Just my thoughts. I'm sure you have your own.

Tuesday, April 1, 2008

5 Reminders for Macclenny Drivers, Part 3

[The following editorial was originally posted on www.macclenny.com forum boards in December of 2006. It was third of a 3-part series about how the increase of population in a small, country town had directly led to an increase of careless driving by many. As the previous posts, the audience was specified to the residents of the town of Macclenny, but any small town, or even a larger town or city, can relate to these irks. This is the last one, I promise.

Also, even though the title is '5 reminders', there are only 4 subheadings. The title is more or less just there to link and make a continuation of the series.]

Special Edition—Driving in Parking Lots

Though it’s been a good eight or so years since I took Driver’s Ed, I seem to recall they focused most of the course on maneuvering through construction cones and, oddly enough, making sure we could turn around in the middle of the road without going off the road. (Is it just me, or was this the most unnecessary skill taught in the whole course? I mean, has anyone used this skill since?) One thing I don’t recall us going over in much detail, if at all, were the parking lot do’s-and-don’ts. This is quite ironic, because the parking lots are the most dangerous places a driver may venture; the ‘elephant graveyards’ of the open road, mind you.

Whether 16 or 60, a person can never be a master of parking lot technique. Much like golf, every single parking lot is different, with its own unique personality. Unlike golf, very impatient and haphazard individuals often frequent parking lots. Because of this uncanny fact, I have dedicated a section of my Driving Reminders series specifically to parking lots.

A World With No Home Field Advantage.
Some sports teams use that phrase for a number of reasons. Playing at ‘home’ means that there will be more fans to cheer for them than the other team. In some sports, it would mean that they’re a little bit more familiar with their environment (see golf illustration above). Mostly, though, this advantage comes from the fact that the team at ‘home’ has practiced at this same location a number of times and the players, no doubt, feel a certain comfort playing there that others wouldn’t feel. Similarly, there are some parking lots we frequent more than others, making them almost like ‘home’ to us (this would most likely include places such as work or, more commonly for some, Wal-Mart). However, when it comes to driving, there’s not much of an advantage to being at ‘home’.

For one, there are drivers who are not at ‘home’ right now, be it tourists, visitors, or the less-frequenters of the establishment. The problem with this situation is that there is no comfort that can be derived from the visitors. You may be able to navigate blindfolded, but the 3 other cars that are in motion behind and to the side of you would rather you not. You may know where all the twists and turns are, how to get to the best spots, or simply the easiest way in or out, but the Volkswagen Beetle from North Carolina may be a little miffed at you if you smoothly cruise right out in front of it, carefree as a kite-flier on… well, kite day.

There’s a corollary to this, also. How often do you go through parking lots in San Diego, California, or even really in Jacksonville for that matter? Are you at ‘home’, here? Not so much as the man who lives down the street and comes here for lunch every single day (including Sundays). If Mr. Penelo decides to non-chalantly get in your way coming in to the parking lot, you might have a few choice words for him (whether you actually say these words or not is a different matter, see below). The point here is, no matter where you are, there’s no guarantee everyone around you has as much driving finesse as you when it comes to parking lots. I sure don’t.

My Car Needs Personal Space, Too.
I went for Chinese food today, you know the place next to the [old] Wal-Mart? Getting in and out was amazingly difficult, mainly because of the Wal-Mart-is-moving-and-is-having-a-sale thing. However, I was deftly surprised how many times I had to stop or maneuver around someone blocking an entire aisle of parking spaces. I basically had to back up at one point to let a huge Ford truck (Dually, I might add) by me. This, as anyone would point out, is uncalled for.

Now, of course, some discretion is needed. For instance, if an unnecessarily long vehicle was a parking place, we may need to extend our ‘allotted half’ of the aisle a little to angle or fit in. It may even mean we’d have to go completely from the right to the left for a second. (By the way, people who drive on the left-hand side of a parking lot aisle should have their license revoked. This is not England. Thank you.) However, to basically fjord the entire lane like the Israelites going through the part in the Red Sea is a little selfish. Not only does it make others have to back up, but you basically have inhibited any other cars in front of you from accessing empty (in some cases, hard-to-find) parking spaces. Finally, you have officially blockaded a perfectly good escape route when you get to the end of the aisle; traffic is now forced to go straight. Please take a moment to make sure you are allowing plenty of room for others. It’s hard enough to find any room in a parking lot anyhow.

