I am a creature of habit. There are certain systems that I have adopted in my life that help me to do important things like remembering to leave the house wearing pants.
I have noted with some particular interest that my habitual patterns shoot into hyper drive when my car pulls into the parking structure at the Pfister. I take my left hand off of the steering wheel to grab a hard plastic parking card that I keep in an indent in my driver’s side door, capsule swipe it in front of an electronic pad holding it vertically (never, never, ever horizontally) and then take faster-than-they-should-be turns around what I hope to only be two corners in the parking garage as I look for the perfect spot.
I then pray. I pray not for peace in the world and continued love for newborn puppies, but instead for that one angled parking spot on the 3rd Floor. It is my favorite, and when it is open, a sense of calm fills my very soul.
If my prayers are not fully answered, surely in retribution for forgetting to floss my teeth or some similar slip in the social contract, I might need to turn one more corner to find an open space. I may also be able to anticipate that my favorite spot is filled and park at a space leading up to that prized angled spot. Regardless of the exact place I claim as my car’s Pfister resting place for my visit, I always will drive slightly past the open spot, make a sharp left turn and then back my car between the yellow lines on the parking structure pavement that mark an open space. You will see more backsides of cars in the Pfister parking structure as you walk the ramp, but always, always, always when you come upon my compact micro minivan you will see the front grill of a car that says, “That fuel efficient number is clearly owned by a person with children.” It’s not a sexy car, no sir, but it gets the job done.
After my car is fully accounted for in its secured space, I grab my ever present Jack Spade computer bag and Sony camera, lock the doors with the key fob on my ring, and head for the elevators. It is at this point, as I find myself standing before the elevator waiting for the next empty car, that I perform the most important act of my obsessive-compulsive ritual. I grab one of the business cards that is displayed on the wall next to the elevator doors that indicate which floor I have just parked on and stick it into the breast pocket of my suit jacket. As the old grey matter inside my noggin gets closer and closer to matching the few wisps of grey matter on top of my head, I appreciate reminders.
You may scoff at my need for a daily note telling me that I parked my car on Floor 3, 4 or 5, but I had an encounter the other day that proved to me beyond a shadow of a doubt that concerning my parking ritual, I am the smartest person in the room. I wish those smarts carried over into algebra and simple tax law, but a guy’s gotta cherish what little victories he can claim in life.
After spending time in the lobby doing some writing and observing, I had finished for the day and made my way to Floor 3 of the parking garage via elevator. As the doors opened on my floor, I found myself face-to-face with a woman with an expression of terror on her face. She looked like someone had just stolen her ice cream cone. She was clearly not having the best of days.
“Is everything okay?” I asked. The poor soul looked like she needed a helping hand and I had at least two to give.
Her eyes met mine and with trembling lip she said, “I…oh, it’s so silly…I can’t find my car.” She quickly bowed her head, embarrassed and clearly having just been frozen in her tracks at the elevator doors looking at those parking card reminders thinking, “I should’ve, I should’ve… oh boy, oh boy, I really should’ve.”
I smiled warmly, and assured her I would help. I learned her name was Rita and she explained that she had been at the Pfister the prior week for a luncheon, and imagined that her brain was playing tricks on her about the actual time and place of the here and now.
“I feel so silly,” said Rita. “My daughters will have a field day with this one.”
I knew that I’d be able to help Rita, because if there is one thing I’m good at, it is walking slowly and looking at things. This skill, which I’ll admit is something someone should think twice about when considering listing it on a resume under “special skills”, would allow us to resolve Rita’s anguished error and confirm whether or not actual keepers-of-the-peace would need to be called in to report thievery. The odds were in my favor that the slow-watch-gaze that I boast about as one of my superior talents was about to give me a super sleuthing advantage.
There was a part of me, the gallant in me let’s call it, that hoped that Rita and I would have to search high and low for upwards of 17 minutes to solve the mystery. But the truth of the matter is that as I joined Rita in walking the parking structure to find her car, we turned one corner, looked at all the cars parked side-by-side and found hers within a matter of moments. My four eyes had clearly come in handy.
Rita thanked me for helping her in her moment of need. “I was just about to head down to the front desk to ask them to call the police.” She grinned, grateful that the authorities had not had to be pulled into action.
I wanted to leave Rita with that sense of calm that comes from receiving a pearl of life’s wisdom from some great sage. And my heart was beating fast just bursting with pride that for one brief shining moment I was the windshield and not the fly just about to slam into it.
“You know, there are these great little cards right…” Rita cut me off before the full Tao of Jonathan could be laid out.
“I know, I know. Thanks again.” She got into her car, backed out of her space, and avoided a lecture on the correct manner in which to obsess over a 14-point place for proper parking protocol. Clearly Rita had learned her lesson. It seems some things are best left unsaid in the game of love and war and steering a Volvo in between the right lines.
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