No YOU Shut Up And Drive
Janis Hirsch illustration

I Got Malled – Mall Parking Lot Blues

I know Americans are supposed to love shopping malls, but I don’t. Trying to find a parking space, tooling around in circles several feet underground, makes me uneasy. There’s gotta be a better way.

By Janis Hirsch

I went to three malls today, upping my Mall Visit Total for this century to three. No, wait, that’s not true. I’ve shopped at various malls over the years. I just haven’t parked in their garages. And now I remember why.

It all started, as so many Saturdays start, with Bloomingdale’s. They were having a crazy one-day sale on suitcases and I needed a new carry-on bag since the one I’m using bears the logo of a flop TV show I worked on in 1996 and I don’t need another reason for nerds to talk to me in the airport. Mind you, I still have the duffle bag from the flop TV show I worked on in 1994 and a tote from the flop TV show I worked on in 1999. Anyone see a theme here, beyond “flop television loves luggage”?

Beating The System

I know some mall-parkers’ strategies involve grabbing the first spot you find or even the spot closest to the exit but I like parking as close to my destination as possible. The more direct my route, the less chance I have of impulse buying a Le Creuset roasting pan that weighs 35 pounds soaking wet.

Which means I spend a lot of time getting honked at because I stop to read every sign painted overhead hoping for directions or at least a clue as to where my store is. See, I get completely disoriented underground; if you and I ever need to tunnel out of prison together, you lead the way, I’ll do the shoveling with my spoon.

At long last I found the Bloomingdale’s elevator. Now the goal was to find the perfect spot for me and my car. Some people I know are like fisherman who stand still for hours hoping for a trout to cruise by: they pick a spot in the garage and idle, confident that someone will materialize to back out of the perfect parking space. And yes, of course, sooner or later someone will, but what if the drivers of those parked cars are watching all 9 hours of “Shoah” or competing in a mall-walking marathon? I don’t have that kind of time.

After another 10 minutes of driving around and never taking my eye off the Mothership (the Bloomingdale’s elevator), I found a suitable spot.

One challenge met, so many more to conquer

I have a friend who takes a picture of where she’s parked her car whenever she’s at the mall but – and I know how nuts this sounds – my sister and I have a superstition that if you take a picture of your car, you’ll get in an accident. I said it was nuts.

Another friend writes her location on her parking stub but that feels a little like wearing an “I’ve fallen and I can’t get up” life alert bracelet. Yes, it’s smart and wise and yes, it may be needed in the future but can’t I ask my brain this one little favor? No, I can’t remember what Pi equals and I couldn’t tell you the plot – or even the name – of the last book I read but “P1, Blue”? Even I can remember that for 30 minutes.

When I got to the escalator, I turned around to study the posters, reminding myself that when I come back down, I turn left at the poster of whichever celebrity is now endorsing Proactive acne wash.

After all that, this particular Bloomingdale’s doesn’t have a Home Shop and no, I do not want a spritz of “Fancy” by Jessica Simpson, ow ow ow, that was my eye.

Off to Mall 2

This one has festive little lights over every parking spot, red for taken, green for available. So in addition to reading signs for Bloomingdale’s and dodging people texting… what? “I’m in da grg”? I’m like a subterranean Magi , only instead being guided by the Star of Bethlehem I’m guided by teeny, mostly malfunctioning mall lights. Potato, potahto.

It’s then that I see my worst nightmare: a woman with giant shopping bags wandering forlornly through aisles of parked cars aiming her key remote and hoping to hear a chirp. Look! She’s perking up, is that her silver Prius?! Alas, it’s not; it’s one of the 40 silver Prius’s’s’s’s’s in the row. Suddenly I was back in the year I was so proud for having finished all my shopping that I treated myself to a frolic through the Container Store where I marveled at what they’re doing with bottle brushes these days and then suddenly had the pang: “I have no idea where I parked. And I circled so many times I don’t even know what level I’m on. “

Remember how scared Tom Hanks was when he woke up on that island in “Cast Away”? That’s how I felt, only I also had to go to the bathroom.

Mall 2 was a success. Bloomingdale’s had I what I needed plus it was entertaining to see a husband not my own get so bored that he began to bowl with roll-away luggage, complete with the three step approach, the bowler’s lunge and the fist pump when he made a strike, meaning he knocked over a display of animal-shaped luggage tags.

Finding my car again was a breeze because I used a handy mnemonic device of my own making to remember Elevator Near Ann Taylor Level One Green Four: “Eat Nectarines And Tangerines, Let Oranges Grow Fur. “ And yes, it would’ve been easier to just remember where the hell I parked but where’s the fun in that?

Ya Gotta Love Larry!

Anyway, I was out of Mall 2 and home in no time when my husband surprised me with movie tickets. Any activity where Rasinettes are involved is fine by me until I realized that the only movie theater Larry likes is… in Mall 3. I won’t name it but since it opened twelve years ago I’ve always called it Death Mall 2000. And I’m being kind.

Why is she complaining, you’re thinking, she’s not driving and that my friends, is the problem. Mall garages and I don’t get along but mall garages and my husband are at war. And if you think war is hell, try war from the passenger seat when you’re starting to feel carsick.

I beg Larry to let me drive but he promises that this time, he’ll be fine. In retrospect, I shouldn’t have reminded him of the last 40 times he’s said that including last Saturday when he almost got into a fist fight with a traffic cone.

When the first spot in the entrance level wasn’t available, Larry Had Had It. “We’ll just go to the bottom and park where we always park,” he growled and I felt the color drain from my face. Well, I felt L’Oreal’s color drain from my face but you get what I mean. He floored it.

Once Larry has his garage destination in mind, he’s a man on a mission. Level 5 or bust. Never mind that there are spaces a-plenty on Levels 2, 3 and 4. Never mind that Level 5 is really deep and we live in earthquake country. Larry’s always delighted that there are so many empty spots down here in the last circle of Hell. It’s then that I realize that the only person on earth more claustrophobic than I am is my husband. It’s hard to take 5 Up escalators when you’re sweating like a pig and having trouble breathing but we did it.

Oh and I’d already seen the movie. But the Raisinettes? Dee-lish.

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One Response to “I Got Malled – Mall Parking Lot Blues”

  1. Susan Goldstein says:

    I love Janis’s articles!! I am a No, YOU shut up Groupie!!
    When do we get tee shirts?

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