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This is the LONG version of the story of my adventure in downtown Charlotte, NC.
Part I - Lost
The other night I was in downtown Charlotte for a networking event. I am a people person, so networking events are one of my favorite things to do. I was really looking forward to this one.
I'm not from Charlotte, so I wasn't very familiar with the downtown area. There was a parking lot that cost $10 near the event, but I decided to try to find one of the metered spaces a few blocks away. It was getting late, but I finally found one and did a quick u-turn to grab it in the middle of rush hour traffic. What luck.
I was running a little late at this point, so I quickly punched the address of the event into my GPS and walked off. There were a few turns to get to the event, but good old GPS got me there. The event lasted for about two hours and I enjoyed myself. I left the building feeling good about my social skills and mingling ability. Just as I was about to hit the door, though, a terrible feeling hit me.
I had not paid attention to where I parked.
I don't know if you have ever been to downtown Charlotte, but it is pretty big. Definitely not a place you want to be wandering around on foot trying to find a lost car. I felt like throwing up as the thought of walking around for 5 hours looking for my car started to sink in. I prayed to God to give me direction. That was all I could think of to do.
I started to try to retrace my steps and found a street that looked familiar. This was all I had to go on. So, I decided to try to work backward from that street and try all of the possible routes that might have led there. This covered a lot of area, but at least it was something to try. I panicked a little as I realized that I could easily get turned around and not remember the places I had tried and wind up going in circles. This might take me forever to find my car.
I prayed again. As soon as I was done praying, I remembered that I had a receipt from the meter where I had parked. I took it out and hoped that there was a street name on it. No luck. However, it did have a parking space number on it, so that at least gave me hope that I could possibly find a cop to help me find the spot if it got to be midnight or 2 am or something. It was a small victory, but it did at least give me a little hope that I at least had SOME chance to EVENTUALLY find the car. This calmed me down a little.
A few minutes later, I ran into a group of young guys working as valets at a fancy restaurant. I told them my situation and asked if they knew what street might have the parking space on my ticket. One of the guys said "Oh shit!" and walked off. He obviously didn't want any part of my traumatic experience. This was not very comforting haha. Another one looked at my ticket and tried to figure something out, but couldn't. They wished me luck and I walked off.
I kept back tracking to that one street that I knew was on the route, but I was having no luck. I did remember that there was a little park or clearing type space near my car, so I started looking for that. FINALLY, I turned a corner and saw a clearing. I found it! Or, so I thought. As I got closer, though, I realized that this was a false alarm. It was a clearing, but not the same one. Crap.
Miraculously enough, I turned the corner soon after and found another clearing. This time it was the right one. I had found my car! Hallelujah! It was such a great feeling of euphoria. I can hardly explain what a great feeling it was. But the story is not over.
This is when things got strange.
Part II - The lost chick
As I was walking (maybe dancing) to my car, I noticed a mid 20-ish looking chick standing nearby. I thought about talking to her using one of my usual convo starters ("are you from ______?"), but for some reason, I didn't. Maybe I was in a daze of joy from finding my car, who knows. Before I knew it, though, she came up to me and said "are you from Charlotte?"
Before I could even get out a "no", she explained that she had forgotten where she had parked her car and had been looking for it for the last two hours. Whoa. How random that she was going through the exact same thing that I had just experienced. It was almost freaky.
She described the parking garage that she was looking for as "yellow" and I had no idea where it was. But, always trying to choose the classy move, I offered to walk around with her to help her try to find it. She said that I didn't have to do that, but I told her that I had just gone through the exact same thing and I knew how stressful it was. Maybe I could help her figure it out. She accepted suggestion, and off we went.
The only clues that she had to go on were that she knew that she didn't walk very far from her car and that she knew the direction she came from. So, we walked that way.
She said that this was the worst day ever, and that she felt stupid for not remembering where her car was. I told her that she was not stupid, that I had just done the same thing. I told her that I often get focused on something and easily forget other things that go on around me. And I felt like I was a pretty smart person. This seemed to comfort her. She went on to explain that she was from California and new in town and that she was in Charlotte for her first day of work. It was easily understandable that her mind was on work as she was parking and not on remembering where she was.
We walked around for an hour or so with no luck. We went past a place that she said she remembered, so I knew that we were on the right track. She said that she was tired of looking and that she needed a break. Understandable, considering that she had now been looking for 3 hours. I told her that this was a mystery now, and I wanted to see it solved and I wanted to be there to celebrate when she found her car, as I had earlier. She was tired of the whole thing though, so I gave up on the quest and decided to walk back to my car.
At this point, her phone had died, so I told her that I would at least wait until she got it charged and got someone to come get her. We walked back to my car where, you guessed it, was a parking garage. Despite her promise that she already checked it, my gut told me to have her check it again. We walked down a stairwell that led to the garage and she said it did not look familiar. She was ready to go charge her phone. I asked her if she was SURE that this wasn't the right one, and she said it probably wasn't. Since she wasn't 100% sure that it was the wrong one, I pushed her to check it again. I told her that it would take 10 seconds. She agreed to check it and we went into a different entrance. Sure enough, there was her car. Victory!
She offered to take me to dinner to show appreciation, and I agreed, as long as we didn't walk too far away from our cars! We found a nice place and had a celebration dinner. While we were eating, the thought crossed my mind that I should maybe talk to her about church. I mentioned that I was a Christian and I told her how she could reach me, but I didn't push it too much. Sometimes the best move is to be direct and blunt, and sometimes the right thing is to just bring it up in discussion and leave it alone.
We had an enjoyable dinner and it was time to go. About a block away from our cars, I had some blisters catch up to me and I could barely walk anymore (I had been doing all of this walking in dress shoes). I felt like God was looking out for me this night, and maybe had used me as an example of positivity and kindness.
It was a good night.
All because I was open to talking to strangers and alert to choosing the classy move. Keep your eyes open my friends.
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