The street smarts

We all know what they say about business. “Location, location, location.” It’s the subtle way of saying that location is important.

What you may not know is the next thing that makes merchants froth at the mouth.

Parking, parking, parking.

Froth is an understatement.

The myriad of ways merchants worry about parking is legion. One thing they do is paint white lines in parking lots that are spaced about one foot less than the width of the typical average-sized car. They do this, of course, for an unending source of entertainment when business is slow. They may be losing money but at least they can stand in their unused doorway and watch the mayhem in the parking lot and chuckle. I really can’t fault them for that.

Sometimes merchants have parking lots that connect two different area of town. Rather than be happy to provide some small public benefit that their lot could be useful and generate a bit of goodwill, instead they shove in the speed bumps from hell to teach anyone who tries to pass through a vicious lesson about small business economics. I like to police the area on foot for extra automotive parts that have been ripped away.

There are a few strip malls in town with alleys between the business frontage. In front of both businesses you’ll find signs marking the spots that say “Parking for MY business ONLY.” That’s how you know you’re in a friendly town. Nothing pisses off a merchant more than watching a car in their space and walk next door. These is no honor among thieves.

Occasionally you’ll find two big box stores side by side with huge parking lots. (You can tell if its a Walmart by the number of people living in RVs.) Just like the Hatfields and McCoys, the two businesses are at war. The one thing they can’t tolerate is cars traversing their lot to get to the competition on the other side and vice versa. Their solution seems natural, at least to them. They build a barrier between their two lots and say, “Hells yeah! Fuck our customers.” You want to visit the other store? You have the choice of making the hike or driving all the way around. Ha ha ha!

Of course, not all merchants are lucky enough to have their own parking lots. Some are facing city streets. The other day I was in a store miserably waiting on my wife to look at and/or purchase some consumer goods. A car pulled up and parked next to the curb in front of the store. The merchant was at the window like a dog waiting for a bone, intently watching their every move. As soon as he realized they were going next door (oh my God!) he ran out and began yelling at them that they couldn’t park there. Excuse me? That’s a public parking space on a city-owned street. Who in the name of fuck do you think you are?

The downtown merchants also spend a lot of time complaining about kids using bikes and skateboards on sidewalks. They attend city council meetings complaining about how their customers (usually in their 90s) keep getting knocked over. Yeah, right.

Another thing they’ve done is designate the entire downtown area as a 2-hour parking zone. That means that employees have to park 10-blocks away and make the hike so actual customers will have plenty of spaces to choose from. Employees breaking the rule can be ticketed and fined daily by the police.

And, lastly, an issue that really makes me hot. On city blocks they mark off about 2 feet of curb space near intersections for no parking. Wow. Two whole feet? Yeah, the merchants want the rest of that space for themselves. What this means is that every time you are driving around town and come up on an intersection, you literally can’t see anything in any direction because every inch of curb space is filled with vision-blocking cars.

I don’t drive a Formula 1 race car so I’m not sitting three inches above the ground, but I’m not driving around town in a Bigfoot truck jacked up on gigantor tires 27 feet up in the air, either. I drive a typical average height sedan and I can’t see jack shit!! So I do what any reasonable person would do. I nose out into traffic until I can see. And by then the front end of my car has been ripped off.

It’s a wonderful system.

Only in the board game world of Monopoly can you have something like “free parking.” In the real world it’s more like “I shit on you.” Maybe someone should make a real board game based on the real game of life. “Oh, crap. I just landed on Shitty Merchant. I’m fucked now. But at least they get my wallet. Yeah, that sounds fair.”

Bringeth forth thy pith and vinegar

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