Trish Jefferson may be the perfect holiday shopper. She has the crazy run-around thing figured out.
"One pot of hot, black coffee before I leave the house. One pair of comfy walking shoes. My gift list. And a whole lot of patience," she says, punctuating "a whole lot of patience" with a wink.
Patience explains Jefferson's decision to park at the very back of the Meadows mall in midmorning on Black Friday, rather than choosing to scour the clogged aisles for that rarity of all Christmas gifts: an open space near a store entrance.
The 50-something mother of three, grandmother of eight - and, she stresses, "Don't forget, wife of one" - acknowledges that most shoppers aren't patient this time of year. It's almost as if they want to be done before they start.
"I take my time when I come to the mall, and that starts with picking a place to park that doesn't leave me stressed out," Jefferson says. "At my age, I don't need all the nonsense of driving up and down the aisles looking for something that I'm probably not going to find anyway.
"Why ruin from the very start what's supposed to be a fun experience?"
Jefferson, with her upbeat - and dare the Road Warrior say "jolly" - attitude, could be the poster grandma for the International Parking Institute, a Virginia-based agency that advises on all things parking. Not just, but especially, during the holiday season.
And IPI Executive Director Shawn Conrad isn't only concerned about parking at shopping malls. He and his agency look to alleviate the stress of holiday parking with tips that work for airports, supermarkets and even restaurants - anywhere people congregate this time of year supposedly to have a good time but often find themselves cursing "What the elf?" when another driver beats them to that coveted open parking space.
"With all of our tips, the underlying point is to be respectful, courteous, kind," Conrad said of shopping for a parking space during the busy holidays. "There's going to be times, with so many people around, when you're going to feel wronged. In those instances, take a couple of deep breaths and give yourself time to compose yourself. Another space will open up somewhere."
Well, maybe not at the 4,900-space Meadows mall on Black Friday. Alternately, there was plenty of open parking a little earlier at the Galleria at Sunset mall, which has approximately 5,000 parking spaces.
The following are a few other tips Conrad offers to reduce parking stress this time of year:
■ Plan ahead by checking to see if your destination offers parking tips on its website.
■ Give yourself the gift of time by allowing for a few extra minutes if you're supposed to be somewhere or meet someone. When we feel rushed, stress levels rise and we become more accident-prone.
■ Think green, realizing the endless looping of parking aisles looking for that golden spot wastes fuel and produces unnecessary carbon emissions which are bad for the environment.
■ Pay attention at all times, and especially watch for young children who may stray from their parents on the way to the store or back to the family vehicle. Understand that being distracted or racing to get that open spot you suddenly see could result in something horrific happening that will haunt you for the rest of your life.
■ Avoid the temptation (the Road Warrior is wont to say "stupidity") of parking illegally or in spots marked for the disabled.
■ Park in well-lit areas at night, especially if they are far away from the store's entrance.
■ Use your cellphone to take a picture of an identifying post, pole or marker that shows where you parked so that when you walk out of the store and suddenly confront that sea of vehicles, which inevitably all look like the white 2004 Honda Accord you drive, you can easily find your white 2004 Honda Accord.
"Oh, and one other thing if you can please add this," says Conrad, knowing that the Road Warrior is nothing if not accommodating. "If you're using valet parking, remember to smile at the attendant. They're there to provide you with customer service. They're human as well."
Umm, in Las Vegas, a tip goes a lot further than a smile. But we get your point.
While we're adding late tips, here's one the Road Warrior finds useful when venturing out for holiday shopping: Put yourself in the proper mood by playing Christmas music in your vehicle. A little Bing, Burl and Bono go a long way in cutting the stress while looking for a place to park.
As for Trish Jefferson, our newfound holiday parking heroine, she concedes there is only one downside to parking at the rear of shopping mall lots: getting what she buys back to her car.
"It can be a struggle sometimes. Some of it can be pretty heavy," she says. "I'll make several trips, if I have to.
"But I can also be strong when I have to," she adds, pausing to make a muscle with her right arm that rivals, well, the Road Warrior's.
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