For those of us who drive, parking a car is an everyday occurrence that also happens to be a giant nuisance. Particularly in high-traffic locations that are frequented by all walks of life, such as the grocery store, the movie theater, the mall, or the post office, parking spaces are fought over much like toys at a preschool. Sure, the majority of adults are rational and can exert some measure of patience, but everyone has had an exasperating "moment" (or ten) in a parking lot for one dumb reason or another. This could result in writing a nasty note, honking, flipping another driver off, exchanging words with someone, or storing the moment in your mind before angrily unloading on social media. And no one gets more pissed off more regularly over meaningless parking fiascos than parents. We explored this topic back in 2014 -- and have recently discussed drive-thru rules, as well as parental road rage -- but a post on Reddit this week inspired me to write on the subject of parking again. Here's what the post said (*note: I do not condone the author's misuse of 'your,' but I appreciate the uploaded image in the edit):
As it turns out, no matter where you want to park your car, you'll always run the risk of upsetting a parent. Parents are too frazzled to deal with parking; that's partly why so many are in favor of specially reserved parent-and-child and expectant parent parking spaces. It's also why parents can get so hostile when those designated spaces are taken, especially by people who don't have kids with them -- and yes, this IS a big deal in the parenting community and no, parents WON'T stop talking about, even when private businesses take it upon themselves to troll their customer base in the parking lot.
Ouch! This UK business is not playing around. And speaking of the UK, it's funny that this sign was posted in a parking lot there, because as of this month, customers at a popular shopping center are being warned not to park in parent-and-child spaces without a "tot" in tow or they'll receive a ticket for £100. Of course, legally speaking, drivers have always been told not to park in disabled spaces or they would get a ticket, but now this rule (not law) appears to be extending to parent-and-child spaces in certain parking lots, as well. This complicates things because, as the sign above says, being pregnant is not a disability (and if it becomes one temporarily, there are disabled signs women can register for), nor is having a toddler a disability (just a massive pain in the ass). And yet, the parking rule seems to equate the two, because why else would there be so much turmoil and rule imposition? A rule that comes with a fine if broken implies that it's for the greater good, but how did we get to this point?
The reasons are myriad, but simple:
1. Lines in parking spaces were originally drawn to accommodate cars that aren't the size of boats. But since so many people now drive SUVs that are bigger than my Brooklyn apartment, this creates problems for parents trying to get their kids in and out of their car seats. It also makes it harder for pregnant women to get in and out of their cars, prompting many pregnant women to post on Facebook about having to climb over their seats just to get into their car. I'm not totally positive, but I *think* this is what Facebook Live was created for.
2. In addition to people (especially Americans) just wanting to own larger cars, there are also a thousand ever-changing car seat regulations that make owning a larger car easier for parents. This creates a bit of a catch-22, because parents might the ones with the larger automobiles, but they're often complaining because of OTHER people's automobiles hindering their ability to get into their cars.
3. People don't like parking far away from store entrances (and by "far away" I mean anything farther than 50 feet from the front door), and because there are now so many people zooming around in giant SUVs, parents also cite not feeling safe pushing a stroller through a parking lot. Hence, they "need" their own parking spaces up front.
4. Those same parents also don't want a single rain drop to touch their precious baby's head, nor do they want the strong sun touching their face, because of course they don't.
5. Parents are increasingly entitled, and it doesn't matter if they have a bigger car, van, or SUV than their parking lot neighbors; what matters is that they feel ACCOMMODATED.
6. This is because parents and families still make up a large portion of consumer sales (be it groceries, movie tickets, etc.), and they will always, always wield that information and lord it over retailers' heads to prove that they are More Important.
In other words, if parents have an issue with parking in a parking lot they frequent, they'll do whatever it takes to make their experiences known, whether it's complaining to management or complaining to friends on Facebook. There are even Facebook pages dedicated to "bad parking," in which people shame bad parkers and put their license plate information on blast. This begs the question: Who's the bigger asshole? The person without a kid who chose to park in a parent-and-child space -- or accidentally parked "too close" to a parent's car in a regular space -- or the person who snapped a photo of a stranger's car with the tag visible and shamed them on the internet?
This person's license plate information was fully visible before I edited it out. What she said might not have been friendly, but you know what else isn't friendly? Harassing a stranger in a parking lot for not adhering to the suggestion that they park elsewhere. You'll never convince me that telling someone else what to do isn't purely an act of self-righteousness, and I don't care if it's telling someone where to park, how to park, not to litter, not to smoke cigarettes, not to listen to music without headphones on, etc. If you get off on telling other people what to do, you're contributing to a society that rewards nagging. How about just letting a homeless man drink his malt liquor and not telling him how to spend his loose change? How about not running up to someone and barking at them about how they don't have a toddler like you're some kind of Parking Police? At the very least, if you're going to tell others what to do, don't gloat about it. None of us is perfect. None of us is more or less busy or distracted by the trials of life than anyone else. You have a baby and don't want to walk from the back of the parking lot? Okay, well, someone else is at the grocery store to pick up a prescription for a sick relative. Why bother telling strangers what to do when you couldn't possibly know their business? Who cares if some lady driving a tiny Honda convertible parks in a parent-and-child space? Technically her car is killing the environment at a slower rate than a minivan. What does she "win"? Yes, I think it's polite to park elsewhere, but just because she didn't doesn't mean she deserves to be publicly scolded or ridiculed.
