‘Um, don’t park there’
The Versailles Police Department has begun what Assistant Chief Rob Young calls a “public education” program about the perils of parking in the fire lane at Kroger (see story on front page) – and to that I say, “Attaboy!” Before I began to rant about the problem, I have a confession to make: Three days before I interviewed Young, I briefly parked in the Kroger fire lane to return a Redbox movie. It was around 9:30 p.m. or so and it took less than 30 seconds to stick the disc in the slot and get back in my car, but it was illegal, and inconsiderate, and I apologize to Dear Readers and the police for doing so. Doing so was also rather hypocritical, as fire lane parkers have been a pet peeve of mine for some time. It was the first time I’ve ever done such a thing, and it will be the last time. OK, back to the rant. As Young points out in the story, parking in a fire lane is not only illegal, but potentially dangerous, as it could prevent emergency responders from getting in a building quickly, jeopardizing them and those they’re trying to help. Folks may think, “I’m only going in for a minute,” but one never knows when disaster may strike, and it’s so common that police, fire and ambulance crews would likely encounter more than one illegal parker. When the state’s largest Kroger opened in 2015, I wrote a satirical column called “Kroger World” about a mythical family’s trip there. Among the made-up bits were the shuttle bus they had to take from a corner of the parking lot. Of course, there is no shuttle bus (nor a “KrogerRail” inside the store), but even from the furthest reaches of the lot, it doesn’t take terribly long to get inside. Is it that much trouble to park legally and walk for, say, an entire minute – two minutes if you count the round trip? Let’s face it – most of us could use the exercise. For those who do have trouble walking, there are lots of handicapped spaces near the grocery’s many entrances. I doubt police will begin ticketing elderly folks who drop each other off, though I expect they will tell them to leave and return when their drop-off walks out of the store. After I interviewed Young, I went to Kroger (parking in the lot, of course) knowing I wouldn’t have to wait long before a photo opportunity drove along. It took less than two minutes. A silver pickup truck pulled up short of the main entrance and stopped in the fire lane. The driver got out and walked in. I clicked the shutter several times, and among the photos was one of the driver walking around the front of his pickup on his way into the store. Others showed his empty truck. That left me with a decision to make: Do I use the photo of the man next to his truck, or the truck by itself, or seek a middle ground – blur his face and beard so that he wouldn’t be so easily identified? I asked the opinion of half-a-dozen people Monday, and their responses, including some from folks who have been or were in the journalism biz for decades, were all over the map. In the end, it was my call to make – that’s why I get paid the not-quite-big bucks – and I chose to run the one sans driver. I had no desire to publicly shame the gentleman, who was one of four or five people who took liberties with the law in a space of less than 10 minutes and just happened to be the subject of the best photo. So there you have it. Happy Fourth of July, ya’ll – and please remember that the Declaration of Independence does not include passages encouraging us to yell “Fire!” in a movie theatre, text while driving, or park in fire lanes.