Saturday, March 31, 2012

Driver's Ed Dropouts

It's no secret that I'm not the biggest fan of Lifetime Fitness.  I've complained at length about pretty much every aspect of the workout experience--the equipment, the other members, and the surly, unfriendly staff at Lifetime's tennis clubs all over the cities. At the risk of beating a long-dead horse, I have a few bones to pick with the parking experience at my local Lifetime.

The problem is quite simple, and not surprising, given how crowded the club is during the week: there simply aren't enough parking spots.  It doesn't help that the club is part of a strip mall, which means I'm competing with both gym-goers and shoppers for prime parking...though I would like to publicly thank the nearby Blockbuster Video for over-indexing on the parking spaces-to-customers ratio; every time I drive by I can practically see the tumbleweeds blowing past the storefront.

Whenever I drive to Lifetime, I know there's a pretty good chance that finding a decent parking spot will be tougher than anything I'll face during my workout.  Five times a week, I feel like I'm at the Mall of America on Black Friday...and that's bad news, considering that one Black Friday a year is already too many.  Drivers looking for spots at Lifetime will follow members as they leave the club and walk to their cars; others park in spots that aren't really spots, further narrowing the lanes in the already cramped lot.  And I can't begin to count the number of times I've seen drivers nearly come to blows after facing off for a rare open spot.

On top of the sheer quantity of people looking for spaces, Lifetime is also blessed with some of the world's most exceptionally lazy and unskilled parkers.  Here's a classic example I saw last week: missed it... In the driver's defense, there was another car parked in front of it when I got there, so maybe it was a really tight squeeze--and it is a big SUV.  But really?  That's the best they could do?  At first glace, I thought the driver must still be in there, still in the process of getting the SUV somewhere near the middle of the spot...but nope, the vehicle was empty.  Here's another look from the back:

I was tempted to squeeze the Malibu into that massive gap to the side of that vehicle, much like I'm tempted to park within inches of those jerks who take two spaces to protect their expensive cars from door dings.  I've never seen such a lackluster parking job.  When I first saw this, a conversation from an old episode of The Simpsons popped into my mind:

Park Job by John10s

If you ask driver's ed students where they struggle the most, parallel parking is probably near the top of the list.  Clearly, it's not for everyone--the driver of this SUV at Lifetime decided to compromise with the lines and turn it into and more of a traditional angled parking situation.  But if the driver sucks that bad at parallel parking, I think it might be time to trade in the Excursion for something a little more...compact.  That way, the driver could take advantage of the elusive perpendicular parking opportunities that only Smartcar owners enjoy--and I'm willing to believe there's not much else to enjoy about driving a Smartcar:

Every weeknight, as I'm hopelessly circling the Lifetime lot, I yearn for The Gym.  I passed by the empty building recently, and had to fight back tears when I saw the "For Sale" sign in front of that lonely, familiar parking lot:

Parking was never an issue at The Gym.  There were far more spaces than members (probably one of the reasons it closed...); when I think about it, there technically weren't any spaces at all, since the lines had worn off decades ago.  The place wasn't without it's issues--the lot was so poorly maintained that it was like driving across the surface of the moon.

In an effort to avoid spending money to resurface the lot (probably another sign the place would soon be closing), the owner made the spectacularly poor decision to fill the craters with dirt one spring.  That smoothed things out and briefly seemed to help a least until the rain started falling, at which point the lot turned into a giant mud pit, still with massive, moon-craters.  If you look closely, I think there's still a Geo Metro lodged in one of the craters in the lot...

Lifetime's parking issues make me want to buy a vehicle more powerful than the Malibu--that shouldn't be too difficult--and just make my own parking spaces at someone else's expense:

But maybe I should take a step back and calm down before I get too upset about one driver's horrifically bad parking job with his Ford Excursion.  After all, I'm sure there are worse parking offenses in the history of motorized transportation...

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