Step One: Drive to work on a beautiful Sunday morning. Take a new route. Marvel in the delight of fellow humans on an unseasonably warm October morning: the bustle of the Italian Market; the woman in the floppy black hat sipping from a delicate teacup at an outdoor café. Find a perfect parking spot near your workplace; bask in the glow of the free Sunday parking regulations.
Step Two: Spend a long day at your creatively fulfilling, demanding job. Zip your jacket and throw your purse over your shoulder, striding out the door as a victorious warrior who has conquered the day.
Step Three: Walk back to your car. Discover it is not there.
Step Four: Tell yourself not to panic. Retrace your steps. Spend thirty minutes circling nearby blocks, clicking your alarm button to be safe. Mentally agonize over your driving pattern: first I turned here, then here, and I remember I saw this, and I know I parked it here, right up there, near the gas station, I know that is what happened, I know I know I know this is what happened, I can’t believe this is happening, oh fuck oh fuck oh fuck oh fuck.
Step Five: Look up the phone number for the impound lot in South Philadelphia. Mentally calculate your remaining bank balance; realize with a sinking pit in your stomach that you will be completely and utterly destroyed for the foreseeable financial future if this is another $400 rescue mission. Curse your lazy self, who a mere five hours earlier spent a grandiose nine dollars on lunch at the stirfry place. This is your own damn fault, you think; let this be a lesson that you need an emergency fund. As soon as this is over, you think, I’ll plan better. I’ll be a better person. I’ll be a responsible person, I’ll be a better, brighter, smarter person, and I’ll never let this kind of thing happen ever, ever again.
Step Six: Call the impound lot. Let the phone ring endlessly. Hang up. Call the city 311 non-emergency number. Listen to an impossibly cheerful woman’s prerecorded voice for several minutes before she finally mentions the bit about the hotline being closed on the weekends. Hang up.
Step Seven: Start to feel the pit of your stomach contract and that hot, salty rush in the back of your eyes warning you that the floodgates are about to open. Debate calling that friend who always makes you feel better when shit gets rough, and envision that hug, his arms wrapped around you, telling you that it’s all going to be okay. Think better of it, because you are not yet so distraught that you’ve forgotten the difference between being a friend and being a needy asshole.
Step Eight: Explore the possibility that your car has been stolen, and not merely towed. Suddenly remember that the trunk of your car currently contains approximately twenty pairs of men’s boots belonging to various local theatre companies; fight off the tears even harder, as this is precious and irreplaceable cargo. Think about the potential damage to your career that could be inflicted if you lose hundreds of dollars’ worth of shoes. Imagine the whispered conversations between your peers, in offices and over drinks, knowing that your reputation as a reliable and trustworthy colleague could be irreversibly damaged by a screwup as epic as this.
Step Nine: Blindly stumble in the direction of a busy intersection, hoping to find a cab that will take you home. Discover your car, parked exactly half a block away from where you thought it was.
Step Ten: Unlock your car. Sit in the driver’s seat for a few minutes in a sad silence underscored by the lonely din of a quiet neighborhood. Start the engine and drive home. Allow your shoulders to drop only when you walk in the front door. Take in the unlikely comfort of your messy living room. Fill a glass with two ice cubes and add bourbon, the good stuff you save for special occasions.