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The Amateur Parker …

How Do We Convince Drivers Not to Leave Valuables in Their Cars?

By Melissa Bean Sterzick

The holidays were pretty enjoyable in my immediate vicinity. The fun and frenzy of the season occurred as expected, and my family reveled in it plenty. Now we are happy to return to regular life.
The New Year always makes me reflect on my values and priorities, and reading a review covering the past 10 years, printed by Time magazine, gave me reason to ponder the condition of our country and the possibilities that await in this new decade. New technology, climate change and politics are all areas of interest.
Another publication I read regularly, the online version of CNN, reported on an event that caused me to consider the mindset of the American population.
Two women camped outside a large electronics store beginning the Wednesday before Thanksgiving and through the early hours of Black Friday. They got in first and grabbed whatever items their sleepless nights earned them.
They put their loot in their car, which was parked in the adjacent lot, and then went back for more shopping. When they returned to their car, they found it had been broken into and all their bounty stolen. These women were outraged and called the thieves who made off with their Christmas treasures cruel and wicked.
I certainly feel sorry for the women, but I am surprised by their surprise. If you go leaving thousands of dollars worth of electronics in your parked car, locked or not, you can’t be so shocked when it is stolen. And don’t get me started on the practice of sleeping outdoors and shopping for holiday bargains at 3 a.m. That’s a level of consumerism that leans toward insanity, because the only thing worse than a crowded mall would be a crowded mall at the crack of dawn.
I have lots of faith in the human race, but we all know there are bad apples everywhere, and it takes only one. There’s no question the criminals who perpetrated this crime against the law and the holiday spirit should go straight to jail, but what about the women who so carelessly stored their precious bargains in their car on a day and in a place that broadcasts their vulnerability to anyone within sight?
Who really is to blame for their loss? They might as well have left their purchases on the curb.
Once a day, I park my car and see signs that say, “Do not leave valuables in your car” or “Management not responsible for items left in vehicles.” And I think, well, of course. Sometimes I hide valuable things in my car by shoving them under the seats or piling coats on top of them, but I’m nervous the whole time. My car isn’t Fort Knox, that’s for sure.
In college, I left my backpack, filled with workout clothes and shoes, in my car in the basement parking garage of my apartment building. I also left my car doors unlocked, lulled into a false sense of security by the limited accessibility of the garage and the general Christianity of my university.
But somebody wandered through that garage and tried every car door and walked out with a backpack, shorts, a T-shirt, size 9 running shoes, and a sports bra all for free. I was upset, but relieved that I had my wallet with me inside, and considered my loss minimal – until I told my father about it. He was disgusted by my foolishness, and I defended myself by saying at least I hadn’t lost any money or credit cards.
“How much did your backpack cost?” he asked.
“$60,” I replied.
“And the shoes?” he wondered.
“$50,” I said.
“And the clothes?”
“Around $40 altogether,” I answered.
“So you lost about $150,” he concluded.
“I get the point, Dad,” I admitted.
What seemed like misfortune now appeared to be an expensive mistake. My things had been stolen, but I had practically given them away. I think my father was pleased that a lesson he’d been trying to teach me my whole life had finally hit home: Take care of your valuables.
Parking operators are smart to post warnings about leaving valuables in parked vehicles. Some other signs I see often in parking garages are “Slippery When Wet” and “Clearance: 6 feet.” It’s good policy to warn people of danger they might not anticipate – even if that danger is painfully obvious. Still, if you are standing near a cliff and accidentally step off the edge, you can blame only yourself – no sign can replace common sense.
Our country is either poised on the brink of a new era of caution and responsibility or headed for more of the same speculative spending and questionable choices. That includes people leaving valuables unattended and wondering why they’ve lost something that meant so much and then blaming parking lot owners, operators and low-down rotten thieves for their loss.
I’m hoping we stop pointing fingers only at the wicked and cruel perpetrators and start looking at ourselves and the part we play in making our own good – or bad – fortune.
Melissa Bean Sterzick is an Amateur Parker and PT’s proofreader. She can be reached at Melissa@parkingtoday.com.

Article Abstract from January, 2011




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