Magazine

The Amateur Parker Ö

Melissa Bean Sterzick

From the day infants become cognizant, they begin to categorize the people and things around them. One of the first things children learn is to distinguish between male and female. Pretty soon, for better or worse, they learn that there are lots of people out there and lots of ways to label them.
While itís never a good idea to buy into stereotypes or to categorize people based on trivialities, I occasionally do it anyway. And parking habits are a very easy, mostly harmless categorizing tool. My study of parking habits is a work in progress, but this is what I have come up with so far:
The Aimless Parkers just wander in and around a parking lot (or garage) with no plan in mind, no sense of any kind of time constraint, and very little awareness of the cars and pedestrians around them. They may or may not be on a cell phone, but either way cannot summon an attention span long enough to steer toward an aisle and into an available spot. Often they will pass up several perfectly adequate parking spots in search of one that meets some mysterious criteria. Interesting enough, none of us would ever admit to being an Aimless Parker, but we know a lot of them Ė they are the people parking the car when we are in the passenger seat.
Overly Selective Parkers are people who think their car is as precious as a newborn baby. They donít leave it wrapped in a snuggly pink blanket, but they do go to great lengths to ensure that it is parked in the safest place they can find. These are the people who angle their red Corvettes sideways into three spots so no other car can get closer than 5 feet. These are the people who do not use valet. These are the people with very specific parking needs: not under a tree, not next to a minivan, not close to any other Corvettes (with those enormous ding-making doors), nowhere near a pothole, and not within spitting distance of a car with any kind of damage (because people who drive beat-up cars donít care much if they beat up your car, am I right?).
Lazy Parkers are the people who circle and wait and will do anything for a spot close to the entrance of their destination. Heaven forbid they should walk 20 extra steps. They often are carrying a 64-ounce fountain drink and wearing elastic-waistband pants and Velcro shoes. They spend 10 more minutes searching for a front-row spot than it would take them to park in Timbuktu and walk. I imagine their cars are full of fast-food wrappers and old newspapers. To be fair, sometimes I am a Lazy Parker. I donít drink soda or wear elastic waistbands, and my car is full of sippy cups and Cheerios, not trash. There just are days when the thought of escorting my two small children through a busy parking lot is too taxing. I search as long as it takes to get close so I know we will go home with all our limbs. My children wear Velcro shoes.
Mean Parkers are the people who drive around like vultures Ė ready to zip into a spot in front of its rightful owner Ė happy to edge out a slower driver and unfazed by a near-miss with a loaded shopping cart and its elderly navigator. These are the people who get yelled at, shot at with obscene finger gestures, and occasionally beaten with a tire iron. I donít encourage violence, and I try to keep my fingers to myself when I drive (and park), but Mean Parkers must really crave abuse, and the little devil on my shoulder likes to see them called to the table when they violate the laws of common courtesy.
I am what I like to think of as a Lucky Parker. I donít always find the spot I want, but I always find a spot. Some days I get a good one without even trying Ė right up close under a shady tree that doesnít drop goo on my roof. Other days I calculate the odds and head for the back row where I find a great spot and get a little exercise walking and dodging those other parkers I mentioned.
My favorite spots are the metered ones with 90 minutes still left on the clock Ė I donít even have to look for change Ė itís like winning the lottery! Recently, I went to a local farmers market and, with at least eight other cars trying to get into a packed 50-car lot, I found myself in perfect position for a space right near the entrance where I needed to be. Of course, it was next to a minivan, but I didnít have to run over anyone to get to it and I felt pretty happy about that.

Melissa Bean Sterzick, PTís Amateur Parker and Senior Proofreader, lives in Southern California. She can be reached at Melissa@parkingtoday.com.

Article Abstract from April, 2008




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