Sometimes, it pays to park in a grocery lot’s hinterlands

It’s getting to the point where it’s not safe to go grocery shopping anymore. 

During the peak of the Coronavirus, I switched my longtime habit of shopping on Saturday mornings to Fridays. I had two reasons for the change: I wanted to be around as few people as possible and I wanted to shop before they ran out of items on my list. I shop at the Kroger on Ireland Road in South Bend and have done so for decades.

As a highly routinized person (my wife’s term for me), I know there are others like me at Kroger on Friday. I see several of the same customers and the same cars in the parking lot. If I shop on a different day, employees will look at me and say, “Hey, it’s not Friday” (or before Covid, “Saturday”).

I was slightly behind my appointed shopping time this Friday and that apparently tilted the earth off its axis.

While I browsed for Christmas cards, an announcement came over the store intercom asking for the owners of two particular vehicles to come to the front office. I’ve only heard that type of announcement in regard to somebody leaving their car lights on. It was around 10:30 a.m. As I moved toward the main aisle near the checkout, I heard one employee say to the manager, “Welcome to the Ireland Kroger.” Shortly thereafter, another announcement came over the intercom asking for the owner of a specific vehicle to come to the office. My ears stayed perked up for the rest of my visit waiting to hear my car called. Actually, I was praying I did not hear my make and model called.

By the time I got to the checkout lane, there were police officers near the bagging areas talking to a Kroger employee. There was a fire truck visible just outside the entrance. Several Kroger employees were mingling around and shaking their heads. My checkout employee was short on details. She said something about a car accident.

When I exited the store, the scale of the commotion became apparent. It looked like a multi-car pileup, but in a parking lot. The Salvation Army bell ringer was an eyewitness. As I made a donation, she told me what had happened. A lady was backing out of a parking space and then she suddenly accelerated and rammed into several cars. The errant driver was going fast enough that she created a bumper car event. A Kroger employee who was out collecting shopping carts apparently was struck by one of the ricocheting cars. 

Car owners were milling around waiting to give their information to the police. There were car parts, mostly broken taillights strewn all around. My car was parked in the accident aisle, but farther toward the street. My habit is always to park as far away from the store as possible, mainly to avoid the drivers of huge vehicles who carelessly swing their doors out and ding and dent neighboring cars. In this instance, my faraway parking “routinization” saved my little car from more than a dent.

As I loaded up my trunk with my groceries, I stopped to take a picture. One of the police officers looked at me and shook his head. I don’t know whether his bemused look meant, “Isn’t this crazy?” or “You really lucked out that you parked where you did.” I wasn’t going to hang around long enough for some parking lot rubbernecker eyeing the chaos to run into me.

Maybe it’s time for me to start having my groceries delivered.

South Bend’s finest responded to the Kroger parking lot mishap.