I’m one of those people who loses most things: keys, credit cards; wallets with and without cash; library books and text books, usually the night before an exam; drivers licenses, passports, birth certificates, pretty much all forms of ID; even my kid, but only for five minutes in Target (and that was just once) but never have I lost a car–until last Sunday night, that is.
My son Ali, my nephew Jack and I spent the unseasonably warm and sunny February day with friends, watching the 11th Annual Chinatown Parade. After we ate dim sum and gelato and shopped for art supplies it was time to go home.
But when we walked to where I parked the car, there was no car. For two hours we searched the streets of Soho, Little Italy and the edges of Chinatown but still no car. Finally, after Ali and Jack sat down on the sidewalk and refused to take another step, I hailed a cab. The driver with the GPS that sang directions in Russian drove around the same territory we had just roamed on foot trying to find my car, but when the meter hit $7.50 I told him to take me to my brother’s place in Pelham.
“Don’t feel bad,” the driver said to my reflection in his rearview mirror. And for the next forty-five minutes, the entire trip back to Westchester, this very sweet man shared all of his lost car stories. I know he was just trying to make me feel better, but I felt worse. All of his stories started with “he was so drunk,” and I was completely sober.
As the driver swiped my credit card to cover the $68 fare that would put my bank account once again in overdraft, again he said, “don’t feel bad,” only this time adding, “remember, everything happens for a reason.” I wanted to tell this very sweet man to “f**k off, but I thanked him instead. I understood he was only trying to make me feel better, but as I shuffled my blister-footed son and my yawning nephew into my brother’s house, I couldn’t help wonder if anyone is ever comforted by those words: “everything happens for a reason?”
Not only does this statement imply that randomness doesn’t exist in the universe and that there is a reason for every event that occurs, but there’s an implication that these reasons are all for the best. Yes, all of the trials and tribulations in your life happen just so something meaningful and life-changing will result from them. On my better days, I believe this. And I can tell you that some really shitty stuff did lead to some pretty amazing stuff, like my marriage. It may have ended in divorce, but because of that relationship I have this incredible kid. And a speeding ticket I got for doing 25 mph in a 20 mph zone did save my life.
The night I got that speeding ticket I was driving under the speed limit when the largest deer I had ever seen (a humongous-antler type) jumped in front of my car. If I had been driving just five miles per hour faster, my car (and most probably my body) would have been crushed.
So I want to believe that every shitty thing that has ever happened to me has led to some unexpected but wondrous end result, but I can’t say I know this to be true. What I can say I know to be true is that in the moment when I’m in the middle of that shitty thing happening, the last thing I want to hear is that “everything happens for a reason.”
While my sister-in-law fed the kids who were now starving (the dim sum and gelato had long ago been digested) my brother checked online to see if my car had been towed. I couldn’t imagine how this was possible; I had no outstanding parking tickets, and I had parked legally, I was sure of it. I had even checked the sign twice—no parking from 7 to 7 weekdays. And it was Sunday. So, there was no way my car should have been towed. But if not towed, then what? Stolen?
My brother made a call to a cop friend who said that stolen was a possibility, but doubtful. When I was my son’s age, a missing car in NYC was assumed stolen. Today in that area of New York cars are rarely stolen anymore.
But if not stolen or towed, then where the hell was my car?
I called my dad for advice. He’s lived and worked in the City for most of his life; few people know New York better. He suggested that he and I return to the scene of the crime and search the area one more time. I insisted there was no way the car was there. After all, didn’t the three of us walk up and down those streets ?
Dad reminded me of all his missing car stories.
The first time he had reported his car stolen, he found it a week later in the corner supermarket’s parking lot. Apparently, after buying corn for dinner, dad had left the supermarket and walked back home, totally forgetting that he had driven there in the first place.
The second time he reported his car stolen, he came out of work and his car wasn’t where he thought he had parked it. A month later, the police called to say that they had found his car in a bus zone and with 15 parking tickets on the windshield. Apparently, my dad had parked his car on a parallel street–an honest mistake. When I asked why in the world it hadn’t been towed, my dad said, “The City was different then. Cops had better things to do or just didn’t give a f**k.”
Because my dad’s stories didn’t start with, “I was so drunk,” and because it is true that I am my father’s daughter, and because Ali chimed in and reminded me how most things I had lost were found exactly where I had left them. I figured it couldn’t hurt to look one more time, but I was still positive the car wouldn’t be found.
Of course, I was wrong, and of course, my Dad and my ten-year-old were right. My car was exactly where I had left it. In my defense, it was parked on a street the boys and I hadn’t looked. We’d walked past this street about a dozen times, but in my memory, I had parked on a narrow street. So when Jack had suggested we look on Broadway, a wide avenue, I (in my best know-it-all-adult tone) said, “that would be a waste of our time.”
Mark the words of an arrogant parent.
Just to add one more shitty-thing to the list, I had parked my car illegally, too. I’d been so busy looking up at the sign with the parking rules and regulations that I’d missed the fire hydrant down on the street, which was right in front of my face. Between the ticket, the cab ride, and the toys I bought the boys to keep them motivated and walking (this was before they dropped down on the sidewalk in protest) the day cost me $280 dollars (not including the dim sum and gelato).
I unlocked my car and turned to my dad, but before I could thank him for driving me to the City (and for understanding who I come from), he said, “You know, Tricia…” Oh, my God, he was going to say those words that right then wouldn’t (or couldn’t) make me feel better.
“Dad, please don’t.”
“Don’t say it.”
“You don’t even know what I’m going to say.”
“Yes, yes, I do.”
“Just like you knew the car wouldn’t be here?”
“FINE, if you’re going to say it, then just say it already.”
“Tricia, you’re a writer, make something of it.”
I don’t know if those words made me feel better or worse, but they did get me to write this blog entry. So after all, maybe everything does happen for a reason. Then again, maybe not.