FOR SOMEONE whose trade requires a heightened attention to the little details, I can be remarkably unobservant sometimes. Especially when it comes to cars. I think it has something to do with my autogene deficiency.
On occasions it has been embarrassing, like the time I stopped at a mall on my way back to the airport, to buy a gift for my kids. When I walked out of the mall to get into my rental car, I realized that all I knew was that it was white. A popular color, apparently.
This was in the days before those key fobs that make your indicators flash, so I had a panicked few minutes walking up and down the rows before I realized that I had come out on the wrong parking level. Thankfully, I found my way to the right lot and finally recognized my rental in time to make my flight.
But several other occasions have been more than awkward; they have been potentially dangerous. Over the last few years, I have found myself several times attempting to get into the wrong vehicle, with varying degrees of success (or failure, depending on how you look at things).
This may all sound very Mr. Magoo or Absent-Minded Professor, but in stand-your-ground Florida it’s actually more foolish than cartoonish.
Once I was with my youngest son and we ambled over to what I thought was my car in the Publix parking lot. The doors opened to us, and we got in on opposite sides. As I settled into the driver’s seat, I was beginning to feel like I was in unfamiliar territory, when a voice boomed out from a few rows away, “Hey, what do you think you’re doing?” Or something along those lines.
The rather large woman pushing a big shopping cart toward us did not look happy, needless to say. Startled, we jumped out and tried to mime “You’re not going to believe this, but…” as we backed away.
Then there was the day I came out of a coffee shop with something on my mind, wandered over to where I had parked, as I recalled, and pulled open the driver’s door. I am not sure who was more shocked, me or the man sitting behind the wheel. Fortunately he was packing an envelope, not a gun.
So, I am learning to be a bit more focused when I enter a parking lot to find my car.
The key fob comes in handy when I have absolutely no clue where I left the vehicle. Insider tip: pull your cell phone out and pretend to be walking around and talking on it as you surreptitiously press the button to make your car indicators flash. That way you don’t look completely clueless, just so busy that, hey, you’re not really concentrating on where you are going.
Having identified a possible suspect, I don’t presume I have actually gotten to my vehicle without a second-level check. After all, there are a lot of silvery-grayey vehicles out there. So then I casually wander round to the back of the vehicle to check the tag.
You may wonder whether, given my lack of car attentiveness, I actually remember the tag. Fair question. I know that it’s definitely got an A in it, somewhere, which helps narrow things down a bit. And I have a photo of it on my phone as back-up, just in case.
Photo: Kelley Blue Book