Last week I talked about supermarkets that have the power to just shock me every time I go back to the U.S. I know it is coming and I just surrender myself to the experience as I walk through the sliding doors and am hit by the heat blast of a perfectly temperature controlled store that meets all my shopping needs. Then there are the things that surprise me that I totally don’t expect. I know those are coming, too, but I just don’t know what form they will take when I plant my feet on American soil. There were a lot of very pleasant surprises, like the extreme helpfulness of almost every sales person even though it was the “harried shopping season”, but that isn’t the main subject of this piece of musings.
The biggest unexpected shock of the American experience this time was the gargantuan parking lots in front of every store. I have just not been around parking lots for a couple of years and had forgotten about them. Let me give you an idea of how you can forget about parking lots: We lived in the down town of the capital city in a 13 story high rise with about 150 units. We had parking for about 30 cars and we almost always had a spot to park our car. Now we live in a much smaller, more rural setting 6 hours from the capital and you can imagine the amount of cars and therefore the demand for parking spaces is even lower.
How can a parking lot be a shock? Well, there is the sheer size of them, and then there are the parking habits of drivers. For one, we really take care of our elderly and infirm in the U.S. because there is a ton of handicapped spots right in the front of every store. Impressive. Then, there are the habits of the rest of us who want to get the coveted door spot. This seems to be something people can feel very strongly about. If you feel strongly about this, it adds an extra layer of stress to your life… you circle and circle and keep an eagle eye on others circling and watch for the person that just might take that spot away from you, or you see a spot open up right behind you, or you pull up, turn on your blinker and wait for someone to fill their trunk with their purchases and slip into the driver’s seat, make their adjustments before slowly pulling out while holy smokes, a better spot opened up behind you and you know you made the wrong choice. Oh, the stress of it! I had forgotten the parking lot stress. Daryl and I decided when we were driving we were just not going to engage in this cultural phenomenon, so we usually parked at the end of the row and walked a bit. And there you have it, this is why parking lots took the cake in the “I didn’t think it would shock me, but it did, category.”