Weatherford Democrat

AP Story Section

September 12, 2008

Expecting? Stork parking convenient, controversial

BETHEL PARK, Pa. (AP) — Like a high-noon shootout in the old West, I raced toward the empty ‘‘stork’’ parking space at my local grocery store and found myself bumper to bumper with another mom driving a large gold SUV.

I had been gunning for weeks for one of those spaces set aside for pregnant women and new mothers, and now, at 8 months pregnant, thought this was finally my day.

But looking down at the SUV’s flashing blinker, I deferred and drove past, instead pulling into an empty spot about 10 spaces away and resigning myself to the long walk.

As I waddled past the SUV, I saw the stick-thin woman get out of her car, and take a child about 4 or 5 years old out of the back seat.

That was it. No baby bump. No new baby in a car seat. No gaggle of small children in tow.

Why was she entitled to that space and not me? Then again, was I more entitled than anyone else just because I had a belly the size of a large bowling ball?

Stork parking spaces started appearing in store parking lots many years ago, though their exact origin is unclear. They can be a lifesaver for new and expecting moms, an annoyance to motorists who don’t believe in the special treatment and a pain for some disabled drivers who feel the reserved spaces take away from those who really deserve them.

‘‘We started seeing it in the last couple of years, mainly in shopping centers with supermarkets,’’ said Erin Hershkowitz, a spokeswoman for the New York-based International Council of Shopping Centers, a trade organization. ‘‘Basically it’s just for mothers who are expecting and to make the shopping experience more comfortable and convenient for them.’’

The idea has spurred other kinds of special spaces as well, including parking spaces reserved for hybrid cars that have popped up over the last few years at everything from grocery stores to office buildings.

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