Doctors Are Saying We Need The Exercise, Anyhow.
I want to come right out and say that I’m guilty of this as well and that I need to work on this point just as much as the next person. Still, it’s something that should be said. Companies that design the parking lots to establishments go through a good amount of painstaking detail to design each one specifically for the business’s needs. For instance, many more people would be in Food Lion or Winn-Dixie than would be expected to be in Superior Cleaners at any given time. Therefore, the two former parking lots are larger than the latter. As we all know, there’s a limited amount of space that can be utilized, and the best way to manage it would be to build the parking spaces out, toward the road (you know, that place where the traffic is coming from). What this eventually means is, especially during busy times, we might have to park far away.

(Allow time for the reader to gasp, disbelieve, and curse the very notion)

“But that would mean we’re becoming like Orange Park, Regency, or any other area that has a mall!” Yes, readers, I know. However, Isaac Newton, among other physicists, helped us to understand that bodies of matter cannot inhabit the same space at the same time without… certain effects (namely, with cars, wrecks). Parking lots are not exempt from the laws of physics. If a store does big business, they can expect to have a lot of individuals there at once. This means they would need to accommodate for this, i.e., have more parking spaces. If there are already 40 customers there, you may need to park a little further away. Now I make these points for a couple of reasons.

One-Don’t look at me impatiently and hover around my car when I’m just walking out of the store. I may want to change the radio or put a CD in before I back out (see Reminder #8). It could be I’m out with my wife and we want to examine more closely what we bought before I get on the road. I know there are a few empty parking places somewhere in the parking lot; a little walking won’t hurt you, or else you’d have a handicap tag and be able to park closer to begin with.

Two-Don’t look at me angrily if I get to the space first. Especially if I was there first to begin with (which, in most cases, is the case). Fingers and swears just make a person look like a 5th grader all over again. What argument does someone win? It’s not like I won a competition by getting to the space first. And it’s also not likely the manager of CVS watched the whole thing and now won’t let you in on account of you “not getting the closer parking space”. In the case of CVS, not getting mad at me will save you 4 bucks on a bottle of aspirin. Just relax. Maybe you need the exercise from a farther away space to work out the anger issues.

(After those last two points, I’d think it prudent to once again mention I’m not pointing fingers at any one person or telling people how to live their lives. These are meant to be friendly suggestions… friendly, just strongly worded.)

In Case I Haven’t Made This Just Clear Enough… Just be nice.
This goes for all aspects of driving, Parking Lots or not. Stress is on the rise today. Doctors are saying it leads to sickness (lowered immune system) and blood and heart problems. I know the road is about as friendly as an old-west train robber (and I probably could draw half-a-dozen similarities off the top of my head). There’s a good chance your day was pretty lousy. Work may have been a pain, or may be a continuous pain. Perhaps you and your girlfriend/boyfriend/spouse/collection agency representative had a fight not 10 minutes before you got in your car. You haven’t eaten all day. It’s only Tuesday. There’re fifty reasons you can think of to be bitter and agonizing. If you let traffic or the idiosyncrasies of other drivers get to you, it’s not going to help your situation any more.

Just think of the positives: First of all, you’re in your own little world again, your car. Away from all of the annoying people you know and the mountains of paperwork you endure every day. You can sing showtunes during the entire trip home (I guess you know who I am driving home now). Jimmy Buffett or Steven Perry can be your traveling companions if you prefer. Especially if you have things to do when you get home, this is your break away from the world. Enjoy it. Heck, if traffic is slow moving, it just means you have more time to yourself. Even if your vehicle is a busted pile of scrap metal (much like mine is right now), it’s a little slice of paradise.

As far as the parking lot is concerned, things are moving pretty slowly, but that’s no reason to be upset. Enjoy the scenery (if available). Relax. If you haven’t gone into the store yet, enjoy the last few moments of having money. If you’re coming out, enjoy the new things that you have. If you went to pay bills, enjoy the electricity and phones that you have. If you’re in the work parking lot, enjoy the look of your place of employment getting smaller and smaller in the rear-view mirror. Just as if in traffic, on the road, or on the interstate, parking lots can be much more manageable if we all just take a breath and calm down.

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