You're dreading this, but it has to be done. There are holidays to shop for, letters to mail and meals to be made. But before you can glide through the aisles, you must venture into the wild, wild west — also known as the parking lot.
It's the home of fender benders, errant carts and ignored turn signals. It's where the idea of efficient traffic flow seems to disappear. And it can be enough to wreck even the cheeriest elf's Christmas spirit.
We saw an example of it earlier this month outside the Home Depot on N Dale Mabry Highway. Adjacent to a complex with Whole Foods, Target and DSW just north of Interstate 275, it's one of the busiest parking lots in town.
A man driving a truck asked a woman in a minivan to back up, so he would have more room. She refused, saying he had plenty of space.
In stepped the woman's husband and friend. A struggle ensued. The truck driver grabbed his gun and the husband and friend ran off. As he exited, the truck driver drove past the pair and the husband opened fire.
About a dozen people were nearby when the man fired, police say. He hit the car window of a handicapped man who was inside shopping. No one was injured.
The case may be extreme. But it got us wondering: Where is Hillsborough County's worst parking lot?
So, we asked you, our readers, to share your parking woes. The answers flooded in.
The majority of readers agreed that the Home Depot and surrounding parking lots are among the worst.
But, that parking lot isn't the only one causing headaches around here. Here are your Top 8.
Situated downtown on Ashley Drive, the Poe Garage serves as parking for two museums as well as a myriad of events held each weekend in Curtis Hixon Waterfront Park.
Dave Bryant, 40, of Bartow thinks the city should bulldoze the garage and start over. "It's confusing to get out," he wrote. "I've encountered several people, especially older people, who don't understand how to exit the garage. I think it could be because of the tight triangle turn points."
Lynn Elliott, 60, of South Tampa agreed.
"There are blind corners where you can't see if another car is heading your way as you try to turn in the narrow space," she wrote.
Palma Ceia Plaza
Located on S MacDill Avenue, this lot fills up quickly, thanks to a few popular restaurants. Add in tight spaces that are almost too small for large vehicles and it makes for a troublesome spot. One reader recommended never parking next to a sport utility vehicle or door dings will be unavoidable.
Bonefish Grill Carrollwood
Sharing a parking lot with a Panera Bread and several other restaurants and stores on N Dale Mabry Highway, this parking lot is narrow with limited spaces, making it especially difficult to park close to the door.
"There are a few spots in front of the restaurant, which includes only one handicapped spot," wrote Nora and Rob Morris of Tampa. "For a person with a wheelchair or walker, parking here is nearly impossible. There is no safe area in which to unload a walker, and your odds of finding the one handicapped space open are very slim. Bonefish is only for the young and healthy."
Westfield Brandon Mall
Located off State Road 60, Brandon's busiest road, the mall parking lot fills up fast and backups are common at the exits.
"The parking lot is designed in a way that Houdini could not get out," wrote Antoan Simpson, 36, of St. Petersburg. "When the holidays arrive the parking lot is like a nightmare on Elm Street. One would think after all these years the owners would have redesigned the madness they created with their creative team."
Brandon Regency Park
Opposite the Westfield Brandon Mall on State Road 60 sits Brandon Regency Park, home to Best Buy, a movie theater, Hobby Town USA as well as Red Lobster and several other restaurants.
One reader said his biggest pet peeve about this lot is that it often takes more time to get out of the parking lot than it does to do the actual shopping. High-speed oncoming traffic at the exit doesn't help, he said.
Home to more than a dozen stores, Britton Plaza off S Dale Mabry Highway is one of South Tampa's busiest parking lots. And even though it's big enough to handle the traffic, it still has problems, wrote Karen Vance, 55, of Tampa.
"People that are too entitled, lazy or perhaps injured park where there are no spaces," Vance wrote. "The lot is big enough but you do have to walk. They should be grateful for working legs and do just that!"
Temple Terrace Post Office
Tucked behind a sprawling new plaza on 56th Street, the Temple Terrace Post Office is accessible from Chicago Avenue. There are few spaces and most require a driver to back out onto the street. It's the worst that Ken Guthery of Temple Terrace has experienced in his 77 years, he wrote.
"It is amazing there are not accidents there every day. Those of us who frequent it daily have learned to be extremely patient with everyone else because it can be so frustrating."
Tampa General Hospital Visitor Garage
Serving as the main parking spot for hospital visitors, this garage is large and busy. Don't forget where you parked because it's easy to get turned around inside.
Shelley Rossetter can be reached at email@example.com or (813) 226-3401.