Tuesday, June 24, 1997
Parking: the last bastion
for whiners

The Cincinnati Enquirer

There is only one thing to do after a couple of beautiful, sunny days: complain about something besides the weather. I believe I will choose parking. Or, specifically, privileged parking.

By this, I do not mean handicapped parking.

When I am standing at the Pearly Gates and St. Peter is struggling to heft the enormous ledger of my sins, I will at least know that I never put my car in a parking space meant for handicapped people. Not ever. Not even when it was raining. Not even when I was sure nobody would notice. Not even when I was sure spaces designated for the handicapped outnumbered the people who are handicapped in the entire region. Perhaps in the entire hemisphere.

I drive past those spaces, grateful that I do not qualify.

Parking police

And I do not quarrel with the seemingly able-bodied who use the privilege. One handicapped woman told The Enquirer's Deborah Kendrick that she found a note on her windshield: "You don't look handicapped. The good Lord ought to break your leg."

The woman pointed out, quite rightly, that not all handicapped people have a disability others can see. Wouldn't we all rather take another lap around the parking lot than be wrong? Or, worse, ask the Lord to take part in breaking a leg.

Life is too short. And mean enough already. Let somebody else be the parking police.

Kentucky, for instance, is cracking down on the misuse of handicapped stickers. "I just can't believe there are 400,000 physically impaired people in this state," roughly 10 percent of the population, said Ed Logsdon, commissioner of vehicle registration. So Kentucky has a new system to run electronic checks on handicapped parking tag numbers.

And Hamilton County officials might have missed a few minor stadium details, such as how many millions of dollars it will cost, but, by gosh, they made sure that there was language in the agreement about parking spaces.

Lots of people believe that, next to Nordstrom's, parking would be the best solution to all of downtown's problems. They want more parking. Free parking. Nearby parking. Parking as it is guaranteed to all Americans in the Constitution.

Maternity parking

We take our parking seriously in this country. Kroger is testing the idea of providing special parking for new and expectant moms at its Landen store. In my opinion, parents are more seriously challenged after the baby gets a little older, when they have to drag him kicking and screaming into the grocery, along with his blankie and a stuffed Barney.

None of this makes sense.

Women still wearing Lycra and spandex from their aerobic workouts will drive around for 10 minutes trying to get a "better" space. So they don't have to walk. Maybe the shopping malls and groceries should try designating a row as Fitness Parking, positioning it farthest from the building and getting the cast of Baywatch to christen it.

Or how about at Kings Island? Families eagerly climb aboard the tram to ride from their space in the Scooby Doo lot to the front gate. For 50 cents each, they could ride an air-conditioned Metro bus all the way from home. The bus would deliver them a few yards from the turnstile, their car wouldn't be piling on miles and they wouldn't be dodging orange barrels.

They could use the $5 they saved on parking to buy more funnel cake. They also wouldn't be blowing carbon monoxide over the inhabitants of Warren County.

The trouble, of course, is not really parking. It's driving. Maybe if we left our cars in the driveway more often, there would be less congestion, less road rage, fewer obscene gestures, less nose picking, fewer cell phone towers.

Maybe we wouldn't begrudge special treatment to somebody struggling with a wheelchair. Maybe we'd be less inclined to leave nasty notes or ask God to break anybody's leg. Maybe we could find better things to do than whine about somebody else's parking space.

And the big bonus would be cleaner air - a privilege we could all enjoy.

Laura Pulfer's column appears in The Enquirer on Sunday, Tuesday and Thursday. Call 768-8393 or fax 768-8340. She can be heard Monday mornings on WVXU radio, and as a regular commentator on NPR's Morning Edition.