An angel in the parking lot

The problem is that we are now in the cellphone age, and instead of taking out a pen and writing down the bearing on my parking ticket, I took a picture on my phone.

July 31, 2019 16:14
An angel in the parking lot

The problem is that we are now in the cellphone age, and instead of taking out a pen and writing down the bearing on my parking ticket, I took a picture on my phone. (photo credit: PEPE FAINBERG)

Last month I had the rare privilege of being one of just a handful of Israeli journalists granted permission to travel to Bahrain to cover the US-sponsored “Peace to Prosperity” economic workshop.
I sat in the plenum session along with Tony Blair, Jared Kushner, and UAE billionaire Mohamed Alabbar; davened with Jason Greenblatt in the first weekday morning minyan in some 50 years in Manama’s small synagogue; and walked in 46° heat through the capital’s souk looking for a souvenir spoon to add to my prized collection. Forget Persian rugs or Bahraini pearls, just steer me to the spoons.
The people were nice, the Uber drivers polite – though not as open to Israel as some in the Bahraini government – the Bahrain Bay turquoise, and the skyline dotted with ultramodern skyscrapers.
But with all those rich experiences, the one memory that will stay with me the longest didn’t happen until I returned to Israel.
There was no problem getting through the Manama Airport, despite my misgivings and irrational concerns about being stopped at Border Control. And the two-hour flight from Bahrain to Jordan was uneventful, though I felt a bit uneasy when the stewardess pushing the food tray bellowed, “Who ordered the kosher meal?” (Just kidding).
The problem set in when I landed and went to get my car at Ben-Gurion Airport’s long-term parking lot.

I COME FROM Colorado, which is rugged country, and my father drilled into me a number of lessons he thought would come in handy down life’s road.
He taught me how to “hit the deck” in case of an air-raid siren: diving flat on my face with one arm under my forehead and the other behind my head to protect from “incoming” (I grew up during the height of the Cold War).
He taught me how to tie a square knot in case I ever got stranded in the mountains with nothing but a rope.
And he taught me to always “take a bearing” in a parking lot, meaning, always take notice where the car is parked – by the water cooler, near the orange drain pipe, in section B, Row 3.
And each of those lessons has indeed proven very valuable.
Knowing how to “hit the deck” is a good skill to have in this country – what with rockets falling here and there from time to time – though running hit-the-deck drills in our front lawn in Denver was somewhat embarrassing.
Being able to tie a square knot is a great thing to know wherever you are, not just when you’re stranded in the Rockies. For instance, you never know when you might need to secure a bundle of hay.
And “taking a bearing” has stood me in good stead on numerous occasions, when other family members were clueless about where we parked. Not me, I just confidently make a beeline to the drain pipe.

IT WAS with great embarrassment, therefore, that when I arrived back from Bahrain and took the shuttle to long-term parking, I had no idea where to get off, because I had no clue where I parked.
It’s not that I didn’t take a bearing, I did – a lesson drilled is a lesson retained. The problem is that we are now in the cellphone age, and instead of taking out a pen and writing down the bearing on my parking ticket the old-fashioned way, I took a picture on my phone.
Then I went to Bahrain, needed more storage space for pictures from Manama, and inadvertently deleted the bearing.
Sitting on the shuttle, scrolling through my photo gallery looking for a picture of the sign near where I parked, I panicked when it was not there.
I got off at a stop that I thought looked familiar, and proceeded to hunt for my car. It was midnight. I was tired, hungry, rolling two pieces of luggage behind me, eager to get home, and – for the life of me – simply could not find my vehicle in this sea of cars.
I walked up one aisle, and down the next; up a third, and down a fourth. I pushed the unlock button on my car keys, hoping to hear a car door click, but only heard my nervous heart pounding instead.
And I just walked.
At first I didn’t mind the walking that much, because it was adding a lot of steps to my Fitbit count. But then I started to get real tired. I wondered whether someone could help in the parking lot office. I wondered when The Wife would begin to worry. I wondered what it would be like having to do this in the snow.
And then I saw him – another human being searching for his car, lost, just like me. But unlike me, he actually seemed to have a general idea of where he parked, and said that when he found his car, he would help me find mine.
Five minutes later, he found his car. And true to his word, even though it was 1:30 a.m. and he was certainly keen to get home, he loaded my bags and we drove up and down the rows until my car finally appeared.
I wanted to hug the fellow, but hardly knowing him I just shook his hand with gusto and thanked him profusely.
“No problem,” he said, “You’d do the same for me.”
“Sure,” I replied.
But then, when I got out of the car, I thought: Would I, really?
I hoped I would, I thought I might, my mother definitely would have, but – honest with myself – I wondered. If it was this late, and I was this tired, would I really help some shlemiel who couldn’t remember where he parked?
Boy, I sure will now.
I was so touched by this kind gesture that I have now developed an urge to just drive around parking lots looking for people who can’t find their automobiles.
So far it’s only an urge. But an urge is the mother of action, and someday, somehow, I am going to repay my parking angel by turning into one myself.

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