THE PARKING LOT – Most people don’t see the front of their car very often, which is why so many vehicles are on the roads with only one headlight. I park my car in the barn head first and go into the house. Probably so do you. In a parking lot I usually approach my car from the rear. Thus it is impossible to determine when and where this happened: there is a gash in my front bumper, not a bad one, but I find out later it will cost me $375 to get it fixed.
I sure didn’t hit anything hard enough to cause this scar or I’d known it. Perhaps a valet parker performed the surgery. They go racing out to the parking lot of the cockfight to retrieve your car and drive it back at Mach 2. But more probably this slicing and dicing occurred when I was parked in a slot in a shopping center and some other vehicle came roaring in to park and slammed into my front bumper. Whoever did the damage knew it, but chose to just ignore the problem. Why? No insurance, probably. Every time the state insurance board checks, about one-fourth to one-third of Texas motorists have no car insurance.
Simply being in shopping centers is participating in a demolition derby, hazardous to the health of you and your car. First, people drive across the empty parts of the lots without regard to lanes, stop signs and white stripes. We have no way of knowing where that cannonball is headed. It has been observed that a Texas developer’s idea of an unchartered wilderness is a parking lot without white stripes, yet there are the people who don’t know how to park between the white stripes. They straddle them, or park way over to one side so that when you come out to get in your car you have to climb through the trunk.
You have noticed, no doubt, that shopping center parking lots are stop-free zones. Cars just roll through stop signs. Another problem: Have you ever returned from the anvil store to your car and you can’t find it? I used to be lost until I put on my new bumper sticker: “Ask me about my grand-serf” and: “I’d Rather Be Pillaging.” Speaking of bumper stickers, in my local shopping center LSU decals and “Geaux Tigers” outnumber Longhorn and Aggie bumper stickers and shiny metal stick-ons. Around presidential elections no one needs to poll my neighbors. Any car bearing a Democratic candidate’s name gets a parking ticket.
Here are the spaces reserved for the handicapped. Notice the pogo sticks and skateboards in the back seats. These are the same cars we see at lots set aside for marathon runners. Some slots are reserved for 15-minute parkers. Those 15 minutes can last for hours. Ah, here’s a spot up close. No, wait. It’s full of grocery carts. Actually, I see grocery carts scattered all over the lot. Some are spread around the neighborhood. When the anchor store is a grocery, you see lots of carts. When the anchor is a Macy’s or Dillard’s, it’s probably closed.
Here comes a car towards me. Just as some people can’t park between white lines, some ignore the gigantic white arrows painted on the asphalt, and drive the wrong way down the lane. We might think that all the rows of parked cars which are facing the other direction would be a clue as to which way to go. Some people are stupid.
Before backing out from my slot, I always look carefully both ways, and all I see are the sides of SUVs the size of my local post office. Am I the only person in Texas who still drives a car? Not a pickup truck with eight doors, 17-feet high and a front deer catcher, or an RV that holds the Mormon Tabernacle Choir. Vans also block out the sunlight. But mostly it’s the SUVs that make backing out in a shopping center parking lot suicidal. With a Dodge X-2 Exterminator on one side and a Ford Outback Annihilator on the other, slowly I back out, only to be greeted by a loud horn blast as someone is telling me that my next visit will be to the body repair shop.
Incidentally, the Highland Park Shopping Center in Dallas claims to be the first and oldest such center in the nation. I was there the other day. You still have to inherit a parking slot. I like shopping centers where you can drive right up to the tattoo parlor, get out and walk in. For that reason I am not a big fan of malls because I have to park miles away. Malls have parking lots with their own ZIP codes. Then, after shopping and lugging packages and/or pushing strollers, wheel chairs or carrying a manikin, you weave your way through the muggers to get to your car.
As I drive around, I look for the car that smashed in my front bumper. (An SUV would have pushed the engine into the trunk.) Playing CIS, I am on the watch for scraps of my paint on the offending offender’s bumper. It seems half the vehicles have some kind of scratch, dent, dog fur or handlebar embedded in them.
Recently I was in a fender-bender in this parking lot. A woman suddenly pulled out in front and hit me. At least that was my version. She said it was my fault. “Officer, are you going to believe me or those two surveillance cameras?” I whined.
All of this reminds me of the guy who scrapes another car in a parking lot. He notices several shoppers waiting to see what he’ll do. So he gets out a pad and pen and writes: “I just scraped your car and everyone thinks I’m leaving you my name and phone number. I’m not. Drop dead.”
Ashby is double-parked at firstname.lastname@example.org