How To Lose a Car in Ten Steps

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. 

25 thoughts on “How To Lose a Car in Ten Steps

  1. This happened to me just this past Thursday, without, of course, the shoes in the trunk. And I was in the Costco parking lot. And I’m 71. But I decided to do two things: 1, get focused. Start the day with being focused. Re-focus throughout the day. and 2, buy some Ginko Biloba. I love your blog. You are SO “every woman.” If you needed the $400., you know you’d only have to mention it here and 40 of us would send you $10 each. Love, h

  2. I have actually lost count of the number of times I have gone through this scenario. I’m SO GOOD at remembering where my car is.

    Though, there was also that time when my backpack (and wallet and ID and keys) was stolen on LA’s Skid Row, and I returned to my car (NOT on Skid Row) to find that oh hey, I’d left my car unlocked (hooray? oops?) AND oh man, I have a spare pair of keys in the dashboard. *So much relief.*

    And by the way, I second heywoodwms’s point that if you do need emergency cash, you’ve kiiiiinda got a following. We’re available for help. 🙂

  3. Really glad you found it, the amount of times I’ve lost mine in those big concrete multi-storeys. It’s also very similar to that feeling of going into a shop and trying a million things on, grabbing your bags without having bought anything and feeling like one’s missing, counting and going all the way back only to remember when you get there that you didn’t buy anything. Like Kay and Bradley say, we could have had a whip-round!

  4. Pingback: Neediness | the pieces

  5. When I lived in Old City in the mid-90s I had a car stolen from 3rd St. near Callowhill. It was such a total POS (Chevy Cavalier station wagon!) that I literally could not believe it had been stolen. I wandered around the neighborhood in a daze for a long time looking for it. Such a surreal feeling! Thanks for bringing back fond memories!! Haha!! Love this post, as I do all of your posts.

  6. When I lived in Philly, my apartment was about six blocks off South Street. I once parked my car there, thrilled about having found a spot so close to home. I walked to my door, realized I didn’t have my keys, and then realized I’d left them hanging out of the trunk. And when I ran back, I discovered NO ONE HAD STOLEN MY CAR!!!! Small miracles.

  7. At least I’m not the only one that crap happens to. The parking garage at my college eats my car regularly. All of the floors are identical, and I can never remember where I parked. I think I’ve lost weight trying to find my car this semester alone.

  8. I’ve done this a lot. To the point that I have to park in the same place otherwise I cannot find my stupid Black Toyota Corolla which everyone in this city has. When I find ‘my car’ I try to open it only to find myself face to face with a stranger. It’s the stranger’s car and not mine. I should just buy a hot pink El Camino and get it over with.

  9. And don’t send the old dryer to the junk yard with that night’s costumes still in it. Unless, of course, you want to spend your afternoon trying to locate the wayward appliance in the junk yard and praying that it hasn’t been crushed yet. (Fortunately, it hadn’t.)

  10. Oh, and: “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” is the perfect description of that feeling.

  11. I don’t drive, so I have the unfortunate affliction of losing other people’s cars. Why? First I have to remember which vehicle I’m in that day. Second, then I have to remember where it’s parked. Thank God for cell phones.

  12. You poor, poor thing. I wish I could have given you that hug. I know all about the anxiety-panic-sudden-heartburn sensation. It is absolutely crushing. I’m so glad you found your car though. Good God! You had me clenching in fear until the last moment!

  13. Funny, I was JUST at Walmart with a grocery cart full of items and a friend who does not like to walk long distances. Three of those ideas popped in my head until she then pointed two rows over to my hide-in-the-crowd everyone has one, Ford Taurus. Thankfully pushing said cart full of items over two grassy lumps to get to vehicle.
    Very elated you found your car!

  14. I have had this exact same mental conversation with myself in so many places. I am horrible at remembering where my car is parked. Great post!

  15. After losing my car to the extent that I had to get on my bike and do a block-by-block search (it was one block south of where I generally park it…) a friend of mine posted this blog on my timeline. Completely accurate, yet again.

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