The Amateur Parker Ö

Yogurt Takes Over Parking Lot

May, 2010

By Melissa Bean Sterzick

My favorite little grocery store is actually part of a giant chain. They specialize in smaller-scale locations that sell staples and good-quality gourmet foods that make the staples seem a lot more glamorous than they really are. Fortunately, the staples are priced competitively, so even though I admit Iím a sucker for the fancy stuff, Iím not being suckered into paying $5 for a gallon of milk.
I like to shop at this grocery store for many reasons. The staff is sincerely friendly. The sample stand is always going full-speed, and they give my kids stickers and balloons. It makes everybody happy. Iíd tell you the name of the place, but if you canít guess itís because you donít have one, and thereís no use torturing you that way.
I have been going to this store for the last 9 years and have learned to steer clear on Saturdays and Monday evenings. On those days, not only is the place packed and inventory low, but the parking lot starts to jam and spill, and itís a real mess to get in and out.
On a busy day the only parking to be found is across the street, and metered, which means I have to find quarters, and be ready to carry three grocery bags and my toddler back to my car when Iím done shopping. My willingness to deal with the limited parking proves I really like this grocer and its products. Most days itís entirely manageable and parking is a non-issue. Until recently.
Some months ago the United Statesí trembling economy got the best of a mom-and-pop camera store in this tiny shopping center. After they liquidated, the storefront stood empty for about 10 minutes before a frozen yogurt chain signed on. The yogurt people gutted the place and then filled it with self-serve machinery, high-wattage lighting, retro tables and chairs, and apple green mosaic tile.
A veritable pro-biotic temple, it hardly matters what the place is called, weíve all been in one of them, and the idea is pretty simple: Choose your own flavors and toppings and pay for through the nose by the ounce. And itís fat-free.
I tried the yogurt myself. I thought it was sickeningly sweet, which is probably why my kids loved it and so does everybody else. And I mean love it. I noticed the storeís affect on parking right away.
My 8 pm midweek grocery run found me in a full, instead of half empty, parking lot. All those extra cars belonged to the yogurt fanatics. And every week the parking lot has gotten fuller and the line longer and the people lining the store fronts sitting on benches, standing, and riding skateboards is larger and larger. Itís all been annoying for the grumpy people like me who take to change slowly and resent any inconvenience that does not provide a direct and reciprocal benefit.
What no one seemed to think about when they installed this yogurt Mecca was the potential popularity of the place and its ability to seat 20 with another 40 people in line and a good 50 congregating outside the front doors. All of these people are parking in the itty bitty lot outside that also serves six other businesses.
Still, it didnít seem like a big deal until the throng became bigger, more boisterous and less aware of the line between sidewalk and parking lane. Iím just minding my business, buying groceries with my little girls and am subjected to the amplified swearing of delinquent teenagers all stuffing their faces with yogurt and blocking the sidewalk while they are at it. I have clear memories of being an obnoxious teenager, so I let it go. The trash cans are literally overflowing with yogurt cups and spoons, but I guess the management will eventually realize their trash receptacles are inadequate.
Iím doing my best to accommodate this new order when the situation disintegrates into total chaos. Once parked in the lot, I find I can barely get out. The yogurt devotees have filled their live-culture chapel and pushed out into the parking lane where, as a collective, they are oblivious to the vehicles inching toward them.
And no one seems to be watching the youngsters. Three children, all younger than 8, dart out in front of me with no adult in sight and no sign that they realized they were seconds from becoming hood ornaments.
Sure, it takes me awhile to get used to new things. I donít go around bragging about how adaptable and easygoing I am. I like my routine and I like my routine to run smoothly. Even the mildest OCD is not a politically acceptable trait, so I donít expect to be supported in my quest for predictability, but I draw the line at running over small children let loose in parking lots. Thatís where I stop being understanding and start getting snippy.
Melissa Bean Sterzick is PTís amateur parker and proofreader. She can be reached at Melissa@parkingtoday.com.