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John Gillott: Survival tales from the concrete jungle


Posted: January 1, 2011 9:43 p.m.
Updated: January 2, 2011 4:30 a.m.

The scene of a Santa Clarita Valley supermarket parking lot can be fraught with peril and distraction, as noted by local columnist John Gillott and seen in this photo of Trader Joe’s in Santa Clarita.


I write this as a public service announcement for all of our local citizens who have visited our local Trader Joe’s store.
Recently, I violated rule 6(b) of the “Rules of Living in Valencia,” which is found at the website.

And, yes, I lived to tell about it.

The rule I violated clearly states: “Never attempt to enter Trader Joe’s or Petco as a pedestrian without the proper protection of a crash helmet or an armed escort.”

I drove into the Trader Joe’s parking lot. After dodging only five cars, I found a parking space. I got out and cautiously walked to my back bumper and crouched like a thief.

I scouted some running lanes. For some reason, I had a vision of Clint Eastwood in the movie “The Gauntlet.” I looked down the parking lot lane.

“Jeepers,” I thought, “looks like a 3-second window before the next car comes barreling through.”

I sprinted the 50 yards as if my life depended on it. I reached the end of the drive lane and quickly jumped to the safety of the curb.

Now came the hardest part: getting across the traffic in front of Trader Joe’s. I looked left and saw three cars coming toward me — and about 15 still on Newhall Ranch Road trying to get in.

I looked right and saw six cars coming at me, stretching all the way back to Best Buy. It looked like I was in for a long night.
Suddenly, it happened! Some nice lady in a Honda found herself parked between two SUVs — a clear violation of rule 11(c), by the way — and decided to blindly back out of one of the spaces in front of the store.

Well, this resulted in a near miss as a BMW slammed on its brakes. The lady panicked and froze; her car was half in and half out of her parking space. This caused traffic to come to a complete standstill.

I seized the moment. I looked left and saw a driver cursing. I looked right and saw a driver shaking his head. I bolted between two cars in front of me and made it to the sidewalk in front of the store.

Several spectators applauded, like I scored a touchdown. I needed to spike something, but all I had was my wallet.

Later, after my purchase, I walked outside. The lady in the Honda was still there. The line of cars to the left stretched all the way to Aaron Brothers. I looked right and saw 20 cars on Newhall Ranch still trying to get into the parking lot.

God bless that lady in the Honda. I crossed traffic without incident. At another time, I will write a letter about trying to get out of the parking lot. But let’s move on to the real meat of this column.

I decided to conduct a public-service experiment. I stood outside Trader Joe’s for 24 hours and recorded the number of pedestrian near misses and fatalities, car crashes and other traffic notables.

Then I went home and created a graph. The horizontal line showed each of the 24 hours and the vertical line showed the number of “incidents.” Then I created a pie chart showing the percentages of each type of incident.

I thought about a Powerpoint presentation, but thought I might be criticized for going a bit overboard. I will save that for any corporate guest-speaker gigs that come my way.

My conclusion? Well, it’s safest to cross to the Trader Joe’s store entrance at 3 a.m. The 2 a.m. time slot would have won, but it was disqualified because all pedestrian traffic was blocked because of the yellow police “do not cross” ribbon, which was removed before 3 a.m.

So there you have it. As Clouseau would say, “The Trader Joe’s dilemma is sol-ved.”

John Gillott is a resident of Valencia. His column reflects his own views, not necessarily those of The Signal.


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