Character is the key

The proverbial line in the sand vis-a-vis parking lot etiquette was crossed (vaporized, actually) when my son and I almost became human hood ornaments for an ebony-hued Ford Expedition. We were walking in the parking lot of Beverley Acres School in Richmond Hill at approximately 7:55 a.m.

From the corner of my eye, I caught a glimpse of the supersized SUV bearing Florida licence plates whipping into the lot. To say its presence was surprising makes for an understatement: The Ford was entering the parking lot via the Exit Only driveway — something that’s clearly marked with a one-way directional arrow and a DO NOT ENTER sign.

As I pushed my son out of harm’s way, I threw my arm out toward the Expedition like a running back breaking a tackle. Although my left hand was clipped by the passenger side mirror, neither man nor machine was damaged.

Still, the impact of humanoid flesh upon Detroit iron managed to achieve something the signage failed to do — the vehicle stopped. A woman emerged from the driver’s side and, although I had a few choice words I wanted to convey, I decided to hold my tongue and give her a chance to apologize. Was I in for a surprise.

“You hit my truck!” she snarled, her nostrils flaring.

I was stunned. Is obeying traffic rules optional in Florida?

“Didn’t you see the DO NOT ENTER and one-way signs?” I asked.

“It doesn’t matter! It doesn’t matter!” she exclaimed. “Everybody does it [break the rules].”

Well, not really. Close to 98% of the students attending Beverley Acres are bused to school. And the vast majority of those parents who chauffeur the remaining 2% of kids do so responsibly.

But, as always, there’s a lunatic fringe of parents who, for reasons known only to them, feel they are above the law. Worse, they have no problem demonstrating their contempt for the rules in front of their children. Sometimes, this woeful attitude is conveyed by disobeying signs; other times, it means parking on the road in front of Beverley Acres (which is a no-stopping zone during school hours). Who cares if school buses are impeded? Be it dropping off Timmy or picking up Timbits, some parents apparently operate in drive-through mode only — even if there’s no shortage of nearby side streets on which to legally park.

Incredibly, the odious behaviour of the Expedition driver was topped a few weeks later. That’s when a silver-hued Dodge Caravan blew past a volunteer holding a stop sign in order to enter the parking lot via the very same DO NOT ENTER exit. The volunteer and I approached the minivan to point out the violation. When the driver wouldn’t lower her window to communicate, I opened the passenger side door. Mistake. “Get your hands off my f—ing door,” she yelled.

I obeyed the command and was stunned into silence — not due to the profanity; I’ve been on the receiving end of far worse.

Rather, I was shocked that a mother would drop the Fbomb within earshot of her own child. Apparently, hell hath no fury like a woman whose minivan is besmirched by a stranger.

Sara Dimerman, a therapist and parent educator, wasn’t surprised to hear of my tales of parking lot woe. While she doesn’t believe there’s “one definitive answer” to explain why parents disobey such safety rules, Dimerman says a prevailing feeling of self-entitlement is likely a big part of the problem. “Some parents — maybe as a result of their upbringing or status — may have the distorted belief they are above the law,” she says.

“Some parents may have unresolved issues with their own authoritarian parents and rebel against any form of authority,” she says.

“Perhaps, parents feel that they are entitled to disobey the laws because their children attend that particular school — almost a sense of ownership or belonging to that area of the community that entitles them to set their own rules.”

Whatever the motivation, Dimerman notes there’s an ominous downside if the adage of “monkey see, monkey do” holds true. “If your children see you disobeying the law such as parking in a no-parking zone, they will quickly learn that rules are meant to be broken,” she says.

In the meantime, school staff constantly reminds parents (verbally and by way of letter) of the obvious (namely, obey the rules). And, on occasion, a bylaw enforcement officer will show up to issue a ticket or two.

Yet, the same culprits (yes, you in the ivory GMC Acadia and you in the blue Toyota Camry) continue to break the rules. Daily.

They ought to go back to school.