Car Control Clinic, Part I: The Whole Foods Parking Lot

January 11, 2013 by V.R.M. - 1 Comment

If you’re lucky enough to have a Whole Foods Market in your town, and crazy–I mean, health conscious–enough to shop there often, you have surely been subjected to the car control clinic that is their parking lot. Heading out to this mecca of healthy food is sure to sharpen your autocross skills (hard braking, sudden steering and all sorts of obstacle avoiding techniques) as well as strengthen your bicep from overuse of the horn.

I know I am not the first to notice that the Whole Foods parking lot is in a class of its own when it comes to poor driver skills and absolute lack of awareness. In fact, there is even a rap song praising its unique qualities, and the venerable Huffington Post has written about the subject matter. However, I know for a fact that when my small college town was blessed with our very own, king-sized Whole Foods, there was some disagreement between our tree-loving city and the builders about just how much space could be allocated to parking spots.  Both sides won: the city got more room for trees, and the builders got the number or parking spots  they wanted. Here’s who lost: the customers. Those of us who not only nurture our bodies (and our children’s bodies) with pesticide-free veggies, grass-fed animals, free-range chicken eggs and organic cookies, but who nurture our souls by loving our cars and daring to drive them to Whole Foods.

Braving the Whole Foods parking lot with my non-hybrid, non-subcompact foreign car. Say a prayer to the Saint of Dings!

Braving the Whole Foods parking lot with my non-hybrid, non-subcompact foreign car. Say a prayer to the Saint of Dings!

The parking spots at our local Whole Foods are designed for sub-compacts, but we live in a state where people like  their big, American made cars. True, my college town is a bit more amenable to small vehicles and sporty European imports, but in this state there are still a fair number of Denalis, Durangos, and F-150s (the Built Ford Tough kind, not the ones made in Italy).  People near the D like their vehicles large and comfortable, particularly when they have families of 3+ kids. The customer who loves Whole Foods also tends to be eco-conscious, but all that means is that it is not unusual to see high-end diesels like the Audi Q7 TDI (which may look small due to Audi’s great designers, but in reality it is quite the beast) taking up two spots at the Whole Foods parking lot. Turns out,  size does matter (no matter what anyone tries to tell you). What I’ve learned is, you’re better off driving your 100-octane guzzling race car to pick up a carton of soy milk at Whole Foods, because at least you can trust it will fit in a spot nicely.

The driver offenses witnessed at my local Whole Foods are too many to list, but what the heck, I’ll feel better if I share a few:

  • Ignoring arrows indicating the flow of traffic, clogging said flow and causing rampant confusion among rule-followers
  • Parking over two spots, either because you’re too lazy to care or because you love your M3 so much you want it safe from other kale-loving folks
  • Parking well over the yellow line marking your neighbor’s spot because you can’t be bothered to straighten out your car (straightening your car does carry a risk — see *)
  • Mindless opening of car doors into neighboring car (true story: I had owned my first A4 Avant wagon 2 days when a woman put a huge ding on my passenger door at the WH parking lot. I saw her do it, and when I asked her to be more careful, she replied, “you should drive a cheaper car.” Namaste, lady!)
  • Driving through the lot searching for a spot at inappropriate speeds (over 30 mph and scaring customers/under 5 mph and holding up customers)
  • Driving  in the middle through the very narrow corridor between parking spots, blocking traffic in both directions
  • *honking viciously at a poor, unsuspecting person trying to slowly back out of a zero-visibility spot between A Mercedes GLK and a BMW X5
  • Failure to use a turn signal to claim a parking spot, or to indicate which direction you intend to have your car travel next
  • Talking on the phone while attempting to drive, park, or put groceries in the car (bonus: talking loudly and leisurely about personal matters while others wait for a cart/spot)

It’s too late to convince the city planners to provide more parking space, or the real estate owners to re-configure the parking lot to provide more space. But it is not too late for you to take this message to heart: if you must drive to Whole Foods, pay attention, drive slowly, park between the lines, don’t ding my car door, and for heaven’s sakes…turn off your phone. This tofu, quinoa and car loving Mama thanks you.