Nfld. & Labrador

'Maybe think twice' on blocking blue-zone spots, mother says after Costco encounter

Lisa Power Mackey couldn't get her son into the family's accessible van after a pickup truck parked in the lined space between the blue-zone spots at the St. John's Costco on Monday.

Lisa Power Mackey couldn't get son Benjamin, 14, into accessible van after truck parks between spots

This pickup truck had parked in the lined spaces between blue-zone spots, and Lisa Power Mackey says when the driver came out, he told her he didn't realize he couldn't park there. (Submitted by Lisa Power Mackey)

Lisa Power Mackey felt lucky to find one of the wide and easily accessible blue-zone parking spots at the St. John's Costco on Monday because it allowed her to safely get her son Benjamin into the store.  

Benjamin, 14, was born 15 weeks premature and has no mobility in his arms or legs, so requires full care and a wheelchair.

Power Mackey, her husband and son spent an hour inside the store, but she was in for an unpleasant surprise when she left: someone had parked a pickup truck in the striped space between the blue zone spots.

"I couldn't believe it. At first I thought, 'That's not our van,' because we had the space next to it and I thought we must be the next aisle over. And when I looked at it, I was like, 'You've got to be kidding me,'" Power Mackey said. "Of all the spaces available, you had to park here, where there's no parking."

Power Mackey says she's had plenty of experiences with people who should not be parking in accessible spots, but the pickup truck owner's dismissal of her concerns rankled her. (Submitted by Lisa Power Mackey)

She tried getting the van's ramp down, but the truck was parked so close, there was no way to get Benjamin's wheelchair onto the ramp and into the van.

Power Mackey went back inside the store and asked for an announcement on the PA system to let the driver of the truck know it needed to be moved.

But there was no overhead system, and no way to make an announcement. So she went to the garage section of the Costco to ensure the truck wasn't parked in the spot because it needed to be worked on. 

I can't believe of all the spots here at the Costco lot, he had to park here.- Lisa Power Mackey

One of the garage workers followed her to the spot, confirmed the truck was parked where it shouldn't be, and said he would call the Royal Newfoundland Constabulary, while helping her safely get her van out and get Benjamin in.

"He said, 'I'll block off the lane so that you can back out,' so that's what we did. My husband backed out and I pushed Benjamin into the van," Power Mackey told CBC's St. John's Morning Show. "And just as we got this done, the owner of the vehicle came running out with his armload of groceries and he just said, 'Oh, I didn't know I couldn't park there.' He just jumped in his truck and took off."

That interaction rankled her the most, Power Mackey said.

"If he had stopped and said, 'OK, I did something dumb, I shouldn't have parked there, I was in a hurry, never thought,' whatever, but just the fact that it didn't seem like it mattered, that's kind of what got me really upset afterwards," she said. "I kept saying, 'I can't believe of all the spots here at the Costco lot, he had to park here.'"

The RNC said it hasn't received an official complaint about this specific incident, but a spokesperson said this kind of action is "not acceptable," and encouraged anyone who sees someone parking illegally in a blue space to call police.

"We want these accessible locations to be available to those who need them," said Const. James Caddigan.

Not an unfamiliar struggle

Power Mackey said she's had plenty of parking incidents — blue-zone spots that aren't quite big enough or people parking too close to her wheelchair-accessible van. But this encounter stands out.

"It was the first time it was that drastic," she said, adding that often, she would go to the end of a parking lot just to avoid these kinds of situations.

Since her husband works offshore on a rotating schedule, he's not always around, so she often runs errands with Benjamin on her own.

"I have parked at the end of a lot, when I'm by myself with him, so there's no vehicle around me, and then I will push him up to the store, do my shopping, push him and pull the cart down to the vehicle, unload it, push him and the empty cart back up to the cart corral, put it back, and push him right back to the end of the lot again, just so we can go to a store," she said.

The pickup truck had parked in the lined spaces between blue-zone parking spots. (Submitted by Lisa Power Mackey)

"But it's kind of upsetting when these spots are there for a reason, and it's not like we've won the lottery and we get to park up front by a store. They're obviously there for a safety reason.

"Unfortunately there's still people who just don't seem to get it or care."

Power Mackey posted photos of the parking job on Facebook on Monday evening, and some friends recommended she make the post public so they could share the story.

By Tuesday morning, it had been shared more than 3,400 times, with more than 400 comments.

She never expected that response, and Power Mackey said she had to stop checking the post because a few people suggested she should have just backed the van up and not made an issue out of it. She said that thinking highlights they didn't fully appreciate the situation.

"It is a big deal because [Benjamin] requires full care. I'm not gonna leave him in a Costco parking lot to back up the van by myself."

Be more considerate

Power Mackey said she didn't want to take the man's photo for the post, because it's not about just him — although his response was discouraging.

"I would have liked him to look at my son and apologize to him, because it's one thing if you do it to me — that's fine, whatever, I can speak to you. He can't speak. He had to sit there, in his wheelchair, while we tried to figure out how to get him in," she said.

"I just wanted him to realize how much he put my son out yesterday, that dignity for one thing — you can't even get in your own vehicle."

Power Mackey said she followed up with an email to the RNC and sent photos, but hadn't heard anything by Tuesday morning.

She wants police to explain to the man why it's not OK to park in the middle of blue-zone spots.

"Just as long as he realizes those spots are there for a reason, so maybe think twice before you go to do it next time," she said, adding she hopes the post's shares help encourage people to have empathy for others.

"I'd love to be able to park at the end and have my son run into the store, but that's not his life. His life is a lot harder than that."

Read more articles from CBC Newfoundland and Labrador

With files from the St. John's Morning Show

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