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Car Park Anxiety: It's A Real Thing


Does finding a car parking space increase your anxiety levels? I definitely get stressed out when looking for a space. I know it might sound sad and I thought that perhaps it was just me, but now I believe it counts as a real thing. Whether I'm seeing a client for a business meeting or if I am out with the children in the car at the weekend, one of my first thoughts will be - where to park? I don't recall worrying about this situation when I was younger, so is it an age thing? Whatever it is, it has become - a thing. Not being able to find a decent car parking space, on the right floor and the right diameters for my car can bring so much stress! How can parking be so stressful?

However, it may be that I am not alone. According to an article in in January 2016, the AA polled 25,000 drivers, with the results suggesting Londoners have the highest parking-related stress levels. Of all the capital's drivers surveyed, 36 per cent said they get anxious about parking. Almost a quarter said they postponed or abandoned journeys altogether because they panicked they wouldn't find an available space near where they live.

However, the availability of parking spaces outside homes isn't isolated to the capital, though -- one in five drivers in the North East, South East and Wales said they stress about finding somewhere to park at home.

I left for Gatwick Airport this week at 6:30am on a business flight to Dublin (kid-free) and I ensured that I left at least thirty minutes earlier than I needed to, as I was already thinking about parking. And I was right, the short stay car park took me ages as I wound round and round, up and up until I reached a space on the very top floor (the roof!) to get a space. I was lucky to get a space and I was so paranoid if I couldn't get a decent spot to fit my car, it could disrupt my mood for the rest of the day.

Shall we talk about the train station car park? Oh, don't even get me started. I have to find £6.20 in small change three times a week. As I desperately slot all the coins in, it rejects my last pound coin and I don't have another. My stress levels are starting to rise. I run back to the car to rummage for more change. Once I finally have a ticket, I leg it to the station, in full 'mum run' with my rucksack flying in the wind. I miss my train by ten seconds. What a great start. I wait a further fifteen minutes for the next train and contemplate if I should start smoking again.

And it doesn't end there. Last Saturday night, I arranged to meet some friends for dinner in town and decided to drive. I then had a grave concern that the small car park I used to park in had been demolished (I recalled they were renovating some properties at the front). I was concerned. Where was I going to park? Maybe I should get a cab, would that be easier?

Once I met up with the girls, they asked 'where did you park'? See, I told you it wasn't just me. I was so thrilled to be able to inform them that I parked in the small car park, which had not been demolished but actually, wait for it...had been renovated with new tarmac. It is wrong that I was ecstatic about this news! I found myself blabbering on about this new car park and my friends just looked at each other and fell about laughing. They couldn't believe how excited I was about this upgrade! I know, it's sad isn't it. Oh dear.

When I discussed the topic of parking with a friend over coffee, she agreed it was a pain. Thank you. At last, some real support. "Why is the mother and baby parking on level six? It is so annoying". She said. I nodded and agreed.

In better news, I told a friend that I had uncovered a secret car park in Tunbridge Wells. Yes, that's right. A secret one. She leaned in and seemed keen to find out where it was. I buckled and told her where it was but advised that she would be sworn to secrecy. If too many people find out, it simply won't be a secret anymore. I felt in such a powerful and smug position to know about this situation but then purposely withholding that information from the general public.

I should also mention the parenting perk that is, mother and baby parking at the supermarket. This is a godsend, right? When our daughter was born, we went on a little day trip to the Marks and Spencer food hall. When my husband, who was driving, was looking for a space, I pointed and told him "It's OK. You can park in mother and baby spaces. Look, there's a space!" "Is this for real?" he enquired. "Yes" I replied. "it's a parenting benefit to make up for all the lack of sleep you have to deal with". I can't begin to tell you how happy he was. It was like his numbers had come in on the national lottery.

And what about that feeling when someone pulls out of a parking space so you can immediately dive in. Simple pleasures eh?

But what can we do to alleviate car park anxiety? well, here are a few of my top tips:-

1. Always leave at least ten minutes earlier than planned giving you a little longer to hunt down that perfect little space.

2. Make sure you have a good stash of coins ready for that moment when the ticket machine spits out that one coin that just wont go in.

3. Where ever possible try to reverse park. Not only is it much easier to reverse into a car space than to drive straight in but its much safer to drive out of a space as it avoids backing into unknown traffic

So, on a closing note, who would have thought that those tiny white rectangular spaces would bring so much pain but then sometimes, so much pleasure.

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