Something just doesn't add up

Image of sign at Ikea for designation parking for hybrid vehicles only Back in 2007, IKEA Canada issued a Press Release announcing the launch of the Hybrid Parking Program: an incentive program which provides drivers of hybrid cars and fuel efficient vehicles preferential parking spots which are located directly beside the handicapped parking near the entrance of its stores. According to Debbie McDowell, Corporate Communications Manager for IKEA Canada, the initiative which rewards hybrid car drivers "with preferred parking and a more convenient shopping experience ... is just one part of IKEA's overall environmental commitment".

As a consumer, I get my knickers in a knot when corporations put a green sheen on their marketing stratagem. It's not that I find Debbie McDowell's claim of Ikea's "environmental commitment" disingenous. IKEA does, after all, have a history of using political prisoners as forced labour to manufacture their furniture. I'm sure that employment strategy was not only lucrative but also fit the company's environmental commitment. (I suspect inmates leave a smaller carbon footprint as they shuffled back and forth from their cells on their way to and from work every day.) Notwithstanding IKEA's environmental commitment, could there be any other reason to provide hybrid car owners such preferential treatment?

I'd bet half my stuffed armadillo collection and two bottles of Wild Turkey that the primary reason preferential parking is provided to hybrid car owners is because marketing research reveals that hybrid owners are precisely the sort of self-absorbed gits most likely to drop a shitload of coin at IKEA stores. If, as the Debster asserts, IKEA's "environmental commitment" goal is met by rewarding energy-conscious patrons with a "more convenient shopping experience", why doesn't the bus pull right up to the door? (If you're taking the bus to Ottawa's IKEA, you'd better take a flare gun and a compass for that journey.) Could it be that marketing research also shows that public transit users are the least likely to buy anything at an IKEA store? Something just doesn't add up.

Image of sign at Ikea for designation parking for hybrid vehicles only Diane Holmes, a councillor representing Ottawa's Somerset Ward, was as happy as a pig in shit when IKEA launched its Green Parking initiative. "I like what IKEA is doing and I think the city should look into it" Holmes said in an interview with the Ottawa Sun. Elaborating further, Holmes continued the green wash justification by adding: "Anything we can do to promote more fuel-efficient vehicles is a good thing". It's easy to understand why Holmes is enamored with the IKEA initiative: she drives a hybrid. Despite the obvious benefit Holmes would derive if the city adopted a similar parking incentive program, she did not appear to have any ethical reservations about asking city staff to examine the feasibility of implementing such a program for municipal parking facilities. Presumably, the environmental benefits and greater social good from lower carbon emissions far outweigh any personal benefit Holmes might derive.

Of course the entire eco-canard is based on the assumption that legions of enviro-infidels are miraculously going to trade in their gas-guzzling abominations in on fuel-efficient hybrids... just so they can park a bit closer to the door. Assuming such an absurd social transformation in transportation did occur, the question then is simple: would the extension of privileged parking perks to hybrid owners reduce overall carbon emissions? Something just doesn't add up. The casual observer probably didn't even notice that while a proud Holmes (featured right) stands beside her hybrid vehicle at IKEA, the green parking spaces, located on either side of her, remain vacant. There are a finite number of parking spaces available to the public. If, as Holmes suggests, a number of them are suddenly designated green, there will be fewer parking spaces available for low-efficient gas-guzzlers. Which, if you follow the bouncing ball, means that they'll have to drive around a whole lot more looking for a vacant parking spot not green designated. The extension of privileged parking perks to hybrid owners by the municipality is an idiotic idea and in a less civilized time councillor Holmes would be taken out and publically flogged for her sheer stupidity. Recent correspondence from the councillor's office indicated that: "City staff were not able to support Councillor Holmes' request at the time because of issues with providing preferential parking for hybrid vehicles in a shared public parking system."

Image of various parking signs We are exposed to a wide variety of proscriptive and prohibitive signs governing the parking on private and public properties. Some parking signs, such as those specifying a taxi stand, target specific types of vehicles. Other signage, such as those which designate the space for expectant mothers, target specific groups of individuals. Some parking spaces, such as those designated for disabled persons, are mandated by legislation. Other parking spaces, such as IKEA's green parking as noted above, are provided as a matter of courtesy by the property owner. The rationale behind the specific parking designation may be much less clear than the signs themselves.

Parking spots designated for "Expectant Mothers" are a relatively new phenomena on the prescribed parking scene. I'm at a bit of a loss to understand the rationale behind this seemingly ubiquitous fad or to figure out precisely how one goes about enforcing their usage. "Excuse me ma'am, asserted the diligent parking control officer, "we've had allot of obese people parking here lately. You're going to have to squat and piss on this stick so we can ensure you're pregnant, and not just fat." Moreover, at what point is an expectant mother entitled to use an expectant mothers parking spot? The morning after conception? The day the rabbit dies? The moment a medical practitioner says she's up the stump? Or at that point in time when she waddles like a penguin and simply must go to the all-night supermarket for pickles and ice cream?

I can almost hear the hue and cry of crazed radical FemiNazis now... "You've got a penis! You have no idea what it's like to carry a child! Our biological predispositions entitle us to privileged parking spots dammit!" The fact that there's no unanimity amongst women on whether or not there's a need for expectant mothers parking spots should be sufficient evidence that their raison d'etre is highly tenuous. The debate over their necessity rages on. If there's an overlying medical reason to justify the need and use of priority parking by an expectant mother, couldn't her OBGYN simply have the Ministry of Transportation issue a temporary handicapped parking permit? While in the process of scouring a busy parking lot in an effort to find an empty space, it's quite vexing to pass two or three vacant "KNOCKED UP" spots. Need more evidence of the absurd?

The sale of alcohol in Canada falls under the jurisdiction of each province. In Ontario, for example, the sale of beer and malt beverages is provided through Beer Store outlets. The L.C.B.O., on the other hand, maintains an almost exclusive monopoly over the sale of wines and spirits. The sale of alcohol is handled quite different in the province of Quebec where beer and wine are sold at your local depanneur (corner store) and liquor at the Societe des alcools du Quebec or, as it's more commonly referred, the SAQ.

Image of parking sign at SAQ "Sweet Jesus," I exclaimed in total disbelief as I passed the SAQ on Boulevard Maloney in Gatineau. Could someone please explain to me why there's a designated parking spot for Expectant Mothers directly in front of the liquor store? Do the pregnant women of Quebec flock to the SAQ in such numbers that they require a designated parking spot? Or, perhaps a more intriguing question in an era when Quebec is defining its cultural values, who are they actually purchasing merchandise for? As chance would have, I can offer two modest possible explanations:

"Giselle! Giselle!," Pascal bellowed from his Lazy-Boy perch in the living room. With eyes glued to the television's hue anticipating the dropping of the puck, he banged his empty glass on the end table. She was a dutiful Quebec wife who, despite her once again consumed condition, would jump in the family car and retrieve another bottle of plonk from the SAQ for her loving husband.

Marie-Ondine had enjoyed her vacation in Cuba. Her doctor had confirmed what she had suspected: her recent morning sickness was a consequence of several Cuba Libres and a chance encounter with Eduardo, the slender swimming instructor from the vacation resort. Without guilt, she guided her Prius into the designated Expectant Mothers parking spot outside the SAQ. She would buy a large bottle tonight. She was, after all, drinking for two.

Submitted by Norm de Plume, 10 November 2013