View From a Height
Commentary from the Mile High City
Sunday, November 23, 2003

Parking Lot Etiquette

A friend of mine, Jeremy Epstein, asks the following question:

You’re in a parking lot, riding as a passenger with a friend. It’s crowded, spots are not easy to come by. As the passenger, can you get out of the car and walk around the lot? And if you do see an open spot (that hasn’t been claimed by another person), can you go and “save it” until your car arrives there? Are you allowed to wave off other drivers?

I'd say that unless you're spotting for a pregnant woman, the answer would more or less be no. You sit in the car, looking for spots like everyone else.

Think of the mayhem that this kind of behavior could cause, if carried to its logical conclusion. It's 7:30 on a summer evening, at a parking lot near 7 Corners. Jim is ferrying the kids soccer team to the local pizza joint after the game. Naturally, each of the little monsters has a cell phone, as does Jim. He drives across the lot, pausing briefly at the end of each lane to discharge a small passenger, who then walks down his assigned lane looking for an open spot, calling Jim when he finds one. Of course, his kids are all in 7th grade, whereas John, who's doing the same thing, has high-schoolers at his disposal. While Sarah is taking her women's investment club to lunch.

Pretty soon, the lot is crawling with cell-phone-laden spotters, racing each other to the only open spot available, and then arguing over who saw it first, and/or got there first, like two women bickering over the last jar of borscht at Katz's on Erev Pesach. The smarter ones mimic driving behavior, tailing people leaving the mall for their cars (and their soon-to-be-vacated spots). Only the high schooler group up to follow the twenty-something bureaucrette leaving her exercise session, and who gets nervous at being tailed by 5 teenage boys, and whips out the mace.

No, I think this is a very bad idea, indeed. The only place I could see this working is where time really is an important factor, like an airport parking lot. Hopefully, your passenger has a Segway at his disposal.

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