Before I had children, I used to wonder why Parent and Child car parking spaces were situated so close to the supermarket entrance. I never doubted the need for the extra space, but the proximity to the shop door seemed to be less important.
A friend of mine who, at the time, had a toddler boy and baby twins explained to me that when you're trying to get your brood and all of your shopping to the car, it helps not to have to walk them miles across the car park. A fair point, but it doesn't really explain why, at my local Tesco, the Parent and Child spaces are actually closer to the entrance than the disabled spaces!
Now I am eligible to use those spaces, I'm even more convinced that right in front of the main door isn't the right place for them, for the simple reason that if they were farther away, they might not always be full of cars whose owners don't have children, but simply want to park as near to the entrance as possible. Every time I circle the car park looking for a space where I will be able to open both back doors sufficiently wide to actually remove my children from the car, I dream of a nice row of spaces, somewhere out of the way, where only the kid-carrying drivers would be bothered to park.
Today I took the boys to the local Asda for Sunday lunch. Swish, I know! Well, it's not exactly fine dining, but the pick 'n' mix 8-item lunch box for £3 can't really be beaten, and we usually have food left over so it's a favourite for us when I can't face cooking (which is often!).
There are only about ten Parent and Child spaces at Asda and, oddly, they are situated down a little cul-de-sac which means you have to turn into the area before realising, inevitably, that there aren't any spaces left, and then having to reverse out, annoying several other motorists in the process. So off we drove to park somewhere else (miles away from the entrance, by the way) and then perform a forceps extraction of the boys from the back seats.
The cafe windows overlook these elusive Parent and Child spaces, so I had plenty of opportunity as we ate to see the sorts of drivers who were lucky enough to be able to park there. Of course, there were plenty of perfectly legitimate people parking up, with children of all ages in their cars. Fine. But then there were those who don't have children, but do have huge cars and seem to think that these wider spaces will be just perfect for them to park their monster-wheel 4x4s in without risking damage to their doors. At one point, a van driver managed to sneak into a space just ahead of a lady with two children in the back. Nice work, mate.
I saw quite a few lone drivers parking up, just to nip in, get a few bits and then straight back out again. Obviously the proximity to the door is a factor here. And then there was the disabled lady who ignored the several empty disabled spaces closer to the main entrance, and instead struggled an extra few yards with her shopping to a Parent and Child space. Maybe clearer signposting is an issue here?
One lady, alone in the car, actually sat for some time at the entrance to the Parent and Child area waiting for a space to become free. Is the need to park a few feet closer to Asda's front door so overwhelming that you'd rather sit and wait in your car for five minutes for a space that you're not actually entitled to than park up somewhere else straight away and spend perhaps 30 seconds longer walking to the store?
But I reserve my most fierce, blood-pressure raising hard stares for a final category of car park misusers: the couples with children who go ahead and park in the Parent and Child space, only for one of the adults to stay in the car with the children, while the other goes off to do the shopping! These people actually have children, for goodness sake. They surely must know how awkward it is to manage in a normal-sized space, and yet they are quite happy to all sit there in the car for 20 minutes, not actually using the generous space allocation, and watch other harassed parents driving round and round the car park.
Personally, I find Asda car park to be particularly badly-designed. The main road into the car park goes right past the entrance to the store, so everybody has to cross that road once they have parked. This makes it slow to get in and out, and also dangerous when you've got loose children with you! But I must put in a special mention here for another dreadful local car park - one of our local health centres is equipped with two clearly-marked Parent and Child spaces, except that they are both exactly the same size as all the other spaces! Fail! Actually, that car park is so busy, and so over-supplied with disabled spaces and staff-only spaces that you're lucky if you can park in there at all.
So, lovely supermarket owners, we thank you for generously providing us with wonderful, wider spaces for our cars. When we are actually lucky enough to get our cars into one of them, it really does make everything about going shopping seem that bit less of a hassle. Now could I just ask you all to consider moving those spaces a tiny bit further away from the door so that all the non-parents out there wouldn't be so keen to share them with us!