Have you ever felt like you were stuck somewhere and LIVING THROUGH A NIGHTMARE??
While I didn’t get injured, nor did I survive a natural disaster… I still had a pretty freaky “trapped” moment.
Last weekend, I attended a fashion launch in the central business district of the city. The event was from 2 – 5pm and since it was the weekend and no one was at work, I parked my car at a nearby multi-story car park with no hassles at all. On the way out, I took note that I had parked on level “B2”.
After the event I got chatting to a few friends and by the time I walked to my car it was almost 6pm. The streets were pretty deserted. The car park rear entrance was closed up, so I took the side entrance. I was met with a locked glass door and a place to swipe my card for after hour entrances. I tried swiping my car park ticket to no avail, so I pressed the button to speak to a car park operator.
The operator was friendly. She asked me for my car registration plate number; I gave it to her and she buzzed for the glass door to open. I went down a series of steps and corridors, I found the lift, I pressed “B2” and got to my floor.
The car park layout was a square shape, with a central shaft in the middle for the lift. But if you stepped out of the lift, you couldn’t see any car parking bays. You had to turn left or right, walk down a corridor (in a kind of H shape), down some steps, and at the end you could only see 30-40 percent of the parking bays on that floor – if you get what I mean. So in fact there were 3-4 corridors that lead to different car park bays.
So understandably, I walked down one corridor and could not find my car.
I walked down the OTHER corridor and again couldn’t find my car. So I walked AROUND the lift shaft (to the other 30% that is not visible from the end of the corridor) and AGAIN I couldn’t find my car.
I thought. Hang on. That’s not right. So I walked back to the first corridor and looked around. No car. Second corridor. No car. Hang on. Did I go down the left corridor or the right corridor first? Are there two corridors or three? Try again. One corridor. Second corridor. Third corridor. Around lift shaft. No car. In fact there were NO CARS on the WHOLE B2 FLOOR!
Silly me. I got my floors mixed up. I probably parked on the B1 floor.
So I got into the lift and went to B1. Again I walked down a corridor, down the steps – no car. Next corridor, down the steps. No car. Around the lift shaft – no car. Hang on, did I try this other corridor? AM I GOING MAD??
Surely I didn’t park on the other floor? I’m sure I parked on B2. But I took the lift to the “G” Floor. Corridor, steps, no car. Other corridor, steps, no car. WHAT THE HELL IS GOING ON??
I was really frustrated and my feet hurt from all the stupid walking. OK KAREN. THINK. Maybe the layout of car park is a bit more complicated and maybe there is another corridor that leads to more car bays, and since I’m absolutely sure that I parked on B2, I’ll go back to B2 and start again.
I was thinking, the security guards must be laughing their heads off. I can just imagine how the whole scene must look on their black and white monitors – a crazy woman pacing back and forth, this way and that way, from one monitor to the next.
I took the lift back to B2, and somehow it looked really different. And suddenly I wasn’t at all sure that I even checked all the corridors on this floor. I started to get quite stressed and anxious.
My sense of direction started to get wooshy. I couldn’t think straight. I had been walking around the empty car park for 30 minutes. I felt a rising panic grow inside me, and I could feel all my sensible, methodical and problem solving skills start to blur.
It was as if I was in a concrete maze. An urban nightmare labyrinth of identical service pipes and shifting concrete walls.
I tried the doors in the concrete walls, to get me out of the building. All the doors were LOCKED. I took the lift back up to Ground Level and that door was LOCKED too.
Ok. I need to get out of this car park NOW! It’s 6:30pm, it will be dark outside, the car park will close soon, the lights will go out, I will be stuck here over night in a stupid car park!
I walked into the lift and pressed the Emergency Phone button. It rang, but no one picked up. I pressed 3 times. And as I waited I had crazy thoughts about how I could start a fire, so it would activate an emergency response, and I could be saved by some firemen. Fire in a locked building? Bad idea. What about finding a fire extinguisher bottle and throwing it at the glass door? Oh oh I know! I could climb up into the air conditioning vents and crawl my way through the building until I found an exit!
OMG I couldn’t believe I was having these thoughts! I watch too many movies!
This is what my nightmare looked like.
Can you tell the three floors apart? Can you tell if you’re looking north or south? Does it all look the same to you?
Seriously. I was going crazy. My brain was so confused. I just wanted to curl up into a ball, close my eyes and cry.
