Before having kids, I thought those parking spaces reserved for shoppers with young children were ridiculous.
My husband and I would joke, “What’s next? Parking places that are only for red-haired people born on Tuesdays?”
The message board inside the store often has comments posted which say things like, “Where’s the single person parking?” or “Where is the parking for people who have dogs?” Reserved parking for certain people just because they are shopping with young kids? That’s not fair!
Now that I am constantly toting around two young kids of my own, I love these special parking spots. Sure, they are conveniently located right next to the front door, but really it is so much more than the shorter walk. Navigating an extremely busy parking lot clutching the hand of my squirmy three year old boy while muscling a heavy infant car seat or trying to see over the baby in her carrier, all while shouldering the diaper bag is stressful and unsafe. Then add variables like subzero temperatures in the winter or a torrential downpour. And…wow, I am so glad those spots exist! And I am always so happy when I get to use one.
Today I was out running errands with the kids and suddenly it was lunchtime.
Everyone was tired and hungry but we were a half hour from home so I decided to take both of the kids to the grocery store for a quick lunch. We pulled into the busy parking lot and both the special parking places reserved for customers with small children were open. I pulled into one and immediately another car pulled into the other spot. I glanced into the other car (a small town habit to see if you know someone and should say hello) and noticed three grown women. No car seats. No pregnant bellies. “Hmmm, that’s weird,” I thought, “I wonder if they realized they took one of those special spots? Or maybe this is the only open spot?” But when I looked around the parking lot, I saw that there were many other open spaces that were just slightly further from the front door.
I opened up the door to the backseat and began to wrangle my three month old into her baby carrier. She had been fussing for fifteen minutes and really wanted to nurse. I would have stopped to nurse her in the car, but my three year old was also really hungry and out of patience from being dragged around all morning. I was hungry too. We needed bagels, cream cheese, and yogurt. Stat. I just kept thinking about how before I could nurse the baby, I still had to get her into the carrier, get my three year old out of his seat, get my diaper bag, get us into the store, steer my son through the busy aisles, pick out our groceries, pay for everything, find a seat in the cafe, make my boy his bagel, get our drinks, and then I could finally nurse the baby. The baby fussed and fussed. I knew that there was an invisible hourglass ticking off grains of sand and when they ran out, the baby’s fusses would explode into her incredibly loud cries.
As I was trying to get the baby into her carrier, I realized two of the passengers had gotten out of the car next to me and we’re watching me from a few feet away. “Hmmm, that’s weird,” I thought. Then I bent down to get the baby out of her car seat. When I stood back up, I noticed that the two woman were still standing behind my car watching me and whispering to each other. Then I realized why: while I had been trying to get the baby situated, I had been standing in open door of my back seat and this made it difficult for the of the other car to get out. It was so awkward. I began moving a little faster, muttering apologies under my breath.
I’ve gone to this store and parked in these spots so many other times. Often other cars full of grown ups and kids end up loading and unloading at the same time as me. When this happens, the other adults and I always exchange knowing looks and smiles. Sometimes we offer to return each other’s carts. This time, there were no smiles or knowing glances, just three women openly staring at me and my kids.
Finally I had the baby in her carrier and I moved around to get my three year old out of his seat. That’s when I heard one woman laughing and talking to the driver of the other car, “I guess that’s karma! You couldn’t even get out of the car because you got trapped by a baby! Ha ha ha!”
They didn’t even try to care that I was right next to them and could hear what they were saying.
Then they quickly breezed into the store. Ha ha ha. You people are not funny. You are not cool. Actually, you suck.
It’s not funny to watch someone who actually use the spaces intended for them. It’s not funny to watch someone struggle.
It’s not funny to take a spot so that you can be closer to the store but possibly make another person’s life just a little bit harder. I wonder if they also would have laughed at a handicapped person. “We stole a handicapped spot and now look at that person struggling with that wheelchair! I guess it’s just karma, that we have to wait thirty extra seconds for them to move out of our way! Ha ha ha!”
Forty-five minutes later, the kids and I finished eating and left the store. I noticed the spot next to my car labelled “Reserved for Customers Shopping with Young Children” was once again empty. Good, I thought, now someone who actually has children with them can use that spot.
But just as I was thinking that, a car pulled in…with a single man inside.