Mall Misery

By James Baxter, NMA President

This ever happen to you? You charge off to the Mall for some painful last minute holiday shopping. You enter on one end and flow with the hoards of shoppers; first down one side and then up the other side, down some cross isles and occasionally plunge into store thinking you might luck out and find a useful, if not perfect, gift.

The high point of the whole expedition is stumbling upon the hot pretzel vendor where you fall for the “three for the price of two” deal and you spend the next hour feeling like you ate an under-inflated basketball.

Finally, laden with packages, you’re ejected through the mall doors and find yourself standing in a parking lot, feeling like an alien that has visited Earth for the first time. You don’t know where you are, nothing looks very familiar, and as you stare at thousands of cars parked in an area the size of ten football fields (and that’s just on this side of the mall), you realize you don’t have a clue as to where your car is. Worse yet, you’re pretty sure you drove over in your tan four door sedan that looks pretty much like 4000 of the cars in your immediate vicinity.

After two hours of futile searching, the battery goes dead on your key fob, from pointing and squeezing at never ending examples of tan sedans, hoping against hope that one will wink or beep back. Admitting defeat, you call a friend to come and get you and take you home. Plan B is to come back late at night or early the next morning and cruise the lot when the herd has thinned and your car should be more obvious, solitarily sitting on acres of empty asphalt.

It doesn’t have to be this way. Here’s a few foolproof proven techniques to avoid the lost car syndrome.

1. Buy a special “mall car” that stands out and says “here I am!” My personal favorite is the mid-1990’s GM station wagon. My ride of choice, the Buick Road Master Estate Wagon has all the attributes of a great mall car. First, there aren’t many of them left, and they’re generally considered ugly, so you aren’t going to have the tan sedan problem. If you see a car like yours there’s a solid chance it is yours. But what makes the Estate Wagon extra special is that it hangs at least two feet further into the travel lane. All you have to do is walk across the rows of parked cars and look for yours, hanging out into the travel lane.

2. Another approach that has proven effective is to just keep a canoe on top of your car. Canoes are generally light and fairly aerodynamic. You can spot a canoe a long way off, especially in the winter months. The canoe will also protrude into the travel lane and still be visible, if otherwise blocked by a tall vehicle. I have only had one woman cold-cock herself while walking into my canoe.

3. In the old days a radio antenna could be adorned with a school mascot, a flag, or the tail from a road killed raccoon, and this would be quite helpful in the packed parking lot situation. But, alas, fixed radio antennae have become endangered, if not extinct. The solution? (I should patent this idea) the plumber’s friend, the bathroom toilet plunger—get one with real rubber if you’re in a cold climate. When you arrive at the mall lot, just take out your plunger, personalized if you like, the options are endless, and stick it on your roof. Even if you forget to remove it when you return to your car it should hang on until you get home and wipe it off with the garage door frame. No harm done.

No more will you have to suffer the inconvenience, aggravation, and embarrassment of losing your car at the mall. Just one more reason to generously support the National Motorists Association.

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