Magazine

The Amateur Parker Ö

Jingle Hells

Parking During the Holidays Was No Picnic

Melissa Bean Sterzick

Ah, the holiday season, a time of peace and generosity, parties and pies, traditions and family gatherings. There are so many things to love about this time of year. Then again, there are so many things to hate. Squabbling with in-laws, taming greedy children, cooking dinner for 30 people while your spouse watches football, standing in line at the post office, and the very worst of it all Ė trying to find parking at the mall.
If all you had to do was find the perfect gift for everybody on your list that would be challenging enough. But you have to buy the gifts, send the cards, decorate the house, attend functions (enjoyable or not) for work, church, school and relatives, and continue with the everyday aspects of life at the same time: jobs, bills, laundry, greedy childrenÖ
Parking at the mall anytime after Thanksgiving is like driving your car into a Venus fly trap. Itís a slow, agonizing, suffocating death. You are completely aware of what is happening to you the entire time and you know there is no escape. Itís not an experience that can be compared to any fair competition. Nobody wins during the holidays, not even the most aggressive parker. Twice as many cars as parking spots means everybody drives in circles for 30 minutes until they are lucky enough to stop behind a pair of glowing reverse lights. Following bag-laden shoppers around the lot or garage never works, if you can keep up with them, because often they are unloading not leaving. Heading for the back corner doesnít work either because even the least desirable spaces are in demand.
As an amateur parker, I do my best to avoid the mall after turkey day. I shop early, or buy gifts online. Iím not patient or cheerful enough to face the mall intentionally. Inevitably, however, I find myself making one desperate trip to the Gap or Barnes & Noble or The Sharper Image for that last gift that will make my loved one deliriously happy for at least 30 seconds. I drive over to the mall thinking I only need one thing so I will just zip in and out and how long could it really take? As I sink into the quicksand I question my own intelligence with profanity and vehemence.
This year, before I found myself steaming mad and swearing at the wheel of my car in a bubbled over parking garage, I made a few resolutions that eased my angst.
No weekends. I did not go near any shopping mall, shopping district, shopping center or shopping promenade on a Saturday or Sunday between December 1 and January 1. No exceptions. If I had to shop anywhere with a food court I did it during the week, as early in the day as possible.
Try the bus. I know they are out there. I know they go right to the mall and possibly donít go anywhere else. It only cost $1. It took a little longer than I wanted, but it was much less stressful.
Carpool. Even smothering Venus fly trap deaths are easier to take when you are with a friend. When I had to dive into the quagmire, I invited a few friends, made the person with the smallest car drive and called it an expedition. We wore matching shirts. We synchronized our watches and cell phones. Everyone shopped, everyone ate lunch, no one got left behind.
I considered hiring a chauffer. Or better yet, asked one of those loved ones on my list to drive me as close as possible to my purchase destination (even if thatís 2 blocks away) and slow down enough that I could jump out safely. I promised to return to that exact place in two hours precisely or walk home.
I actually used the valet. OK, this was the most difficult. I hate to valet park because Iíd rather park my own car and give myself a $5 tip. But thereís no sense boiling my own blood when such a service is available.
Maybe we put too much pressure on ourselves during the holiday season. Maybe weíve bought into the idea that consumption equals happiness. Too many parties, too many gifts, too much to eat Ė stuffed stockings, stuffed turkeys, stuffed bellies, stuffed parking lots Ė itís all part of the tradition. But, letís face it, the hustle and bustle is it what makes it the holiday season. And next year, Iím still sticking to my strategy.

Melissa Bean Sterzick is a writer, proofreader, mom and amateur parker in the Los Angeles area. She can be reached at Melissa@parkingtoday.com.

Article Abstract from January, 2008




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