The other day my buddy Ben told me, rather sheepishly, that he couldn’t find where he had parked his car at the airport the previous weekend. He said he searched each level of the airport parking garage for an hour before giving up and taking a taxi home, to the tune of $90.
“You are such an idiot,” I said, being the consoling friend that I am.
Two weeks later I couldn’t find my car at the same airport.
The open-air parking garage at our airport is six stories high with banks of elevators in four sections on each of the six floors, which means you have 24 different areas when you can park your car. Mindful that travelers are frazzled when they get to the airport, most airports conveniently place a small box at each bank of elevators with little slips of paper telling you the exact floor and section where you just parked.
I took one.
I lost one.
And on my return, I too spent an hour dragging a ridiculously heavy suitcase from floor to floor and section to section in the dead of night with the summer temperature just over the 100-degrees mark. As I searched the parking garage, people who had successfully mastered the art of taking and not losing a parking slip, drove by me, their luggage safely in the trunk, and just shook their heads knowingly.
“Look there, Honey, that dummy lost his parking slip.”
“He’s just not as smart as you, Darling.”
“Thank you, Love Bug.”
I finally noticed, unlike Ben, that there was an emergency phone next to the elevators, so I called the number and a young man answered.
“I can’t find my car,” I said to the young man.
“Do you remember where you parked it?” he asked.
Take a second to let that sink in.
I bit my tongue, and simply said, “Gee, no.”
He asked what my license plate number was, which I did not know.
“Really need that,” he said.
“Let me call you back,” I said.
I keep all my passwords and codes on my cell phone, so I turned on my cell phone to look up my license plate number. Of course, the phone did not turn on because the battery was dead. I opened my suitcase and searched through the dirty clothes until I found the phone charger and plugged it into an outlet just below the emergency phone. I had to wait for it to charge for five minutes before it had enough juice for me to access my codes. I called Einstein back and gave him my license plate number. He said he would use the surveillance cameras on each floor scan the rows of parked cars and he would call me back when he located my car.
“Don’t go anywhere,” he said.
“Good idea,” I answered back.
I stood there drenched in sweat, my suitcase open, dirty clothes spilled out onto the ground, my cell phone still plugged into the concrete wall. I’m sure there was steam coming out of the top of my head. I was ready to punch a hole in something. All this aggravation because I was not smart enough or mature enough to retain a two-by-three inch piece of paper over the course of a four-day trip. A pretty sad state of affairs for a college-educated, successful businessman in his 50s.
Just as I thought things couldn’t get any worse, I heard the sound of someone walking and looked up to see a young black man approaching me. The area of the parking garage I was in was full of cars, but there were no other people there besides me and a very tall and very large young man. Did I mention that he was black?
That’s just wonderful, I thought to myself. Now, on top of everything else, I am going to be robbed. I waited, my left hand already reaching for my wallet. I didn’t mind losing my money; I just didn’t want to get shot, stabbed or beaten up.
But the young man walked right past me to the bank of elevators and pushed the down button.
“Be sure you don’t lose that paper slip,” I said, pointing to the small box with the parking slips in it. “I lost mine and have been looking for my car for an hour.”
“I don’t need a slip,” said the young man, pointing his cell phone at a sign next to the elevator doors that listed the parking level number and section name. “I just take a photo of it with my phone. You should try it next time.”
The young man stepped into the elevator, and as the doors closed, he smiled at me and said, “Good luck, man.”
That’s just great, I thought to myself. Not only am I a racial-profiling bigot, I’m also not as smart as an 18-year-old. I felt like crawling into a hole.
“You’re late,” my wife said when I got home.
“My plane was delayed,” I lied.