Monday, February 19, 2024

Occum's Razor Gets an Update

One of the simplest theoretical theorems to understand is Occam’s Razor. Basically, instead of looking for the most complex solution when trying to determine the cause of an event – keep it simple. If you hear hoofbeats, think horse, not zebra. I propose a new codicil to the Razor: If you zebra stripes next to a parking spot, think No Parking instead of Hey, a stylishly painted parking spot for me

Most often, you’ll see the zebra-painted spaces in the handicap zone next to a regular handicap parking spot. The zebra space exists to allow wheelchair-capable vans with have side ramps with enough space to let the ramp down. This allows a person using a wheelchair to get in or out of the vehicle. It all seems very simple until you realize that some stores, to save money, put a single handicap sign on the open parking space and none for the zebra space. 

I’m guess they’re figuring that everybody knows what it means. You’d be amazed at the number of people who don’t or don’t care. When these uninformed people see an open, unmarked spot close to the door, even though it has zebra markings, they whip their car into the space. To me this is a crime far worse than someone just abusing a handicap spot.

I’ve witnessed a wheelchair user come out to discover some unthinking asshole has parked in the zebra spot blocking their access. Because they can’t let the ramp down, they are trapped until the asshole returns. It’s one thing for an adult to be trapped that way, but what about a child? One who needs to get home to take medication? Or has some other appointment they need to get to but now find themselves trapped for an unknown quantity of time? Asshole indeed.

People who abuse handicap spots irritate me. We’ve all seen that guy who pulls a car into a handicap spot without plates or a placard showing, jumps out, and runs into the store. What’s the handicap? Stupidity? I have a college friend who has permanent handicap plates but seldom uses the space unless available parking is just too distant for them to handle. They must think there are people worse off who need that closer spot more. But zebra spot abuse is more dire and heinous. 

Once, after parking and heading into the store, I walked past a woman who was pulling into the zebra spot. At first, I was just going to let it go, but I walked over to the car as she got out and told her she couldn’t park there because of the zebra stripes. The pushback over the lack of a handicap sign for the specific spot ensued. Fortunately, someone a few slots down started to pull out, and I offered to go stand in the empty spot so that she could move her car. She agreed. I felt good the rest of the day because I had saved the zebra.

Maybe it’s time that Occum go beyond his Razor and add a Zebra Strop. It can remain simple: If you see zebra stripes don’t park. It works for both the slot meant to help the handicap and actual zebras. You shouldn’t be parking on of them either.


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