I often times get my inspiration from the oddest places.  Sometimes it’s watching my kids play… sometimes it’s at work.  And sometimes, it’s  while trying to find a parking spot at the local Walmart during Christmas time.

As I approached the parking lot, only a few days before Christmas, I began to dread the thought of dodging old drivers and young alike.  All vying for the “rock star” position; the parking spot closest to the door.

Living in Northern Minnesota, this is a coveted spot.  Since it can get down well below Zero degrees Fahrenheit on a regular basis… you want to try and keep the exposure to the cold and wind at a minimum.

As I entered the parking lot, I was amazed at how far the lot had stretched out beyond the typical 15 or so cars deep.  As more and more people drove in, the rows just got longer and longer.  Like a icle, drawn out by gravity… clinging to the origin of thawed water.

At this point, I realized something about the pattern.  People seemed to be reserved to the fact parking in the rows – perpendicular to the door – seemed to be the fastest way from their car to the store  After all, common thought is that the shortest distance between two points is a straight line.

With a rather smug and probably arrogant smile on my face, I quickly drove around the perimeter of the parking lot until I reached the side lot (you know, the one typically used by the employees).  Sure, I couldn’t see the door, but it’s actually the shortest distance from my car to the entrance.  Well, at least the shortest distance the least amount of effort finding a spot.

All this aside, it got me thinking… why do people park this way?  Is the herd mentality that ingrained in our thinking that they can’t pull themselves out of this thought process and just look to the side of the building?

Now, you may jest at this… but, it’s actually a microcosm of human behavior.  Look at the recent gas shortages in Georgia and Tennessee.  Yeah, there was a shortage, but it could have been dealt with and manageable if it weren’t for group thought and herd mentality.  Everyone else is buying gas, so I better get there before the rest of them do.  It then turns into a self fulfilling prophesy.  Everyone buys gas for fear of no gas -> Result = No Gas.

Same thing with the parking lot… people see that the lines are getting longer and longer, with more people behind them. So, they pick the closest spot perpendicular to the door… before the guy behind them does.

This is all obviously mental floss, but do me a favor… next time you’re in a parking lot… look to the side of the building.