Douglas McIntire

Douglas McIntire

It was just another afternoon as I made the left hand turn from Maine Street into the Hannaford parking lot. Almost immediately, I had the nagging, claustrophobic sense that there was no room for my little Toyota Echo among this throng of shoppers. It was late afternoon and I told myself this was normal for an early dinner grocery rush. Still, the part of my mind prone to wistful flashbacks questioned the proportions of businesses to cars in the lot.

In the grand scheme of things, the only businesses in the greater Hannie’s area besides the grocery store are a coffee shop and a bank, each with their own designated areas and of the two, only one is a relative newcomer. That would be the bank as opposed to the, well, bank that used to be a bank before it gave up banking and found a far more meaningful life slinging coffee.

I know you know how I feel about the proliferation of banks in Brunswick. I mean, honestly, there can’t be enough money in town to support a bank or three on every block — can there? I digress.

I found a spot within spitting distance of the bank that’s a bank. No, I didn’t actually spit on the bank despite what I just said. It fell far too short and nearly splattered a Prius. Just kidding — maybe.

Anyway, I took a good look around and tried to picture the area in my childhood and it was, frankly, a far more hopping place back when. In front of me, flanking Elm Street, was the old Shop n Save and if I remember right, there was a separate liquor store attached to it.

To my left and backed up against Union Street, stood various incarnations of a building that for the sake of time and place, housed Grand City and Welby Drug. There were also variations in occupancy in the lot like Cottle’s and Grant’s but for most of my childhood, Grand City was a catch-all department store with a nice little lunch counter where it seemed every French Memere would gather and chat in their native tongue.

Grand City was a place where you could get a parfait, pick up the poster board and styrofoam balls for your science project that was due in the morning and see the latest Halloween costumes in cardboard boxes with cellophane windows to see what the plastic, lead paint oozing mask looked like.

Welby Drug was important in my childhood too — not that I had a medicated childhood. No, as a young heathen growing up, Welby was one of the only businesses in town I could go to on a Sunday morning for M&Ms, Doritos or whatever school sundries I wanted to pick up. I would be there by the time they opened the doors, promptly at 10 a.m., grumbling about how backward a town must be to be led around by the nose by the area churches. After all, who where they to get in the way of a pimply faced pubescent and his carton of malted milk balls?

Somehow in the space of all that bustle and commerce, we were able to accommodate much bigger cars and trucks of the ’70s and ’80s but now, my tiny Echo practically has to be parked by the mall to go pick up dog food. Now there is even a plan to take down two other buildings nearby to create more parking? It just doesn’t make sense.

Then it hits me. Well, it almost hit me. Leaving with my Dog Chow, I was almost T-boned by an elderly woman in a sedan who didn’t stop for the spray painted “stop” line on the pavement.

There’s the rub! When did we think it was a good idea to make miniature hamlets of parking lots? What made anyone think creating new roadways on a blacktop with legitimate looking yet entirely unenforced signage, was so brilliant? I’m thinking there’s a parking lot construction conspiracy to drive up the cost of laying an acre of asphalt. It can’t be any easier for the poor plow drivers and yet, here we’ve wasted half the usable space in the lot without even putting up fake street signs.

“Hey, how do I get a closer spot to the grocery store?”

“Well, turn right on Superfluous Drive and you’ll come to a big, scary, spray painted imperative on the pavement. Don’t stop — nobody stops for it,” the reply comes in a weary voice, “keep going until you can take the next left at These Spots Are ALL Reserved Street.”

Maybe if we dug up the artificial islands creating a Pac- Man landscape in the lot, we could tuck a Welby back in there — or a liquor store. That might make stopping for dog food a little more worthwhile.

Maybe I’ll just start riding my bike again and lock up in front of the door.

Douglas McIntire is a writer and educator in the Midcoast and when he’s not a parking lot stop sign scofflaw, he can be reached at [email protected]

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