Your Lot in Life: Who Decides Parking Etiquette?

09/11/2008 05:12 am ET | Updated Nov 17, 2011

My thirsty kids and I were roaming a full parking lot, looking for a place to bring our behemoth minivan to rest. Just as we turned a corner, we noticed an open spot about six cars away from us. No other car was in sight, so I made my final approach with confidence.


By the time I got there, another driver had entered the lot from the opposite side, eyeing the same spot. Even though I was there first, his blinker went on before mine. I didn't think much of it, so I just pulled in.

Law of the parking lot jungle: first come, first park, right? It's like saying "shotgun!" Or so I thought.

Minutes later, there was a knock at my driver's side window. On the other side of the glass was an annoyed-looking man holding a little girl. He said the spot was rightfully his, and that I needed a lesson in "parking etiquette." I defended my "I-got-here-first" line of reasoning against his "my-blinker-was-on-and-yours-wasn't" theory. He wasn't about to go Jerry Springer on me, especially with a little girl in his arms, though I sensed an intense urge on her part to pull my hair until I cried.

We eventually went our separate ways, but I couldn't clear what he said from my head. What are the rules of parking etiquette exactly, and who's responsible for them? One question leads to another:

How far can you follow a pedestrian en route to his car before being charged with stalking?

Is a Hummer allowed to take up as many spots as it pleases?

How long should you have to wait for someone to pile seven kids, eight shopping bags, and two strollers safely into a minivan? Does the driver of said minivan have on obligation to hurry, or just an obligation to stop having kids?

My search of DMV manuals, back copies of the AAA newsletter, and relevant Jewish Talmudic law shed no light on the subject of parking...though the Talmud does point out it's unwise to go against the painted arrow when cruising supermarket lots.

When my father navigates the asphalt grid, he likes to park far away from other cars. Very far away. Think "new zip code" far away. He thinks it minimizes the chances of being smacked by an errant driver or shopping carts that have run amok. This may be true (we all know shopping cart wheels are specially-designed to run amok), but it also increases the chances of getting frostbite or sunstroke during the trek back to the car.

My parking nemesis and I didn't have time to contemplate these things aloud as he stormed off. He must have gotten his parking etiquette manual in the mail, whereas mine was probably thrown out with the Value-Pak. If you have one to spare, please let me know, and I'll meet you right behind the pizza place. Just know: I'm calling that spot now.