The few times a week that I have to stop at the grocery store with one or both of my children – after swearing the time before I’d never bring them again – I always feel a small “win” when I find an empty space in the front with the sign “Reserved for Parents with Small Children.” After making breakfast, packing lunches, folding laundry — and oh, by the way, working in my home office – I really value that little “break,” and also the knowledge I have that much less parking lot to navigate with kids on my arm.
So it really gets under my skin when I find a car parked there and the owner has no small child in sight. I’m kind of obsessed by it. I see the car, note that there are no car seats in it, and fantasize about what I’d like to say to the driver.
One day a few weeks ago I went for it. My daughter and I were coming out of the store when I noticed a man walking briskly to his car, also parked in a space reserved for parents with children. While his air of self-importance was there, there was no child apparent, and he was clearly able to make his way to his car with no difficulty. Here’s the conversation that transpired:
“You know you parked in a space for people with small children,” I said.
“Yes, I purposely parked here,” said El Jerko.
“You know that’s really rude,” I said. “They are there for a reason.”
“I figure you young parents are more able-bodied than me, so you should walk farther,” said El Jerko.
At this point I put my daughter in the car and shut the door, because I knew my years of living in Philadelphia – the City of Brotherly “LOVE” (If you’ve been there you know there’s irony here) – were about to become apparent.
“If you have difficulty making it to your car, you can apply for a disability placard, but I doubt being an a**hole will qualify you for one,” I told him.
At this point he went on to say something else. I simply told him I believed in Karma and to have a nice day.
If you don’t have small children, I might seem petty. Perhaps you’ve resented those signs in parking lots yourself, but let me remind you, those aren’t a “perk” of parenthood. We’re all working hard to be good parents, employees, wives, husbands, and getting to park a little closer than the rest of society is a small, little break that doesn’t cost a thing. And on those days when you want to scream, it’s a small kindness that can keep you from going off the edge.
Aside from that it really is a safety issue, and I would encourage more stores to consider such spaces in the front of their store. I only have two little hands to hold, and I struggle to keep my kids from running in front of cars. I can only imagine how hard it is for bigger families.
If you encounter an El Jerko, let them know they’ve been busted. I find that most people do things because they don’t think they’ll get caught, or won’t be confronted. Often, confrontation makes people uncomfortable and maybe the next time they’ll think twice about parking there.
This whole issue is a microcosm of a larger statement of the dynamics of society. Life is hard enough. Why do we have to be mean, bitter and spiteful towards each other? Life throws us enough hard knocks. We don’t need to create bitterness or give strangers a hard time. Be a nice person. Be kind to strangers for no reason. It doesn’t cost anything and might just put a smile on your face.