Parking and Post-its: How to Get Through Life’s Toughest Obstacles

5 Jun

It turns out that having one really easy responsibility is a lot more complicated than being responsible for a multitude of really complex and borderline impossible tasks.

Trust me. I know this for a fact.

Ask me to recite the alphabet backwards, to engage in a “raw food diet” for ten months, to cure my own ADD with the power of focus and concentration, to learn how to drive a stick shift, to forget how to drive a stick shift, to re-learn how to drive a stick shift, to grow three more inches, to befriend a whale, to dig a hole to China with a tablespoon, to befriend Oprah, to become richer than Oprah without marring our friendship, while also maintaining a sunny disposition, and I could probably have all of these tasks done within the week.

But ask me to park in the correct parking lot? Or to monitor a giant pad of Post-it notes? Or to leave a parking lot? Forget about it.

This week, I had an event for work. The event necessitated three tasks from me: 1. Arriving at the venue. 2. Hanging up pieces of notepad paper from a giant Post-it notepad. 3. Leaving the venue.

Besides being available and looking presentable and not offending anyone, those were my primary tasks.

Now, immersed in the incredibly transparent period of time that we call “hindsight,” I can pinpoint several aspects of these two tasks that could have been improved upon.

Let’s begin with “Arriving at the Venue.”

The venue was in Boston. I drive a giant Honda Pilot that’s meant for a family of giraffes, plus a few rhinos if you’re a parental giraffe bringing the kids to and from soccer practice and you happen to end up carpooling.

Driving this tank through Boston is like driving a horse and carriage down a bowling lane – it’s slippery and unpredictable, and without guard rails, you are sure to careen off the road and into a ditch.

So, you can imagine the fear and anxiety I felt as I set out for this event.

I think a lot of my fear and anxiety is residual, left over from the time I got lost driving home from Boston and ended up driving back and forth over the same bridge FOUR times. If you’ve never had the experience of driving over a bridge, only to inadvertently end up driving back over the same bridge five minutes later (and then repeating this series three more times), then you probably take private jets everywhere…wait, are you Oprah? If yes, nod once.

As I set out for Boston, I checked in with myself to make sure I was ready for the journey. My phone was charged; my GPS was configured; my hair was in a “driving bun.” (I never want my hair to be associated with anything negative, and causing a car accident would really be something negative, so the ‘driving bun’ is a preventative measure.)

I have a theory that not all GPS devices are created equal, and that they instead take on the personality traits and habits of their owners.

The reason I think this is because my GPS – like me – waits until the last possible minute to do anything, and then usually ends up doing things slightly wrong and having to find *creative* solutions to easily-avoidable problems.

My device’s name is Renata and she likes to pipe in with new information just when I think I’m finally on the right track.

“Oh, you moved into the right-turn-only lane and are wedged between a food truck and an ambulance? Time to get into the left lane!”

“Oh, you don’t have money for tolls? Time to try to pay a toll with a credit card!”

“Oh, you need to find your way home? Too bad I didn’t save your home address in my records!”

Renata is the Hyde to my Dr. Jekyll. (Yes, I’m a doctor now. It’s kind of a new thing.)

Anyway, Renata and I had – miraculously – managed to make it to the Financial District in one piece, having only been flipped off once (twice).

But then it came time to…PARK.

How does one park a horse and carriage along a bowling lane? One ignores the instructions of one’s boss, who clearly explained that the parking garage was at the END of the road, and one finds an alternative garage because one is a spaz and one saw a giant “P” and treated it like it was the Tasty Burger at the end of an arduous cross-country road trip.

And that is how I (yes I am “One,” SURPRISE) ended up in a distant garage that vaguely resembled a can of sardines and vaguely smelled like one, too.

After parking, I wandered – confusedly – into the venue, where apparently I seemed out of place because three separate security guards asked me if I “needed assistance.” Whether they meant in life or in that moment, I’ll never know.

Regardless, I was at the event!

Now, let’s move on to Task #2: Hanging Up Pieces of Notepad Paper from a Giant Post-it Notepad.

