September 28, 2020

BY STEPHANIE LEFEBVRE

It has happened to all of us. Even in broad daylight. Sometimes you don’t even know it’s happening before it’s too late. Usually it happens in malls, but wherever there’s a large parking lot, they’re there.

And here at Conestoga College, it’s no different.

There you are, minding your own business, making the long trek back to your vehicle so you can finally go home. Or maybe you just want to take a nap in your car. When suddenly, you hear it.

The slight hum of an engine. Maybe the thump of bass too. You start walking faster, but you know it’s already too late. You’ve been spotted.

Your heart starts racing and your mouth gets dry, but you put your head down and press on, hoping for no eye contact.

If you get to your car without being spoken to, count yourself lucky. But by the time you get to your vehicle, you’re sweating and fumbling with your fob to unlock your door.

Any hope of taking a breath before starting your car has been dashed. You don’t even have time to fix your makeup or answer that last text message. Sunglasses be damned, you have to move. Now.

You feel the pressure to pull out of your spot faster. So you do. Driving away is the only way to escape. At the next stoplight, you’ll have a second to catch your breath.

Your predator is the parking lot lurker. You know the type: they follow you to your vehicle in hopes of getting your parking spot. This lurker is more often seen at malls, especially around Christmastime or other busy shopping weekends, but they do exist year-round.

The time it takes them to follow you to your car, wait for you to get in, pile in your belongings, start the engine, back out and drive off and then park their own cars is exactly enough time, if not more, to park an extra few metres away and walk into the mall or school or wherever.

The way I look at it is if you follow me in the parking lot and proceed to make me feel uncomfortable by asking me where my car is, chances are I either won’t tell you, or I will try to keep walking without answering.

You are still a stranger and quite frankly, you’re lazy.

I don’t care what the weather is or how far away your destination is, if you have two feet and a heartbeat, and are not physically disabled – that’s what handicapped spaces are for – you should be able to park in any section of the parking lot and walk in just like everybody else.

If you have fallen victim to the parking lot lurker, here are a few tips. One, never walk quickly. Lurkers get tired of following slow people and instead search for a new victim.

Two, never walk directly to your vehicle. My favourite technique is to walk through one parking lot to get to another one, which involves hopping a curb.

And lastly, if a lurker asks where your car is, lie. Tell them it’s another five-minute walk, or that you are just walking around to get some exercise. It’ll give you some time to get to your vehicle and escape unnoticed.