Stellpflug column: Parking lots can be a maze

Stellpflug column: Parking lots can be a maze

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This is the time of year we like to enter corn mazes and have the fun and challenge of finding our way out. It is entertainment and relaxation in a farm setting. Often there are pumpkins and apples and hay bales all around. Who doesn’t love that fresh air and yearly outing? It can be such fun.

Driving through a major shopping area that feels like a maze is not fun. It is not entertainment, and certainly not relaxing. It is a frustration. Do you ever feel like you are in a bumper car at a carnival when you try to escape from a shopping mall? Nearby cities, I won’t name them, but several are within 60 miles, seem to have taken a perfectly good Midwestern idea like grouping dozens of stores and turned it into a reality show called “Escape From the two-square-mile, car-sized maze.”

What used to be welcoming enclosed shopping areas surrounded by ample parking has become a conglomeration of passages compounded by one-way entrances, exits, and lanes that lead nowhere in particular, except the next parking lot.

The shopping complexes have been joined by surrounding food establishments. Along with those, each of the bigger chain stores have added their ginormous buildings to this mini-city. They surround the malls, doubling and tripling the number of roadways and passages, and parking areas.

The opportunities to actually file out into a main thoroughfare are there, but only on a lucky day of no traffic. If you don’t carefully read the signs you might turn into yet another parking lot. If you were venturing out for a special dress you may end up with appliances, furniture or office supplies just because you got stuck turning left and needed to go to the bathroom before driving home.

I understand why they put everything in one general area. It is for the convenience of the customers. I just don’t understand the design of road after road parallel to each other presenting visual confusion and a time sucking event that was to be a quick stop en route home.

If this doesn’t make a strong case for shopping locally, I don’t know what does. Parking in front of or near a business, being greeted by friends who own the businesses, and seeing familiar faces are all part of a relaxed experience, close to home, where you know there won’t be 12 exits leading you into another parking lot.

Having easy access to products, and getting home before the next selection of holiday items are on display is a convenience to be enjoyed and taken advantage of. I like variety as much as the next guy, but too many choices can immobilize even a veteran shopper much less the novice or rookie.

No, I am not becoming a stick in the mud, I am just being practical as well as supportive of all our fine stores and shops nearby. We are fast approaching what is known as the busy season for purchasing goods. Driving a distance, waiting in lines, and dining out in chain eateries all leave many of us cold. Without factoring in the actual weather, which may be another reason to not venture too far afield.

Enjoy the process by supporting local businesses, have a meal or drink when you are finished and have a short distance to drive home. Not everything has to be complicated and anxiety producing. We may not be able to go back to bartering and sharing produce and goods, but we can avoid the crowds and traffic. We may not walk everywhere we go, but we can shorten the drive, and park within shouting distance.

If you are suffering from sweaty palms, elevated heart rate or constantly looking for corn stalks, you might be suffering from PLMD—Parking Lot Maze Disorder. Time to choose your own adventure. Mazes are meant to be in fields, not on pavement in cities.

Kay Stellpflug is an educator and trainer in interpersonal and professional communications. She works and lives in Beaver Dam and can be reached at

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