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Shoppers brave the cold and packed parking lots at West Edmonton Mall on December 23, 2009. (Jordan Verlage/CP Photo)
Shoppers brave the cold and packed parking lots at West Edmonton Mall on December 23, 2009. (Jordan Verlage/CP Photo)

Road Sage

Oh, the parking outside is frightful Add to ...

Christmas is to parking what New Year’s Eve is to alcohol abuse.

It’s a time when people, who in their normal lives would never dream of practising a behaviour, throw themselves wholeheartedly into it. Just as you’ll find people who usually don’t even drink wine with dinner downing sambuca shots and sloppily kissing strangers at midnight, during the run-up to Christmas you find folks who would never deign to a) drive b) get within a kilometre of a shopping mall and c) park a car at a shopping mall, doing all three. Why? Because a holiday told them to.

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During the Christmas rush, even avowed cyclists get in their automobiles and drive to the mall. Yuletide is also the season when those “zip” pay-as-you-go cars proliferate. Nothing like the holidays to get a guy who drives a few times a year to get behind the wheel and try his luck.

What do all these drivers share? Like Mary and Joseph, they’re just looking for a place to park. Not for the night, just for three or four hours, and after a few spins around a jammed lot, most would gladly pay big denarii for a small spot in a stable or underground garage.

There are those who avoid this fate. They buy all their presents online in November. Then they talk about this fact throughout December as you run to and fro searching for rare and wondrous “must-have” toys (Satan has a special place for these people in hell next to the photocopier). Some walk or take public transit. To these folks I say kudos. If you can bear carting bags of over-priced evidence of your love all over town without cracking mentally, good for you. It is determined, stoic, can-do people like you who will lead us into the next world war.

For the rest of us, the Yuletide parking game offers a seasonal test of faith, skill and parallel parking prowess.

Each driver has his or her own strategy for beating the system. Some arrive at the mall at the break of dawn seeking the perfect spot. These are the same kind of people who, when on a beach holiday, set their alarms early so they can scoot down and place their towels on prized seaside chairs. I call these people cheaters. If they can live with themselves, fine. If they want to arrive at 8 a.m. to park at a mall that opens at 10, and spend two hours drinking bad coffee while listening to talk radio, well, so be it. You win, losers. I guess you just want it more.

I’m more of an arrive at 11 in the morning “what in the frankincense are all these people doing at my mall” kind of a guy.

I’ll pull up to the climate-controlled shopping nexus or my “local shopping district” (it doesn’t matter which, there are no parking spaces anywhere) and set to cussing as I slowly motor around in search of the coveted spot.

I’m not alone. There are many like me. Encased in rolling steel, we troll for two painted lines bracketing a car-sized patch of cold pavement. On the radio, Sting sings something Christmassy. I change the channel. It does not matter. Whatever button I push, Sting is always there massacring a much-loved carol. An hour might pass with no relief.

By this time the angel of the Lord could drop down and say, “Fear not: for, behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people. For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Saviour, which is Christ the Lord.”

And I would just say, “Really? Is he leaving? Can I have his spot?”

Finally, I’ll get a space. Now it’s time to play Shopping Cart Smash-up Derby.

The rules are fairly simple. I park and start shopping. That’s everyone else’s cue to ram their over-stuffed rusty shopping carts into my car with a force that only distracted holiday-induced mania lubricated by icy conditions can create. Come on, everyone! You missed a patch! Somebody run the sharp edge of a Loblaw’s cart along the driver’s side of my ride. I need a deep scratch to match the one on the passenger side. Merry Christmas!

After day turns to night, it’s time to return to my automobile. I’m laden with bags that bulge with expensive merchandise, and also a few presents I’ve bought for family and friends. I throw them in the trunk. When I close it, I see that there are already two cars waiting to take my spot.

If I thought I was in bad shape when I arrived, I have nothing on the desperate drivers of these vehicles. Bloody eyes narrow and hands clasp the steering wheels. One spot. Two cars. This will not end well. Best to silently make my way home and let the battle begin.

And so it goes.

But it doesn’t have to be this way.

I have a solution. This Yuletide season, why don’t you all stay home? Do you really need to spend all that money on gifts? Aren’t you sick of desecrating what should be a joyous holiday celebrating eternal love and salvation by going nuts buying over-priced crap you’re going to throw out anyway? This Christmas, stay home. Leave all that superficial buying stuff to me.

Follow Andrew Clark on Twitter: @aclarkcomedy

 
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