Monday, May 22, 2006

Parking Dilemma

Tell me something. What infuriates you more than not finding a parking spot when your in a hurry, or even worse when its raining? Sure, its not the worst thing in the world but at the time, nothing could make your blood pressure go up more, aside from realizing after the fact that the store your hoping to do some shopping in is closed.

Here's my experience.

Late last week, the wife had me run to the grocery store for a few odds and ends. The grocery store and I don't get along (see this previous blog entry) so before leaving the driveway, I always have a plan of attack which includes mapping out in my head where the items are in the store, in what order to pick them up and most importantly, where the best parking spots might be given the day of the week, the time of day and the weather. All of this is done in an effort to expedite the process of grocery shopping which I dispise a great deal. My focus here is on parking so let's get to it.

I entered the parking lot of the grocery store and started my search for a spot. Like most people, I made a bee-line down to the spots closest to the store's entrance praying for that ever-elusive spot next to the handicap spaces. (Of course, 99% of the time they're occupied but I'd kick myself if I never bothered to look only to find out moments later that someone else scored the spot. Believe me, that's a let-down that I've experienced far too many times to let it happen again. So I had to eliminate that obvious close spot before taking the more realistic approach further away from the store's entrance. This time, no spot existed so I continued my search.

Up an down the rows of vehicles and still no luck. I could feel my patience running thin. After all, I came to the store for a handful of items and now, its turning into a grueling expedition analogous to climbing Mount Everest.

All of a sudden like a diamond in the rough, like a beacon of light shining down on a time of despair, (sorry, way too many metaphors) the front of a vacant parking spot glistened with my name on it. It was almost as if the Lord himself willed that spot to be vacant at that very time so that I would be privy to it. Feeling as if I won the lottery, I sped up to the spot giddy with excitement and started to turn the wheel when something became clearly visible in the spot. No, it wasn't a person or a shopping cart. IT WAS A CAR!

I slammed on the brakes only a few feet from slamming into a brand new Ford Focus! How in the hell is this possible? Granted, I'm not a fan of the Focus but if I would have continued into the spot, I would have been responsible for the damage to the car!

Back in the 1970s when the huge, gas guzzling Lincolns and Buicks roamed the streets, you knew when these behemoths occupied a spot. Their 8 foot long trunks would stick out giving an oncoming driver a conspicuous clue that the spot was not vacated. Now in their place, Toyota Corollas, Ford Focus' and motorcycles take up most of the spots.

The problem is you can pull one of these subcompacts into a spot and if surrounded by a truck and a Cadillac, the subcompact becomes completely obscured, totally hidden from aggressive parking spot hunters like myself. Is it my fault that the spot was too small? I say no. In principle, the designers of the parking lot spaces should be held liable for the damage due to faulty design.

We all know that there are more parking lots than ever before. However, what hasn't changed is the size of the parking spaces. Nope, these rectangular oases on the vast plain of asphault surrounding your favorite store, for the most part, have stayed the same size; their dimensions frozen firmly in place since the first strip malls reared their ugly head.

How many accidents are caused by this blatant disregard for parking lot space design etiquette? I'm sure the department of transportation has no such statistics illustrating this but trust me, it happens more often than you think.

Back to my parkin saga.

After a verbal tirade which included a multitude of four-letter words, I backed out and continued on my search for a spot feeling dejected and frankly stupid. Sure, some of this was my fault. I should have seen the car in the spot. I get that. But one simple fix if implemented could have eliminated my parking lot rage entirely. That is to create parking spots for smaller cars separate from larger cars. Sounds simple, right?

You know there would be an outcry because some people driving certain cars would feel that they would be singled out. Too many people would be offended and eventually it would snowball into a political issue which would ultimately result in an appearance by Jesse Jackson. A simple fix to a parking lot problem would end up being transformed into a metaphor of what's wrong with the country. As quickly as my parking space remedy was suggested, it would be swept under a thick bureaucratic rug never to be heard from again. Which brings me right back to square one: A man on a trip to the grocery store without a place to park.

So, what did I learn from this? Simple. Get a neighbor's handicap sticker that way you get the best parking spots ALL OF THE TIME!