We attended a Christmas concert presented by our own VSO (Vancouver Symphony Orchestra), a rare treat for the three of us, my younger sister, and our mum. It was a great experience that overshadowed the fact that we ended up at the wrong church at first. With our rare talent for avoiding future inconvenience (some refer to it by another acronym), we had strategically parked near THAT church. Everything thrown into disarray right out of the gate.
The ‘right’ church was a ten minute walk away (mum was not happy) and, as a result, we ended up way at the back where they ran out of pews and threw down some chairs. The symphony was loud and clear although it was hard to discern facial features and any instruments smaller than a cello. As I said, we enjoyed the performance enormously, and put us into the proper Christmas spirit. This was good, because it would be needed later, as you shall see.
An hour and a half of squinting and letting the beautiful orchestral music wash over us, it was at last concluded. The conductor took a bow, which reminded me of the old cartoon, where the conductor is referring to a sheet of paper upon which the instructions were writ: “Wave stick about madly. When music stops, turn around and bow.” We were sure there was more to it than that, my sister and I, but damned if we knew what.
Everyone poured out of the church, rushing to get home. You see, we had that rare meteorologic treat for Vancouver, BC. A dumping of snow that we had not seen in such volume since about 2009. A white Xmas here happens every ten years or more. To put it into perspective, it is not a drought of L.A. standards, but merely a drought of snow, something we Canadians feel we are entitled to. We are, quite correctly, the laughing stock of Canada when it comes to negotiating such weather in our vehicles. We all use ‘all season’ tires, and nothing short of a snow apocalypse will entice us to put on snow tires. Abandoned vehicles litter the sides of highways, buses become stranded diagonally on any slight inclines. ‘Gong Show’ is an apt description.
We scuttled down the street, the three of us, through the slush and congee-like mess that the snow had become in the elevated temperatures. I had driven mum, and my sister was going to take her home after. We said our good byes and parted ways to our respective vehicles, our heads full of orchestral music, and general goodwill towards Man.
I left without incident, got my car, after a stop-off at Tim Horton’s, the Canadian coffee chain. Little did I know, to borrow a hoary phrase from some pulp fiction, that my sister’s evening was about to become another level of interesting. And now, my sister will guest-blog and relate what transpired after we parted ways . . .
Sis’s part: We parted ways with my older brother first who had parked a little farther away from the original church we thought we were going to, which ended up technically being closer to the church we ended up at. “Damn” I thought, still another 2 long blocks to go. Mom and I trudged through the slush chatting away as we do and arrived at the door where I had come out of the parking lot all those hours ago. Locked. “WTF” I thought, while crazily looking for a sign on the door or SOMETHING to tell me where to go next.
Information, I was starved for information on how to get to my vehicle. I looked wildly around for a human, suddenly the busy streets where I cursed umbrella points catching my hair earlier, were nowhere to be found. I’m surrounded by banks, you would think there would be at least 1 security guard SOMEWHERE, but no, not a soul. I ran down some stairs that led to the Bentall centre, but they too, were locked. Everything was shut down. I started thinking that it was locked because I must have stupidly missed a sign upon entering that said you must move your car out by 9pm or it’s locked there until the next day. “No, that’s just stupid, it can’t be like that” I thought.
Looking back at my mom who was desperate to help but in the form of words, I started to walk around the building looking for some other entrance. Locked. Locked. All the doors I came by were locked. Still not a soul around to ask. The banks in this block were massive and thinking of having to walk all the way around the back of Thurlow Street where I drove in made me anxious, but I knew that was the only place I knew how to get in.
“C’mon” I beckoned to my mom who was still a ways back probably hopeful I would back track, sadly no, “we need to go all the way around this place because I can’t figure out how to get in”. Of course there were loads of profanity thrown into that sentence that, in keeping with the Christmas spirit, I chose to leave out. I was pissed by this point, it seemed F.O.R.E.V.E.R. to walk all the way around, as if the block was expanding as I kept walking. I could not keep the leisurely pace of mom, as bad as I felt for being so far ahead, and after awhile I broke into a run riddled with anger and anticipation at what I would find when I got to the door I drove in. Finally rounded the last corner to the dead end lane that I had drove up 2 hours earlier, where previously the parking lot to the right had an attendant, now long gone, no doubt enjoying some hot cocoa in front of a roaring fire while I stood staring at the gate that crossed the entrance where I had driven in.
“Shoot’ I said (well something like that) I looked desperately for a phone number, ANY number to get a hold of a body, “this is insane, I can’t get my vehicle out, what am I supposed to do”.
I was on the phone when someone picked up “Security” he said with a typical “security man voice”. I told him my story how I’ve been walking around in the rain trying to get into the parking lot with my mom who can’t walk far and asked him how to get my car. He was extremely calm, totally unwavered at my frustration in my words and asked where I was. I actually had no idea where I was, was I facing east, west, north, I had no fricken clue! I tried to tell him where I was and then he told me to go up the stairs to my right, go right again and then hit the intercom to the door there and he’d let me in. Thankful that he did know where I was, I thanked him profusely and by then mom and caught up to me, just in the nick of time to…..keep walking!
