Tuesday, January 27, 2009

A Brief History of Time ... in the Parking Garage

The night started out well enough, as I'd gotten two free tickets to watch three mute blue men eat Captain Crunch and throw marshmallows at each other. Of course, some might argue you can do that for free anytime at the mental hospital down by Brigham Circle, but I'm a sucker for stadium seating.

My date had been bragging that he'd found garage parking for only $10 a few blocks away from the theatre. Not only that, but the garage was real classy: There were cards by each elevator indicating what level you were on.

"How cool is that? I don't even have to remember where I parked! The card does it for me." My date beamed, waving the card around like it could also turn his car into a Rolls and chauffer us around.

After the show, my date couldn't wait to return to the garage, where apparently the real performance was about to begin. The only problem was, he'd forgotten where the garage was.

"Well why don't you just look at the damn card? Doesn't it say what the address is?"

My date pulled out his "magical" card and shook his head. "Uh, no."

"Are you kidding me? I thought this card was the answer to world hunger, and it doesn't even tell you where you parked the damn car?" I was furious—and freezing. He'd chosen the coldest day of the year to lose the car.

"Maybe I can hitch a ride with one of the blue men. You think their car's blue, too?"

"Wait! This street looks familiar. Yes! This is it. Woohoo! What a perfect end to a perfect night."

My date gazed lovingly into my eyes as I fought off hypothermia. "Whatever, dude! Let's just get inside—I'm fucking freezing!"

We tried to open the lobby door, but it wouldn't budge. Neither would the one next to it. Even the revolving door wouldn't revolve. I looked inside the lobby, where a concierge was making a hand gesture at me.

"Hey! I think that man's giving us the finger! So much for your classy garage."

I gave the guy my own one-fingered salute and looked at my date, "What now?"

"I guess we'll have to go up where the cars come in."

We ran around the corner to the garage entrance and walked up the ramp, clinging to the walls like Spider Man as cars whizzed by, dangerously close to clipping us.

"Thank G-d I didn't have that extra donut for breakfast!" I screamed as the sideview mirror of a Land Rover grazed my arm.

Amazingly, we made it back up to the lobby unscratched, and as my date went to the machine to pay for the parking, I walked up to the concierge who had been so rude to us.

"Excuse me, but did you see us at the door a few minutes ago?"

"Well, I certainly saw one of your fingers quite clearly. I was waving at you to press the button so the doors would open."

"Button? But I thought that was for the handicapped!"

"We don't discriminate here. Everyone gets to push the button—well, everyone clever enough to crack the code, apparently."

"Well, there should be a sign or something! It was very confusing! We almost got killed going up the car entrance!"

"Isn't that a shame."

I glared at the concierge and returned to my date.

"What was that all about?"

"We were exchanging cake recipes. Let's get out of here. What's the card say?"

"Level 5!"

We walked the entirety of Level 5. Then we did another lap. In desperation, I even looked under a Hummer. My date looked at me like I really was handicapped. "Well, you have a VW Bug!"

"Ames, this isn't funny. Where the hell is my car?"

"Are you sure you're on this level?"

"Yes! Look at the card! That's what it says!"

Sure enough, I looked at a big blazing red 5 marked clearly on the card.

"Well, you can't argue with that. So where's the car?"

"I don't know!"

I frowned. "Have you considered the possibility that maybe your car doesn't want to be found?"

"Ames!"

"Sorry."

And then, in the distance, I spotted who is possibly the most under-rated worker in America: the parking lot attendant.

"Lost your car?"

"No sir, we just like to roam around parking garages with blank looks on our faces."

My date elbowed me hard.

"I can't find my Bug—the card here says it's on 5, but ..."

The attendant was already on his way. "I'll look around for it."

So we sat in the cold, dank dimly lit garage and waited for what seemed like hours. The only way time could've moved any slower was if we had been smoking joints while watching a pot of water boil.

I sidled up to my date, trying to keep warm. "Have a joint?"

"Ames, you don't smoke."

"Right."

Finally, the attendant pulled up to us again.

"Your car is on 3."

"Looks like someone put the card in the wrong damn box. Maybe next time we can just do it the old-fashioned way and actually look to see where we've parked, hmm?"

"Maybe next time someone can walk home!"

"Touche."

We were finally on our way home. My date stuck the already paid for time card in the machine so the gates would open. The machine promptly spit the card out.

"What the hell?"

He tried again to no avail. It was as if we had driven into a black hole, devoid of all that was goodness and light in the world. There seemed to be no escaping this parking garage.

The gate attendant came over and looked at the card.

"These things expire after 15 minutes."

"But we lost our car! We've been looking for it for hours! Can we please just get the hell out of here?"

"Certainly."

We sighed with relief.

"For twenty dollars."

My date took one look at my face and quickly coughed up the money. As soon as we exited the building, we heard the sound of an alarm and flashing lights.

"Drive! Just drive!" I yelled. There are probably still skid marks from where we had made our daring escape.

"So much for classy parking garages, huh?"

I looked back at the garage where the alarm lights were still flashing. I closed my eyes and leaned back against the car seat. It had been a good show—and the blue men were pretty entertaining, too.