Last Wednesday, I went to Maywood Mart and saw they are ‘fixing’ the parking lot again. After checking out the progress, I came home and went for a four-mile walk. I took a lot of walks like that during the quarantine, I call it ‘rage-walking.’ Rage-walking seems like a better idea than just raging against whatever it is that I feel like is trying to control my life without checking with me first. My purpose was to blow off steam before I made a bad choice like starting my first ever Facebook Live video about this stupid parking lot. My rage walk was almost long enough to work.
I spent the entire four miles thinking about what I would say in the video that I was stomping across my neighborhood in an effort to keep myself from making. I usually listen to podcasts or audiobooks while walking, lately it’s been the music of Tyler Childers. But on this day, I yanked my earbuds out and left Tyler singing ‘Follow You to Virgie’ around my neck while I composed what I would say on the video I absolutely was not going to make. I made the video, but I did not post it.
I typed it up instead—because printing it here is a much healthier option, right? My friends knew this column was coming. Me writing a whole article about a parking lot was inevitable since the day they first messed it up. I’ve tried to get over it—but I’m not.
For those of us who live and work around Maywood Mart, how many times a month do you think you would go there if it wasn’t for that farce of a parking lot? Think about it—how many times have you said to yourself, ‘Man, I really want a Logan Farms plate lunch today,’ and then you get close by and you see the traffic in the parking lot and you think, ‘I cannot do it today, I just can’t.’ So, you go get a sandwich at somewhere like Newk’s where the parking is slightly less problematic. Or maybe, like me, you’ve thought, ‘I’m gonna be a fun mom and take my kids to Nandy’s Candy for a sno cone after school since they beg for one every, single day.’ But then I get nearby and see a cluster of chaos in the parking lot and think, ‘You know—my kids don’t behave that well and might run into all that traffic and I don’t see any spots close by, and no—not today.’ Since I’m no dummy, I never tell my children about possible sno cones until the last second so I can hang a quick left into Highland Village Chevron and pretend like I need gas. I send them inside to get peanut butter Nabs or pork rinds and promise myself I’ll do sno cones next week.
How about when you realize you’re out of the garlic you need to cook supper. ‘No problem, I’ll just run by Corner Market real quick on the way to carpool.’ But again—you get close and see the tangle of traffic in those too-narrow, two-way lanes and say, ‘Nope, I don’t have time for this today.’ So, you whip into Whole Foods and pay two dollars extra for organic garlic that has been watered with the tears of baby goats rather than fight your way in and out of Maywood Mart.
It is not a stretch to say those businesses lose sales because of the parking lot. Meanwhile, you know what’s happening in Ridgeland? Folks are driving up and down one-way lanes at the Renaissance, pulling in and out of slanted parking spots and spending money! Same thing at the Madison Wal-Mart, slanted spots. Over at the District, they didn’t have room for slanted spots on both sides of that main drag, but instead of cramming them in there anyway—which is like telling folks to get a golf cart or get over it—they put parallel spots on one side and, you guessed it, slanted spots on the other side.
When I saw the first section of work being done on Tuesday, I really thought they were going to rectify the egregious wrong done to us all two years ago. It was November 2018, the week before Thanksgiving, when somebody who doesn’t do the grocery shopping for the holidays, decided it was the perfect week to change the flow of the entire parking lot and change the slanted spaces to straight ones. It looked like somebody had kicked an ant hill. Everybody in Jackson was just trying to get what they needed for cornbread dressing and get out. But it was like putting your life in the hands of nine-month-old who’s just learned how to walk and is teetering at the top of the stairs. And it turned out—it wasn’t even a real resurfacing job.
All they did was paint over the old lines with some sort of wannabe-asphalt, black paint and then paint new white lines over that. A million years ago, when they put the original lines down—they intended them to last. Because of this, you could still see their outline through the new black paint. Folks were still parking in the old outlines (either because they didn’t see the new ones or in silent protest) when the black paint started fading and the slanted lines became more and more noticeable. In less than two years, the black asphalt-ish paint wore off so much that the old slanted spot lines were completely visible as white parking spot lines again.
The return of the far superior slanted spot lines has made for an interesting parking experience. It’s like a ‘choose your own adventure’ book, parking lot style. Everyone is just free to park the way they choose since there are straight lines and slanted lines and cars parked both ways—I mean, what a time to be alive! As much fun as it has been to pull in and see the Wild West of parking lots configured in a totally new way than the day before due to all the personal choice and freedom available to Maywood Mart customers—it needed fixing. Like, really done well so we don’t end up ‘adventure parking’ again two years from now.
So, what does the management company decide to do? The exact same thing, again. Same wannabe-asphalt paint, same old lines still showing through. The business owners were told that the work would be done at night so it didn’t interfere with their sales. I don’t know what happened to change this—but they did not do it at night. As a result of this, the Maywood Mart businesses have lost tens of thousands of dollars this week.
These are small, local businesses that just made it through a statewide lockdown by the skin on their teeth. Well—the McDade’s Wine & Spirits was probably just fine, but the employees of Corner Market put themselves at risk to sell us the flour and Fleischman’s yeast we needed to stress-bake our way through the quarantine. And Logan Farms and Nandy’s Candy adapted on the fly to deliver curbside hams and chocolate eggs so that Easter in a pandemic still tasted like Easter. These are the types of businesses that we all bemoan closing. These are our friends and neighbors and 2020 has not been a friend to them.
And now, when things are getting a little better—they lose a day or two or three of business due to a parking lot ‘repair’ project that wasn’t supposed to be during the day and hasn’t actually repaired anything in the long term because that black paint will fade away again. I’ve made jokes and poked fun at what a total disaster that parking lot is for the past two years, but I am well and truly angry now. When I made the video that I didn’t post—this is the part where I started using my Mama Voice. At this point, it’s not just a crazy parking lot or a pain in the neck for us as customers—it’s people’s livelihoods that are being disregarded by those making decisions like the one to execute this project during business hours instead of at night. It seems less surprising that there are empty storefronts along both sides of the shopping center if this is how the businesses are treated.
I know—I know, it’s just a parking lot. There are bigger fish to fry—a devastating pandemic, contentious elections, record setting wildfires, literally too many hurricanes to name, people who don’t think masks work—I get that there are many, much larger problems plaguing our world today. But in my little corner of it, this is one thing everyone I’ve spoken to can agree on: The Maywood Mart business owners deserve to have a parking lot that doesn’t drive customers away and this half-hearted, quick fix is the equivalent of putting a used Band-Aid on a festering wound. If you agree with that too, then sling your car slanted into a straight spot and buy a ham and a smoothie and some wine and a pie. Get a haircut at Maurice’s and some shampoo from Watercolor, grab a mocha latte and a Nandy’s chocolate mummy and treat yourself to a massage and a Le Nails manicure. Load up on $1 Halloween party supplies and eat Moe’s off of jack-o-lantern plates after trying out your new running shoes from Hibbett’s.
Those are the best ways I can think of to thank the businesses of Maywood Mart for sticking with us through pandemics and poor management.