I was in the middle of eating a gigantic karma sandwich, and I knew it. As I stood in the vast parking lot of cars, SUVs, and minivans, all sharing various shades of gray and black, I knew I was in trouble. Weeks of making fun of people who couldn’t find their own cars was coming back to haunt me – in a big way.
A few weeks ago, in my office building, I had stumbled upon a 4th floor perch that overlooked the parking lot below. What had caught my eye that afternoon was a briefcase-carrying man walking up and down the rows of the lot, with his arm raised, frantically clicking the “unlock” button on his car alarm. It was a desperate attempt at finding his vehicle.
Initially, I felt badly for this poor fellow. Eventually, however, it became rather amusing, as the cycle repeated itself every afternoon. Losing your car here and there is no big issue. Doing so daily is rather humorous.
I even collected some of my coworkers to watch the festivities. We made popcorn. My colleagues were so entranced by it all that one of them even entertained the idea of purchasing a gigantic stopwatch that could be seen from the parking lot below. This way, this car-losing individual could try to improve his personal best time for finding his vehicle each afternoon. Unfortunately, it wasn’t in the corporate budget, and as much as we liked the idea, we weren’t going to pay out of pocket.
How relieved he must’ve felt each time he happened by his car (accidentally, of course) and it gave off a “here I am” beep.
Never having lost my car before, I had wondered what that felt like.
Maybe if I cut in between rows, I can increase my chances of locating my vehicle, I thought to myself. That didn’t work. Nothing worked.
What had started out as a joke was now becoming serious. My kids needed to be picked up from school, and I had just accrued most of my daily steps in the last ten minutes. My knee was beginning to hurt, and I had no snack to quell the rumbles of hunger in my stomach.
What looked to be a gigantic tumbleweed breezed past me. We don’t have tumbleweeds in Maryland, I murmured to myself, concerned I was hallucinating. Either that, or I had just walked to Oklahoma searching for my car.
Making matters worse, the clouds of karmic justice began raining on me.
Humility gave way to anger, anger to frustration, frustration to fear, and fear back to humility. My feet hurt, and the briefcase carrying my laptop was really heavy.
To add insult to injury, I spotted my 4th floor co-worker heading toward his vehicle – one of the same co-workers with whom I had enjoyed watching the lost parker over the last few weeks. He was walking with a confident stride – the stride that indicated he remembered exactly where his car was parked. The kind of stride I used to have.
“Hey, pal,” he said. “It’s quitting time. I thought you’d left an hour ago.”
“Just enjoying the nice day,” I responded.
“It’s raining,” he said.
We looked at each other, and I knew then that he knew what was going on.
“Good luck,” he muttered, with a conceited smile.
Arrogant bastard, I thought to myself.
Nearly giving up all hope, I texted my wife to inform her that I would be running late. Not quite willing to admit the reason for my tardiness, I blamed work, which was technically correct. Fortunately, she was willing to get the kids from school, which gave me more time to find my lost car.
It was a steadier rain now. The kind of rain that can water log a pair of shoes and crush a man’s hope. I was at my lowest moment.
Suddenly, it occurred to me that it had been raining on my commute in that morning. Aha!!! This would have prompted me to park my car in the neighboring garage, thereby avoiding a walk in the rain – as I was now forcing myself to do at this very moment!
I briskly walked into the covered safety of the garage, and there before me stood my dry and wonderfully parked vehicle. I drove off for home, soaked and humbled.
The next day, I bumped into the constantly wandering parking lot individual in our cafeteria. It took me a moment to recognize him from eye level, as I had really only seen the top of his head and his alarm-clicking right hand before.
He didn’t know me but asked if I knew where the napkins were.
I hugged him and said, “I understand your struggle.”
He looked at me strangely, before attempting to get the attention of two passing security guards.
Perhaps I let the hug linger a little too long. Perhaps not. The last 24 hours have been traumatic and we both needed the embrace. Well, I needed it. He just needed napkins.