Magazine

The Amateur Parker Ö

Losing My Mind, And My Car

By Melissa Bean Sterzick

There are days when I feel like a mental patient of sorts. Whether I am suffering from memory loss, sleep deprivation, depression, temporary insanity or otherwise, I would happily spend a few hours on a therapistís couch instead of behind the wheel running my various errands, checking important, slightly important and useless tasks off my list.
There are times when I know I should just be in bed with a recording of whale songs in the background, instead of driving my car with the radio and my children blaring.
My crazy days are like most peopleís crazy days, and in the hurry of hunting and gathering, the car is a vital tool. Finding parking is required for the completion of most of my tasks, whether going to the doctorís office, meeting clients, buying groceries and so on. And because things are so hectic, it would be easy to lose my mind and my car on the same day. But keeping track of my car is one task I am always on top of.
There are times when my own husband, the man with the internal map and compass in his head, does not know where we parked, but I always know. Finding my car when Iím done doing whatever it is Iíve done is a real priority for me.
With the holidays approaching, I might be eating my words with a huge scoop of spinach dip, but I hope to keep a cool head. And if I do all my holiday shopping online, I will avoid the risk of meltdown entirely.
Stress is more likely to prevent me from sleeping or make me extra clumsy, bumping into and dropping things all day long. Mental upset of the temporary kind, caused by a number of people Ė including grouchy children, workaholic husbands and sarcastic siblings Ė can cause me to be forgetful.
In my distress, Iíve left the garage door open all night, neglected a washer full of wet laundry for several days, emptied dirty dishes out of the dishwasher and into my cupboards, and even forgotten to pay my phone bill.
But I always know where I left my car. Think about it: My car cost a lot more than my wedding ring, and I always know where that is, too. There are just certain things I refuse to lose.
My car lost itself once, years ago. I parked it in front of the office at my new apartment complex and returned the next morning to find an empty stall. For a moment, I was sure it had been stolen, but logic trumpeted the obvious fact that no one steals ancient Honda Civic hatchbacks Ė a vehicle they donít even make anymore Ė but which was more than good enough for a totally broke college student like me.
It turned out I was required to purchase a parking sticker the moment I initiated my lease, a detail no one bothered to mention, and without which my car was mercilessly towed and held for ransom. Iím still bitter about that dodgy towing company, but have never got around to discussing it with a therapist.
Even more vivid is the memory of my absolute confusion Ė knowing without a doubt that this was the spot where I had left my car Ė and it was gone. Iím sure I scratched my head. I know I walked in circles, looked around wildly, thought about calling for help and went through all the stages of manic depression in a matter of seconds: disbelief, panic, incomprehension, heavy negotiation and resignation. ...
One day, years later, I came across an individual who had lost his car in a way that was not only dangerous but also heart wrenching. Outside a local department store, I noticed a clearly upset elderly man pacing the long aisles of the parking lot. I observed and then could no longer just observe, so I asked him what was wrong. He said he could not find his car or his keys and had called his auto club service, but they would not be available for another hour.
I offered my help because he looked confused and not physically able to continue his search. I drove him around the westerly lot where he said his car should be and he never saw it. He was grateful to me but unwilling to impose any further, so I left him back at the store entrance and headed home, feeling badly for him, sensing that this had happened before and he feared his independence was in jeopardy.
I turned the corner to the parking lot on the north side of the building and saw an ancient Town Car with grey smoke pouring out of its tailpipe. It was empty, locked, and the engine was running. It was his car.
He had parked, left the keys in the ignition, locked the doors and entered the store at Menswear. When he walked out at Shoes, he became even more disoriented than he already was and never guessed his car was just around the corner.
Itís because I donít want to end up lost and confused looking for my car in the wrong lot that I am so careful to make a mental note when I park. But life is a real pressure cooker, and nobodyís making pharmaceuticals that can bake a ham or negotiate with the in-laws.
The only good thing about cars that honk when you lock and unlock by remote is that when you lose them, you can just keep pushing that button until you hear the familiar beep. If that doesnít work, take my advice: Whether youíve lost your mind or just your car, find a couch and lie down.
Melissa Bean Sterzick is PTís amateur parker and proofreader. She can be reached at Melissa@parkingtoday.com

Article Abstract from December, 2009




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