OK THERE HAD TO BE A PERFECTLY SENSIBLE SOLUTION TO MY PROBLEM. This is what I will do, I thought. I will pretend I’m driving a car (more sensible than it sounds OK?), WALK along the path of the car, follow the signs all the way to the car exit, and find my way out of the building.
I decided to start back at B2. I pushed the button and as the lift doors opened, I came face to face with a woman.
ANOTHER HUMAN BEING! OMG I almost jumped on her and grabbed her by the shoulders – DON’T LEAVE ME HERE ALONE! YOU’RE HERE. I’M HERE. WE CAN BE FRIENDS!
She must’ve heard the panicking strain in my voice.
I explained my predicament. She said that she had trouble getting into the car park too. She said she would help me find her car. We jumped into her car (how come I didn’t see her car earlier??) and drove around and around, looking for my car. There were other cars parked on the floors (how did I not see those before?!?), but my car was NO WHERE TO BE FOUND!
We drove to the main entrance / exit.
FINALLY I WAS OUT OF THAT FORSAKEN PLACE. I COULD SEE THE SKY. But I had no idea what to do next.
She said, “Hang on. Can I see your ticket?”
We looked at the ticket. Aaaaaaand printed on it was the name of A DIFFERENT CAR PARK.
OH. Right. Wow, I felt pretty stupid.
I was looking for my car in the wrong car park.
We laughed. I felt my insides die of embarrassment. But at the same time my stomach lurched with more panic.
The woman (I didn’t get her name yet) said she would drive me to the OTHER car park to find my car. It was literally, just around the corner. Two, new, small, car parks sitting side by side. What’s the chance of that?
My car park was closed. There was a big sign that said, CAR PARK CLOSES AT 5PM.
Siiiiigh. It was Saturday evening, I doubted that it would be open on a Sunday, so it means I have to fight the working commuters and come back into the city on a Monday morning to get my car. How much is that going to cost?!?
I was going to get out of the lady’s car and call for a taxi… when she asked me where I lived.
It turned out that she used to live in my suburb (down the road from where I live!). She now lives 45 minutes from the city, she was going to be driving past my suburb on her way home, and did I want a lift home? It also turned out that she was the MC for the event that I went to that afternoon, and we shared a mutual friend! Oh my god how strangely fortunate!
We chatted all the way to my home. So was so friendly and so genuine. My heart, my panic, my whole inner spirit, softened at her kindness. I was so thankful!!
I was thinking: Gee this woman is a complete and utter stranger and she didn’t even flinch at helping me out. (OK maybe she did, and managed to hide it very well haha!)
But if I was in her situation, I would have had at least 10 seconds of internal hesitation, to consider what was happening, whether it was the right thing to do, do a risk assessment of my situation, a few seconds to check whether my car had enough gas, a few seconds to think whether I should contact my husband to let him know what was happening now. I also had the added complication that my 5 year old boy was at a birthday party and I was supposed to pick him up at 5:30pm (and the time was now 7pm!), so I had to make some phone calls to organise for someone else to pick him up!! My thoughts and plans were all over the place. Whereas she was cool and calm.
I think this may have been the first time I’ve been the recipient to such epic kindness by a complete stranger.
It’s soul shaking and life changing I tell you.
I feel like a different and more inspired person for it. It makes me want to be a kinder and more generous person too.
The next day, I took the train into the city, I took my son along for the ride… and told him the whole story.
We went back to the WRONG car park and I retraced my steps and took photos (shown above) – mainly to show my husband, to PROVE to him how confusing the car park was. As I went back to the scene and snapped away with my camera, all my photos looked the same, all the angles looked the same?! I started to sweat and feel a little anxious again. Thankfully my son was there to say, “The exit is this way mum…”
Then we went to the CORRECT car park and took this photo to compare the two.
It was a completely different building. Both had red pipes on the ceiling, rectangular columns, clean concrete columns, numbers on the floor… Whatever.
But I realised that what really made me believe that I was in the correct carpark, was the fact that I had given my car registration number to the security person, and she had let me in! I assumed they had a list of all the cars they knew were in the building, right? But it turns out that they just let anyone in who says they have left their car in there :P
Total cost of car parking turned out to be $30.
Phew, I’m glad that’s all over!
I’m happy that I feel all inspired to be a better person and all… but I probably could have done without the nightmarish, heart-stopping, head-spinning experience. :P