You know that very moment when you’re faced with a significant other who keeps doin’ ya wrong time and time again, yet each time you’re in the midst of an encounter with them, harboring on the brink of utter and ominous disaster, there’s that little voice inside of you that secretly cries out in arbitrary hopefulness, “Maybe THIS time it will be different!?” I had that moment Monday afternoon at 2:38 p.m…
…Except I was in a Park-N-Ride airport parking lot and there was no Significant Other involved, unless you count the angry Arabian guy manning the pay booth.
Nothing is ever easy; my mom taught me this pertinent anecdote at a young age, and judging from the way things have been going as of late it’s proven to be quite apropos.
This notion is best applied to my experiences with airplanes/airports, most recently in the form of payment for the days I spent parked at the Nashville airport while visiting Texas for Christmas.
After taking extreme care to tightly pack (jam) an unnecessary amount of books, trashy gossip magazines, my fully-charged iPod and even my much-neglected journal all into my carry-on bag as anti-boredom options, I naturally opted to spend my idle time before boarding the plane back to Nashville cleaning out my purse. Which, in turn, involved me stumbling upon a tiny slip of paper with writing all over it. Writing which, in my hasty determination to inexplicably extract EVERY SPECIMEN from my purse that very second, I didn’t bother to read. (I do, however, recall it said something about “Nashville” and “parking lot” and “THIS IS VERY IMPORTANT” all over it. But that’s just in the details.)
Anyway, after I had successfully discarded everything except the essentials (i.e. iPhone, (empty) wallet, nine different flavors of lip gloss and a plastic screw-cap of a champagne bottle) I settled back into my seat, strangely satisfied, feeling much better from this bout of impromptu purging.
Cut to me sitting in my very tiny seat on the very tiny plane in front of a man with a very large penchant for sneezing into the back of my head every .2 seconds (I can’t go there with that right now; it’s too soon, too many open-ended raw emotions) and it suddenly hits me: That mysterious little piece of paper was my parking ticket. Now how on earth will the airport know how long I’ve been parked?
Let me interject this important side-note before I continue: The majority of my visit home was spent with my dad lecturing me on my parking in the “Short Term Parking” lot, versus the “Long Term Parking” lot which, in my defense, meant absolutely nothing to me since I was still riding the high of even being able to locate any sort of parking lot altogether. (Directions, much like sharing and unconditional love, are not my strong suit.)
Apparently, by parking in the short-term space, I was now going to be charged an absurd amount of money, as they charged by the hour and not the day. So this made for fun dinner conversation seven of the nine nights I was at home.
Back on the plane, this alarming realization disappeared just as suddenly as it had come as I began plotting ways to eject the oxygen mask from the ceiling to use as protection from the Swine Flu’s poster child himself behind me, cruel and unrelenting in his passionate sneezes. It wasn’t until I’d landed and located my car that I began to worry again.
At the pay booth, I immediately confessed my irresponsibility to Bob. (Bob was the angry Arabian man’s name. Bob looked like he should be called Bob about as much as Miley Cyrus should be called tolerable.) Bob quickly ran out of his little stand and began waving his arms recklessly at the line of cars behind me, screaming that he had a “situation” on his hands and they’d have to move it along to another line. I could already tell this encounter was going to fall under the category of “absolutely ridiculous.” I just needed Bob not to let me down on this one.
Apparently, the standard procedure for when a “situation” like this happens (which, from his reaction to it all, seemed as though I was the first person in the history of airport parking lots to ever lose (throw away) their parking stub) is to quickly whip out a note pad, look the driver straight in the eye, and firmly inquire, “So, how many days were you parked here in my parking lot?”
I’m a firm believer in karma, so I knew that if I tried to pull a fast one on Bob I would ultimately pay in the end, possibly in the form of never getting to make sweet love to Michael Cera. I especially couldn’t lie to Bob, a man who, in his hey-day, probably resembled the lanky kid from Slumdog Millionaire who got tricked by the mean game show host and as a result ended up being thrown in prison and inhumanely tortured, and who can lie to someone like that? Not me, that’s who.
So I told him: “From Saturday, December 20th, until today, December 28th.” It felt good to exercise honesty in an age of rampant deceitfulness and corruption.
“Okay. Were you parked in long-term or short-term?” he asked.
“Okay,” he said, “I’ll be right back.”
Minutes later he plunged through the little pay booth window and shouted in my face, “You LIED to me!”
Whyyyy did I do it? I instantly saw the sad face of the lanky Slumdog kid in my mind, and one tear was slowly rolling down his cheek.
“You told me the 20th! I just ran your license plates, and you got here on the 19th! You LIED to me!”
Oh. Well then. I never even really liked Slumdog Millionaire, anyway. I think I fell asleep after the first twenty minutes or something.
I explained to him very explicitly that I didn’t mean to fudge on my dates; it was an honest mistake. I really did think I left on the 20th. (And I really did! I even told him I left on a SATURDAY, which was the 19th.)
He was mumbling to himself as he calculated my total: $100.00
Of course, I screamed “WHAT??!” in his general direction, for no apparent reason either, considering I possessed absolutely no concept of parking lot rates and fees these days (much less any day). But a hundred bucks for my car to sit in a parking space for a week or so just sounded illogical. So I expressed my outrage appropriately.
“Well, the long-term parking rates are $9 per day. And you were here for ten days. So you will pay me $100,” he explained.
I’m still not sure where that extra ten bucks came from, but I decided to cut my losses and fork over the … check.
Once again, I’m fairly certain I must’ve been the first person in Tennessee to attempt paying a fee with a form of money made out of paper that wasn’t green with a dead president on it.
As Bob began short-circuiting while hunched over some ancient machine, I sort of leaned my head into the window and calmly asked him if everything was all right. That’s it. That’s all I asked him. No flailing of limbs or stomping of feet (I know, surprising).
“You really just need to calm down, Miss,” was his curt response.
Yes, I really did just need to calm down. How dare I inquire about the progress of my rare paper-money payment?
Finally, at the urging of the menacing car horns building in unison behind me, I told Bob that I had a credit card, if a check was just too much to handle. This pleased Bob to no end and even helped soften his feelings toward me after my embarrassing, unnecessary outburst a second ago over if my check was all right or not.
Bob took my credit card, ran it smoothly and infallibly through the machine, and smiled at me while he handed me his business card (which did, in fact, have “BOB” neatly printed across the front. I’m not sure why that surprised me).
In the end, Bob ended up apologizing to me for the situation; talk about a change of heart! I solemnly forgave Bob, while simultaneously shaking my head in shame at the airport security and how easy it was this day and age to lie to foreign parking-lot attendants. I put Bob’s card safely in my wallet and made a mental note to choose his lane next Christmas.