We need to talk about parking.
I will confess: I used to be a “curb parker.” An “I’m only going in for one second, so I’ll pull up and just run in and out right quick” parker. I may even be the reason there are now orange pylons along the curb at the mall, so that people like me can’t park there, in the fire lane.
It occurred to me one day that I am incapable of just running in anywhere for a second, and that my two minute errands could, with the sight of one old friend, escalate into 25-minute conversations in the middle of the toilet paper aisle.
So I don’t do it anymore. I park in the parking lot regardless of how quick I plan to be, or how gross it is outside, because I know I was one of the people other people cursed. I was part of the problem.
And what a problem it is around here. People who live in big cities often complain about rush-hour traffic and road rage, but the big issue in these parts isn’t a problem with moving vehicles, it’s with the ones that are stationary. The parking in the Strait area is atrocious!
There are several types of parkers who infuriate with their poor habits: the curb parkers (also known as ‘fire laners’), the parkers who completely create a space where one doesn’t exist (usually in the main thoroughfare), and the worst offenders, the able-bodied drivers who park their cars in reserved accessible parking spots.
If my experience is any indication, there are lots of spot stealers out there. I’m not sure if it’s inconsideration, laziness, or ignorance that’s to blame, but I suppose it doesn’t matter much, it’s shameful regardless.
I remember years ago when I used to drive my grandmother around to run errands. In her 80s, her mobility was limited and for years she used a cane or a walker to help her get around. Getting her out of a vehicle was a challenge, as was walking on uneven terrain of any kind, so the blue handicap parking placard she had in Grandpa’s car was not only appropriate, it was necessary in sloped or pothole-filled parking lots.
The number of times we circled a parking lot looking for an empty spot near the entrance would shock you. And the number of times we saw healthy-looking people walk briskly to their illegally-parked car would shock you even more.
And yes, I realize people can be deserving of an accessible spot even when they don’t outwardly present themselves as having a disability of some sort. Maybe they have a splint that’s not visible under their pant leg, or they’re on their way into the store and will only have trouble walking on their way out after being on their feet for 20 minutes. There can be a million invisible reasons for making someone deserving of an accessible spot. Those aren’t the people at whom I shake my finger.
I tisk-tisk the teenagers who pull into the first spot they see without even noticing it’s an accessible spot. I also tisk-tisk the guy who pulls in because he’s buying a BBQ and doesn’t want to drag a 100-pound box half way across the parking lot, and the lady who doesn’t want to get her hair wet in the rain. Inexcusable.
More than anything, though, I tisk-tisk the person who is a premeditated cheater; someone who borrowed the car from their elderly grandparents and use their parking tag even when Gram and Gramps aren’t in the car. It’s quite a big problem in this province, according to the Disabled Persons Society of Halifax, who a few years ago declared the misuse of roughly 10,000 issued parking permits in Nova Scotia to be an epidemic.
I have even heard stories of an underground market for parking placards on eBay and Craigslist , if you can believe that. Talk about playing dirty pool.
This is about more than parking faux-pas, of course. The issue is emblematic of a culture where despicable behaviours have become acceptable. Too often we forget the needs of others when doing what’s convenient for us.
Be considerate, people. If you’re lucky enough to have full mobility, leave the good spots for those who aren’t as lucky.