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12/24/98 The Parking Lot
12/10/98 Mountains
12/01/98 Garage Sale
11/12/98 The Car Salesman
10/29/98 What Is Money?
10/15/98 Sick People
10/01/98 Baseball
09/17/98 Dollars and Sense

The Parking Lot

There are mysteries that mankind cannot explain. How did the ancient Egyptians build their fantastic pyramids? Whatever happened to Atlantis? Are we the only form of intelligent life in the universe, and if so, what a waste of space.

Then there are the more practical considerations like What the hell were they thinking when they designed the parking lot for the Westlake Promenade??

Last week I had occasion to visit the Promenade. I saw The Rugrats Movie. Some of the plot twists were implausible, but the characters were well-developed and overall it was a pretty good ride. The ride there, however, was not so good. I've said this before and I'll say it again: Our community entertains some of the most oblivious driving under the sun. Perhaps these drivers have too much insurance and not enough cares in the world; perhaps they are demons sent from hell to torture those of us trying to drive conscientiously. Whatever the case, they are out there. And they are heavily concentrated in Westlake Village.

I decided to make a controlled left turn off of Thousand Oaks Boulevard onto Mayhem Way. I did not want anyone making decisions about who goes first, what goes where, etc. Most people can't be trusted with those decisions. Because it was Friday night - and because The Rugrats Movie was being hailed by critics nationwide - there were cars everywhere.

I entered cautiously, my eyes darting to and fro. I didn't like the fact that I was surrounded by BMWs. One time I had a near-miss with a Beamer and it cost me $6,000. I also didn't like the way folks were driving. When I see a stop sign, for instance, I tend to believe that people are going to stop - maybe even look around - before they proceed. Not so in the Westlake Promenade. People slowed down, bless their hearts, but nary did their wheels stop a-turnin'. They proceeded in stops and starts until the biggest bully got his way. Vehicular Darwinism, I suppose. I am neither a bully nor a Darwinist, so I just waited nervously for an opening in the chaos. I patted my wallet and assured it that everything was going to be okay.

At length, I found my way past the initial intersection and onto the main stretch, where there were people like you've never seen. Surely I must have arrived at some mecca of profound measure. I looked around for the meaning of life. As usual, I only saw corporate advertising. There were people on the sidewalk. People not on the sidewalk. People riding piggy-back on top of other people. People parachuting in from overhead. And to accommodate these wriggling masses, the Westlake Promenade provided two lonely crosswalks, one at either end of the main stretch. Which would have been great - if people used them. But when they saw the lights and heard the band and smelled the overpriced cuisine, people lost their minds. There were no longer any street signs or silly crosswalk things - just the shops beyond. And we, the hapless drivers, had to wait.

As I sat there running out of gas, I asked myself, "Did they really think it prudent to build a parking lot into the MIDDLE of a shopping center?" Was that a decision that somebody actually made? The Oaks Mall has its drawbacks, mind you, but at least it had the sense to build its parking lot around the stores. The Promenade, on the other hand, prefers that its customers flock inward toward the parking lot, where drivers are already hostile because there aren't enough parking spaces to begin with!

Building a parking lot in the middle of a shopping center is like... like... building a parking lot in the middle of a shopping center. The only thing more dangerous would be to put the mall on the center divider of the freeway and have people slow down to a survivable speed and roll out of their cars to go shopping. I concluded that the Promenade was designed by a guy who, every Friday night, sits up in one of those bell towers, sipping a beer and laughing like there's nothing funnier in the whole wide world. And you know what... he may be right.


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