Good Landing

Last night, Sally and I drove into the city to see the band Chicago perform with the Chicago Symphony Orchestra.

We’d spent a lot of money on the concert tickets, and I didn’t want to risk being late, so we left home four hours before the start time. We were about half a mile from home when I realized I didn’t have my phone. We went back and got it.

As we entered the city, I typed the name of the restaurant where we planned on eating supper into said phone. My GPS told me to get off the Kennedy Expressway long before I expected to exit. I obeyed, but didn’t feel right about it, so after finding a safe place to pull over, I tried again. I was far from where I wanted to be. I needed to get back on the Kennedy — which would have been easy if I hadn’t driven right past the entrance ramp that Sally was pointing at.

This meant more driving around the city streets, which normally doesn’t bother me much. But with all the snow recently — or more to the point, with all the salt that’s been dumped on the streets to get rid of the snow, the pavement was white and it was impossible to tell where the lane markings were. I kept drifting into other lanes and other drivers kept drifting into mine.

We finally found another ramp and, a short time later, the restaurant. It had no parking of it’s own, so I had to drive around a bit until I found a spot on the street two blocks away. And then I had to walk half a block further away to pay at a credit card meter. I managed to push the wrong button and pay $4.00 for half an hour (instead of $1.00). We were almost to the restaurant when I realized I’d left my phone on the car dashboard. I went back and got it.

After supper, we headed into the loop. I was concentrating on detecting where my lane was as I ran a red light. Fortunately, the Chicago cops were where they usually are — somewhere else.

Then I came to an underpass. There were lanes in the middle and lanes on the side, separated by large pillars. My GPS directed me to keep right and I soon found myself in a long underpass clearly marked “BUSES ONLY.” There was no way out except to keep going for about 75 yards, at which point there was a red light so I had to sit there and look stupid. A bus pulled up in the next lane and the driver opened his window. Sally opened hers, and he said, “You’re not supposed to be here. This is for buses only.” Sally said, “We know. We made a mistake.” He seemed to accept that answer, and closed his window. When the light turned, I pulled back to where I was supposed to be.

I found a parking garage right by Symphony Hall. The entrance was closed, but with a bit of creative driving, including heading down a street that also appeared to be for buses only, I found another entrance. We were an hour and a half early, but we found a table inside and sat down.

We had good seats in the lower balcony, and the concert was great. Sally and I were standing up during intermission, chatting about something or other when we realized the man in the row in front of me was talking to us. About light bulbs. He was soft-spoken, so we had to listen very carefully. He was pointing out the light bulbs around the theater and explaining that they were the “good, old-fashioned Edison bulbs” and they wouldn’t be able to find them pretty soon. Then he told us about all the union people that would be necessary to set up the scaffolding to change the bulbs in the ceiling. Then he told us about all the trouble he had to go to get somebody to change the bulbs in a skating rink somewhere in the city. I can talk light bulbs with the best of them and threw in the occasional appropriate comment to be polite. The conversation only ended when the guy’s wife returned to her seat.

There were no further adventures until about halfway through the second half of the concert when I realized I hadn’t seen our parking ticket in a while. I searched my pockets, my wallet and the floor around the seat, but it was gone.

The garage is one of those where you have to take a ticket from a machine when you enter. Then, before you leave, you have to walk to a second machine and put in the ticket and your credit card. The second machine deducts the correct amount and then gives you another ticket which you take with you when you drive out. You put this ticket into yet another machine which then opens the gate for you.

Only I’d lost my first ticket. I looked in the car, but it wasn’t there. I walked across the garage to the exit gates and spoke to an attendant who sent me to an office over across several lanes of exiting concert goers.  I explained my plight to a woman who believed my story and handed me a replacement ticket. I took this back to my car and, with some help from the attendant, managed to pay $20. This turned out to be a good thing. I’d been there for four hours, and the fee, if I hadn’t lost my ticket, would have been $30. I saved $10 by being stupid. Would that it were always that easy.

We made it home without further screw-ups. As we neared our house, my wife asked me, “What was with you tonight. You were a mess.”

I replied, “Any landing you can walk away from is a good landing.”

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