Have you ever seen a giant pad of Post-it paper? It’s giant. You could fit ten years’ worth of reminders on that puppy! (Unless your “Reminder” lists are known to also house your attempts to write your own name in cursive…then you’re looking at six, maybe eight, years of to-do lists.)

At this event, there were Post-its, and it was my job to quietly hang the used sheets of paper, so as to make room for blank sheets.

Hanging paper. Quietly.

If there was ever a task that would surely be my career-ender, this was it.

I anxiously sat near the Post-its and waited for the artist to fill her first sheet. The crowd was silently listening to the event’s speakers, and I assumed I would be able to quietly remove the sheet without drawing any attention to myself.

Never assume you can do anything. Always assume you are capable of nothing, and then feel pleasantly surprised when you do something correctly.

As I started to rip the first sheet, I had a vision of everyone’s eardrums popping and of all the medical bills for which I would be responsible.

The paper made a loud tearing sound. So loud compared to the silence of the audience that it took me aback, and I was afraid to continue.

I paused for a moment and assessed the situation. It didn’t seem like anyone had been seriously distracted by my bumbling ineptitude. So, I resumed with the paper ripping, only to scare myself into immobility, yet again.

I silently pleaded with the paper to please just shut up so that I could at least maintain the potential of a successful future.

It didn’t listen. So, I finally just ripped off the rest of the sheet and hung it on the wall.

Things continued like this for the next couple of sheets, until finally, someone came up to me and said, “Just rip the sheet off like a Band-Aid. Please.”

This feedback was very helpful. I managed to rip the other sheets off in single swoops, and only ripped a couple of the sheets right down the middle.

If there was ever a time to stuff your face with beef-on-sticks at a work event, this was the time.

After the event – which had gone really well, in spite of my duel with an inanimate object – it was time to rush back to my mystery parking lot, so as to arrive in time to save my car from being lit aflame (because that’s what they do when you leave your car in a garage).

“Hi,” I said to the valet parking man. “I’m here to get my car.”

“Okay,” he responded, “pay over there at the machine.”

I approached the machine like an ant approaches a puddle of water. I am not one for machines.

I slid my credit card into the slot and the machine said, “Thank you!”

I noticed it hadn’t given me a ticket…but, I also noticed a receipt in the machine and assumed it was mine.

Yes! I thought, I only owed $10! What a bargain!

I bet that the maker of the payment machine thought he was making a really foolproof machine that even dummies would be able to use. I bet his boss complimented him on the “accessibility” of the machine, and told him he had a real future in the creation of parking payment machines. I bet the creator went home that night and bought himself a nice steak dinner and a bottle of wine to celebrate a job well done.

Well, someone should tell him that there is an exception to every rule.

I grabbed the previous user’s receipt and headed to my car. I drove up to the garage gate and waited for the bar to lift.

When nothing happened, I assumed I hadn’t pulled up close enough to the garage gate, and so pulled the car a tad bit closer.

No movement.

So, like a scared, shaken grandma at Burning Man, I rolled down my window and pushed the intercom button.

“Hello? Yes, hi. The gate isn’t moving.”

“Well, have you paid,” asked the valet man.

“Yes! I even have a receipt,” I said.

Mr. Valet walked over to the gate and took a look at my receipt.

“This receipt is for $10. You owe $39. Where is your paid ticket?”

Oh no. An oversight.

“Whoops!” I said. “I’ll go pay the correct amount.”

Now, my horse and carriage really was stuck on a bowling lane-sized strip of concrete. As I backed away from the garage gate, I could feel hatred radiating off of the other drivers.

When I’d finally paid, I again approached the gate. This time, the garage door was closed and Mr. Valet had to open it for me specially. As I drove away, I took his *intense*, lingering gaze to mean that he and I had bonded and that he would miss my sunny disposition and *charming* mistakes.

Having neglected to get cash from an ATM – despite the fact that the parking garage was DIRECTLY across from a HUGE Bank of America building – I drove aimlessly around Boston, until Renata decided to offer me toll-free route suggestions.

Thanks to Renata, I made it home in one piece, where I told my mom the story of my day.

She was quiet for a moment, and then gave me some sound advice.

“Maybe you should try being less spastic,” she said, kindly and honestly.

Interesting perspective. I’ll add it to my to-do list.

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