I never remember where I park. On more occasions than I’d like to admit, I’ve walked around in circles holding out my keys trying to beep beep my way to my vehicle by zeroing in on the sound like a cat ready to pounce. People slowly driving by seeking out a perfect spot begin following me. They believe I’m heading straight to my car. I have to turn to their hopeful face and shrug my shoulders.
No, I’m not walking to my car, I’m looking for my car.
They shoot past me annoyed. I don’t mean to be a tease. Lugging a heavy bag of books and wishing I wore different shoes, I snake up and down the university lot’s aisles of cars. It is not my most dignified of moments.
What makes this a truly regrettable quirk is that my mother also never remembered where she parked. She drove a tan ’86 Volvo. It was horrendous. It was a flesh colored box on wheels, but she loved it. Hell, she wanted it. In my mind, it solidified our differences.
One afternoon in the late 80s we wrapped up some time at the mall, and when she stepped outside she said (as usual), “Now. Where did I park?” The search began. Normally we’d find the car pretty quickly. This one instance, however, required serious investigating. After considerable time pacing we decided to split up. I zipped about looking left and right.
It suddenly dawned on me that the car might have been stolen. With renewed effort I ran faster, not in the hopes of finding the car but with the hope of not finding the car. Good-bye ugly Volvo! I giggled. I prayed. I fantasized filing a police report and telling dad that we had to go buy something else now. Perhaps I’d have a say in the purchase. Maybe a pink convertible with an awesome cassette player for me to blast my Jem and The Holograms tape.
And when the possibility seemed so close I heard my mom calling my name from a few rows over. She yelled, “It’s over here.”
We kept that Volvo for twenty years.
People say that one day you’ll do something just as your parents. That “one day” feels like an ominous rite of passage into adulthood. I suspect I’m not alone in thinking I’d be immune to it, but it’s inevitable. The moment that perfect imitation escapes your mouth it’s a shock. The world moves in slow motion. Your actions don’t feel like your own. Your “self” is no longer under the illusion of being something singular but rather a collection of experiences and influences. Every time I park my car in the university lot I take deliberate note of my surroundings. I’m just a few paces from the third divider. Or, I’m next to the scrawny tree. But, after a day of lecturing, chatting with students, and sorting through readings I find myself approaching the parking lot and whispering, “Now. Where did I park?”