what we do. And I might even explore it a bit more if I didnít have to head into the kitchen to decide what to make for dinner.


If you have any comments or questions, please e-mail me at Bob@inmybackpack.com