Sunday, December 2, 2012

They Had A Row

Shopping mall parking is a fascinating sport.

I discovered this as a recent spectator at a nearby mall, where I had a ringside view of this competitive endeavor.

Now, I'm not entirely up on the rules of this event. Apparently, the goal is to see who can park closest to the entrance. There are three main strategies here. The first is to simply make a mad rush to the spot, knowing that one's competitor in a Lexus is equally determined to seize that same spot.

The second strategy is to feign interest in a different spot, hoping to catch one's competitor with his or her guard down. Thus, one can easily weasel one's way into the spot, exit the car, and hurry into the crowded mall amidst honking and other derisive feedback from the loser. I'm a fan of a third strategy. "Sharking", i.e., circling the same cluster of vehicles until an acceptable spot becomes available- is a surprisingly reliable manner by which one can land on a favorable spot. No one is quite certain why sharking works so well. One can only speculate that driving in circles around the same cars induces hesitation from aggressive would-be weasels and anxious mad-rushers.

On the other hand, it may be the case that there is no best strategy in competitive parking. The weasel, for instance, might easily thwart the mad-rusher simply by timing his Civic's entrance into the spot. Approach angle is key here; any attempt to back up and re-enter the spot will be negated  by the mad-rusher. Weasels tend to excel at approach angles. That makes sense because one mistake means having to park behind the tire replacement building approximately five thousand miles northeast of the mall's oldest anchor store. Weasels are also the automotive equivalent of poker players, preferring not to tip their hand to mad-rushers until they're at least halfway into the spot.

Though weasels often prevail over mad-rushers, they, too, are vulnerable to losing prime parking spot opportunities. Frequently, just as a weasel slips past a mad-rusher, a shark suddenly appears from the opposite side of the parking spot, diving in with near-perfect grace. This leaves the weasel with no choice; he must move on to another parking row and attempt his strategy against Horatio's '77 Chevy Suburban. The shark is indeed swift, graceful, patient... cunning. He sniffs out great spots, but unlike the shark, the mad-rusher doesn't care about style points. His deftness in securing that sweet spot, three slots across from Bow Tie Emporium, is realized from the convenience of not being encumbered by grace and agility. From my ringside perspective, what became apparent is that, regardless of which strategy one employs, speed and timing are crucial to securing the spot and, hence, the win.

Fortunately, I'm not a competitor in this sport. I prefer to park several rows away from the arena, which can only help to reduce thirty pounds of extra me. Having done so also provided an opportunity to watch as the automotive expression of rock-paper-scissors played out in front of me. Secure in the knowledge that I would be inside the mall sooner than the competitors, I could only reflect on the irony of the situation; each driver calculated that fighting for a spot close to the door would lead to less time required to get inside to buy that snack tray so desperately hoped for by Aunt Lottie.

After an entertaining evening, all that remained was to return to my spot by the tire store.

Maybe the weasel could drop me off.

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