It’s a Parking Free-for-All


It’s a Parking Free-for-All

Parking lots and garages offer an interesting glimpse of a specific modern reality. That is, how human beings have come to use public places for personal, and sometimes private, agendas.
A hundred years ago, it was unthinkable to be seen kissing or crying in public. And no one ever said the words “stomach” or “toilet” out loud in company. But times have changed, and anymore there seem to be few rules about what is private and what is not.
Discretion is not so highly valued. I’m not judging, because I’m occasionally guilty of crossing the line between appropriate and inappropriate myself. Still, I can’t help but notice things going on in parking areas that just don’t seem right.
Wardrobe changes. My family recently spotted a nearly complete outfit of clothing discarded in a pile in a parking lot. What happened? Are there streakers in the vicinity? Did he or she decide to embrace nudism right here at the grocery store? Or was it something more sinister? Maybe a kidnapping or a criminal taking on a disguise to evade capture.
More likely, somebody stole some new clothes and just couldn’t wait to put them on. Most likely, it’s as boring as somebody unintentionally dropping their clothes and driving away without them. We speculated, and settled on something adventurous, because a single shoe can easily fall out of a car and be left to whither in the sun, but an entire outfit?
Diaper duty. I understand the need to perform this task in a parking lot. When I am in public with my baby and diaper patrol is necessary, I have only three options. I can brave the smell and the unseen cooties and try to change her in a public restroom (if I can find one with a changing table), while she screams bloody murder because she knows she’s on a nasty, flimsy piece of plastic hanging precariously from a wall by two dubious hinges. Another option is to drive home while the fumes of her rotten Huggies fill the car and make us both wretched.
Or I can lift the gate of my SUV, lay out a towel, plunk her down and do the dirty job. And that’s what I do. She’s too little to care, but I have a sinking (or should I say stinking?) feeling this is inappropriate on several levels. Obviously, I wouldn’t want to be in her position. Further, I know this is not something unsuspecting passersby want to observe. (It’s not necessarily something I want to observe, but I’m her mom.) We’ve all seen dirty diapers abandoned in parking lots and garages. I promise I never leave the diaper on the ground and drive away.
Dining. I don’t know about the rest of you, but I frequently encounter the remains of some litterbug’s lunch in parking areas. These junk-food junkies have picked up food at a drive-through, continued on to their chosen parking area, eaten in their car and thrown the trash out on the ground when they left because they didn’t want their car to smell like greasy French fries and ketchup. They must be in a hurry. They must be totally oblivious to 40 years of anti-litter public service announcements. They must be blind to miss the dozens of large trash cans within walking distance in every direction. They must not have been raised to consider how their actions affect other people. They must be complete degenerates. Oh, sorry, I’m ranting.
Expectoration. Are people coming back for all the gum they spit on the ground? I don’t think so. And it’s not just gum I occasionally step in. Here’s where I just say it like it is: Any and every demographic can be blamed for gum spitting, but it’s pretty much only males who shoot saliva out of their mouths in disgusting, bubbly blobs. For anyone thinking of consulting Emily Post, I’ll save you the time: Spitting is not OK anywhere but the bathroom sink and the dentist’s office. Sorry, still ranting.
Emotional cell phone conversations. Few things crack me up more than watching people on cellphones and headsets talking animatedly and gesturing wildly for the person on the other end of the line who can’t even see them. I have observed motor-mouths of all shapes and sizes crying, yelling, accusing, debating, convincing, complaining and canoodling on the phone inside their parked car – alone but for the tiny electronic devices stuck to their heads.
There are a million books out there on manners concerning everything from weddings to dinner parties to funerals. There are instruction manuals on almost any subject available at mainstream bookstores and local libraries. Even Internet geeks and text jockeys have certain written guides. But there’s nothing out there for parking lot protocol. Consider this a start.
Melissa Bean Sterzick, PT’s Amateur Parker and Senior Proofreader, lives in Southern California. She can be reached at

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Melissa Bean Sterzick
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