The “Joys” of Christmas

The Christmas season is upon us. Expect crowded malls, lots of spending, and congested parking lots. I’m accustomed to the first two but gridlocked parking lots are still the worst characteristic of the holidays.

From childhood to adulthood, the holiday shopping mall of choice has been the Glendale Galleria. The shopping area doubled in size when The Americana opened directly across the street from the Galleria in 2008.

The Americana has a great parking lot and I use that one most of the time we go to the mall. Validation at the movie theater gets you four free hours of parking and as Barnes & Noble members, we can get 2-hour validation at the bookstore even if we don’t make a purchase. The trouble is once the validation runs out, you’re gouged for using the parking lot and Christmas shopping tends to require much longer stays and at least one trip to the car just to drop off shopping bags before getting back to shopping.

This year, the Galleria began an ambitious parking renovation that I can only assume is now far behind schedule. I just can’t see any reason the mall would have accepted a parking retrofit knowing it would still be taking place at this time of the year. The retrofit has added electric-car charging stations, improved LED lighting, and parking lot counters and indicators to help drivers navigate towards the areas with available spaces. Unfortunately, it has also temporarily eliminated most of the top deck of the structure and in some cases entire rows of the lot as it leads to the upper levels. It is making for an even worse parking experience than ever before.

Mall management does what it can when the season rolls around. Additional staff is hired to direct traffic in and out of the parking structure, and to help out inside at pedestrian crossing areas. Cones and other temporary barriers are used inside the lot to ensure traffic flows primarily in one direction. The single biggest issue that they cannot currently address is the availability of parking spaces. This leads to irritated, impatient, and insecure drivers. When this happens, common parking lot rules and courtesies tend to be ignored.

After what felt like a lifetime of left turns, right turns, forced merging, and internalized rage, we finally found a spot. We decided to go down one last aisle that we knew led to an exit ramp. If we reached the exit ramp without a spot, we would take that exit and try to find street parking in one of the surrounding neighborhood blocks. As luck would have it, a driver was pulling out of a space almost right as we turned in. The typical procedure went into place: brake, blinker, keep your guard up, and turn into the spot as soon as the car leaving starts to move out of the way.

The rest of the day went as smooth as I could expect. We were there into the evening and our youngest even got to enjoy the various nighttime Christmas sights of the Americana. We got back to the car when the majority of shoppers had already escaped the place and rolled out of there without a single obstruction.

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