Ultimately, parent drivers should come to terms with the fact that no one is out to get them (except the government and its car seat regulation overseers). Everyone is at the grocery store or the mall or the movies with the same general intentions (to buy groceries, to shop for a sweater, to watch a movie). I have a lot of sympathy for pregnant women climbing over their car seats, much as I sympathize with childless drivers who are ticketed for parking in a parent-and-child space, because I don't believe they're doing anything illegal. You can harbor resentment toward your fellow drivers, but none of us is the better driver with the better car, and none of us deserves more or less respect and consideration than anyone else. Just think, every single one of us has probably pissed off dozens of drivers, and we all just put our cars in reverse and moved on with our lives without ever knowing. That's how it should be. In the meantime, parents will keep complaining online (and in real life), and parking lots will continue to be battlegrounds. Maybe if shopping centers weren't so adamant about packing in as many people as possible to make as much money as possible, parking lot lines would be redrawn. Until then, it's -- apparently -- war. Let's check out some new examples of parking lot drama on Facebook.
1. One Pissed Off Mommy
Don't bother mentioning the car seat, Amanda, because no one is maliciously trying to screw up your day. Plus, how would someone really know that you have a baby in tow unless they looked inside your car? The reason people park so closely to you is probably because parking spaces are tight, and that's not their fault, unless they happen to be the architects of the parking lot. More than likely, they're just regular people parking their cars like you did, within the designated lines, and going about their business. Does a person really "SUCK AT PARKING," as that card says, if she's just parking in a parking space and there happens to be very little room remaining?
Dear, Red: Your car is the bigger car here. Your car is taking up the same amount of space, if not more, than the Cobalt, which is parked within the designated lines. Why do you care how the Cobalt driver got out of the car? Is your car scratched? No? Then stop whining on Facebook. Vans were designed to have sliding doors for a reason, and it appears you're just now figuring out what that reason is. Yes, it's highly annoying that this car is parked right next to yours, much like it's annoying that there's gridlock in most American cities from 4-7pm, and it's annoying that gas prices fluctuate. But it isn't this driver's fault that he or she parked so close to your car, and if your minivan was smaller, you probably wouldn't have had as much difficulty getting the kids in. Just a thought.
3. Ye Olde Cart Corral Debate
"Do everything as if you were working for the Lord" isn't MY personal motto in life, but other than that I really like what Layla says here. Putting away shopping carts has long been a debate among parents, and the debate can be chalked up to this: Some parents think it's a really good idea, both as a member of a community and as the person their kids look up to, to put away shopping carts, and others just don't bother. I'm not saying we haven't all *thought* about not putting away a shopping cart, or that there aren't special instances in which parents need to hightail it home, but as a general rule, it's helpful and polite to put them away. If you're not the type of person who sees that as an imperative and a necessary task at the end of a shopping trip, might I recommend keeping it to yourself? And yes, the majority of carts that are left rolling around in parking lots are due to lazy people, but this isn't a "lazy people vs. busy moms" debate. It's just a standard rule of thumb about shopping carts.
4. Don't Mess With This Momma
Ahhhh, parental retaliation. It's a tried and true method of interacting with strangers if you're a mom. You just treat other adults the way you treat your children when they disobey you, by punishing them and exerting your dominance. Easy! And as Melissa says, you don't want to mess with a momma, because a momma will happily fuck up your car -- especially if it's a "junkie car" -- if you leave her a note saying she already fucked up your car. What's interesting about this example is that normally, I wouldn't side with someone who didn't park within the lines and is distracted on her cell phone. But in this case, A) These people are at the hospital. Who knows what the girl in the "junkie car" is doing there? Maybe she's distracted because her grandmother is dying, y'know?, and B) Melissa manages to make me sympathetic to the "junkie car" girl anyway, just because she sounds like a classic mean girl. First, she hit someone else's car enough to leave a mark AFTER choosing to park next to it, and then she retaliated by doing something additionally assholish, just because she couldn't resist. Throw in crazy Aunt Helen or whoever she is and you've got yourself a party. Stay spunky, ladies! You go, girls! Next time, throw some large rocks or set the other person's car on fire! Hehe.
5. Disabled People Should Get Over Themselves
Ummmmmm, Nicola, you've got 99 problems and old people aren't one. I've never heard someone make a crack about slashing wheelchair tires, but something tells me you need anger management classes based on that snide remark alone. Do you honestly think if you park in a disabled space it's surprising for a disabled person to call you out? I'm not in favor of undue harassment, but in this instance, it sounds like you actually do need reminding that disabled parking spaces are only for the disabled, i.e. NOT YOU. You're breaking the law just so you can avoid "subjecting your child to the sun and car traffic," and you're missing the point, big time. Just wait until you're an "old bat" whose space is being taken by a young, able-bodied mother. It'll happen faster than you think. Until then, enjoy the tickets you'll inevitably rack up by ignoring basic logic.
Is anything more satisfying than reading between the lines of a business's stock reply to an angry customer? By simply writing, "I'm sorry that you feel this way. I'll pass your feedback on.", the Morrisons social media person speaks volumes. She doesn't need to spell out that Karen is a selfish bitch who thinks the world should cater to her, because that much is clear. Karen is 100% convinced that because she's a "struggling" young mom who can't walk more than a single car's length to get to the front door of an establishment, she deserves to be thoroughly accommodated. She also pulls the "families spend more in your store" card, which is her subtle way of saying, "Money talks. Screw people with disabilities," which is SUPER courteous to others. What confuses me is the way she talks about parent-and-child spaces like they're the only options she has, when in reality she can park in any space that's not specifically designated for disabled people. Seems pretty fair to me! I hope she's waiting with bated breath for the top brass at Morrison's to reply and let her know that she's got a parking space engraved with her name on it for all future use, because hey, it could happen! Moms deserve some prioritizing, too, you know. If only more people could remember that.