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Be a good boy and you get a good parking spot

August 04, 2010|By TIM ROWLAND

Well, that settles it. I'm going out to buy me a fuel-efficient vehicle so I'll be 30 steps closer to the men's room at the Interstate 70 rest area on South Mountain.

The issue comes up because the rest area landed itself in The Herald-Mail's weekly feature "What's wrong with this picture?" In this column, readers are encouraged to nominate pet peeves or government foibles that could be pretty much fixed in a heartbeat if anyone in a position of authority cared to do so, which of course they don't.

I'm sort of like George Carlin; I don't have pet peeves, I have major psychotic #!*@ hatreds. But I still enjoy the column, because I'm always interested in what annoys the general public.

So anyway, someone wrote in to complain about the rest area, which has primo spaces limited to "Fuel efficient vehicle parking only."

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That's bad enough. Something about it makes me want to go out and borrow a Hummer and then park it across about three of those spaces.

But what really raised eyebrows is that the fuel-efficient parking spaces are closer to the restrooms than the handicapped parking spaces.

So you can have a wooden leg, a glass eye, heart disease AND a bad case of scurvy, but at South Mountain you're on your own if the guy who got there just ahead of you was driving a Prius.

Highway spokesman David Buck said the handicapped spaces are still within an acceptable distance of the building, although they understand the concern that the eco-friendly spaces are closer still.

Personally, I don't envy the state's position. It can stubbornly leave the parking spaces as they are and risk public ridicule, or it can spend $24 million in taxpayer dollars to swap the handicapped parking spaces with the fuel-efficient spaces, at which point it risks being nominated for the "What's wrong with this picture" column again.

After some reflection, I've decided to stay out of this hornets nest altogether. The handicapped and the environmentalists will just have to slug it out on their own. (But what happens if you are a handicapped environmentalist? You have to decide which issue matters more to you when you're pulling in to the rest area. Who knew that the simple act of parking could be used to make a statement?)

My greater concern is this new idea to give parking spaces away as a prize. We've seen what happens when government uses the tax code for the purpose of social engineering. Will behavior modification through parking be any better?

I mean, I know Americans are fat and lazy, but this takes it to a new level. In the name of not having to walk quite so far, we'll go out and spend $40,000 on a vehicle.

And add to it that nothing says "second grade" like giving away a trivial prize for being a good boy. You drive a hybrid? Great, have a Popsicle.

If you clean your room, the state will give you choice parking at the mall. Oh, and that's another thing. This isn't a shopping center, this is a rest area, where the farthest parking space in the lot isn't much more than 100 feet away. And it's flat. It's not like you have to climb K-2 to get to a stall.

If I'm going to be rewarded with a good parking space, I want it to be somewhere that matters, like in front of the Classroom Building at HCC.

Even so, I'm not sure I'd be willing to do anything socially responsible in order to get it.

Tim Rowland is a Herald-Mail columnist. He can be reached at 301-733-5131, ext. 2324, or via e-mail at timr@herald-mail.com. Tune in to the Rowland Rant video under opinion@herald-mail.com., on antpod.com or on Antietam Cable's WCL-TV Channel 30 evenings at 6:30. New episodes are released every Wednesday.

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