I ran up the stairs and found the door and intercom and cheerfully thanked the security guy once again when we were buzzed in. “Floor 2” I said to mom who habitually goes the wrong direction. “I at least remember floor 2”. Down the stairs, we started at floor 6 and finally the door to floor 2. I open it to find the lot almost deserted of cars, so I figured it would be easy to find mine. Walk walk walk, around floor 2 and no sign of the truck. Up another floor, up two, OMG, where is my vehicle????? The lot did not look the same, but was it just because there were no cars? I was getting totally bewildered and disoriented. “Where’s the exit” I bellowed at no one in particular. “Where’s the bleeping exit??” I followed the signs as if I was in a car, round and round the pillars driving my invisible car with my mom in tow. FINALLY. An exit. All barred in of course, and what do I see as I pressed my head against the jail-like bars. The entrance across the street where I first STARTED. “We’re in the wrong bloody parking lot” I said to mom, we need to be over there, I pointed through the bars.
I looked around and we were in a mouse maze of gates and bars, no way out. Back to my phone, “what would I have done without my phone???’ trying to instill positive thoughts in my head. “Security” the same man answered, I said “this is your worst nightmare calling” I said, “we are in the wrong building, we need to be in the building opposite to where I am”.
Again, the professional sounding security guard said he’d come down and escort us over to where we needed to be. I hung up thinking how mortified I felt, never am I in such a predicament because I over-examine the unknown until it’s known like the back of my hand. Anyway, the security guy came downstairs and let us out of jail and walked us to the other gate. Mom was peppering him with questions of which he had no good answers that I remember, I didn’t care anymore, I was now rifling through my pockets to find my ticket so I could pay and get out of this nightmare. No ticket. Oh but, there’s the truck, “hallelujah”, the excitement already pre-ruined by my lost ticket . But I’m ALWAYS so careful to put things like that in pockets that have a zipper. Ah yes, but similar to how I just spontaneously picked this parking lot to park at, I must have carried that care free attitude when putting my ticket away. I looked in vain through every pocket in hopes it would just appear, but sadly no. Must have put it in the side pocket which I was constantly putting my hands in and out of, and it must have fallen out. Resigned to the fact I actually had no ticket, I said to the security guy, what do I do if I’ve lost my ticket? He said, “you need to go to the exit gate and call security down, and they will take your details and “FOB” you out. Off he went.
“Why couldn’t he just do it” I thought as we got into the truck. I drove down to the exit where the unmanned booth was and called Security, yet again. “Security” the same guy answered as if he wasn’t expecting me to call. I retold him I lost my ticket and he said he’d send someone down, it’ll be a few minutes. I asked if I should not block cars by stopping at the gate, he said “there’s rarely any traffic movement out of the parking lot this time of night”.
I hung up and looked in my rear view mirror as 3 cars were making their way to the gate. “For EFF sakes” I said while backing up and moving over to the other side hopeful no one needed to use that particular exit point. Bleep, open, Bleep, open, Bleep open. “Must be nice” I thought, how I envied the entire planet but me at that moment. Mom, again trying to be helpful with words saying, you should just run through the gate when someone goes through. With the luck I was having tonight, THAT was not going to happen as much as I wanted to just escape.
Minutes passed and a security guard came in from the street quite properly holding an umbrella. He came to the window and said words which had a hint of English, I told him my whole sob story hoping amidst his tears he’d just “FOB us out” but no luck. He said he needed to get the special book to take down my details so off he went to some room to get it. Back he came with some NCR pad and proceeded to rifle through his jacket looking for a pen. He pulled one out and noticed his 3rd finger had what looked like a pin prick and blood coming out of it. He said some words like “bug” or “bite” and then asked for my name, I handed him my drivers license. I was watching him and he kept pausing to look at his finger. He then asked for my phone number where I showed him my number on my phone. The less words I speak to this guy, the quicker this will go I thought. He kept looking back at his finger. In his terrible English, I eked out that he couldn’t write anymore because there was blood coming out of his finger and he needed to call another security guard. OH MY GOD. I looked at him and said “can’t you just let us out, you’ve already spent way more time than the parking fee is even worth!” He smiled that smile that people do when they don’t know what the bleep you just said and proceeded to call someone else. I literally put my head in my hands and just sat there in disbelief. In the distance, I heard sirens, I humorlessly said “they’re coming to fix that guys finger”, mom laughed. No word of a lie, it was the size of a pin prick, but the guy was obsessed with it and baby’d it with a giant napkin as if it had been amputated and he was holding the two pieces together. FINALLY, the other guard came down with a giant first aid kit. I laughed out loud at the insanity of this, and the whole evening. He pretty much walked over to the machine and waved his FOB over it and the gate opened and I simply said “THANK YOU SO MUCH” totally unaware of whether I’d get a call to pay for a day’s worth of parking or what, I had hoped the guy saw my head in my hands and just let us go feeling like we had paid our penance.
FREE!!!! We were free at last. I felt so much better to be driving in the free world again. The whole ordeal must have taken an hour.
I drove mom home without incident though rounding the turn just after the Lions Gate Bridge landed us in a counter attack operation (for drunk drivers). “Wow” I thought, what a perfect place to set up, cockily happy that I had nothing to drink and was innocent of everything by that point. I wanted to say to the officer “I wish I HAD been drinking” but thought the better of it the way things had gone tonight. We got through that lightning fast, and FINALLY, mom was home. I apologized for the ridiculousness she went through with me, mom being mom said it was most entertaining.