I’ve mentioned that, of late, I am finding myself feeling a little… “less.” Less sure, less secure, less confident, less strong. It’s been sort of a creeping thing, really… snuck up on my for the most part; caught me with my guard down, perhaps. But there was one sort of lightning-bolt moment that, in retrospect, I can look at with a little humor. Let’s explore…
One of the bigger draws, aside from the nearness of family and a change of pace in lifestyle, to moving from California to Florida was the fact that we’d be close enough to get annual passes at Disney World. As soon as we’d established our Florida residency we bought passes, and we’ve been doing our level best (COVID gap notwithstanding) to get our money’s worth from the purchase.
On one recent trip, Sharaun and the kids headed to Epcot after school let out, and I drove out to meet them after getting off work for the day, so we had two cars at the park when it came time to leave. We all walked out of the park together, and out to the lot where we’d both parked, actually not far from each other in the same section & row, by happenstance. My car was a little further down the row than Sharaun and the kids, so when we got to their vehicle I told them I’d see them soon and kept walking. I smiled and waved to them as they drove away while I continued to walk towards my car.
And I kept walking. And I kept looking. And walking. And looking. Walking. Looking.
Ten minutes passed. Fifteen. I sent a a slightly irked yet still mostly cheerful message to Sharaun, “Hey I cannot find the car, I’m actually still here walking around. Just wanted to let you know I’ll be a little behind you.”
I ranged up and down the rows, knowing right where I thought the car should be… but never finding it. I held the fob to my chin and used my entire mortal body as an antenna while pressing the panic button, straining my ears for beeps. I imagined the scene from above, painted an imaginary search grid in my mind, and set-out to methodically cross off squares.
Twenty minutes. Thirty minutes.
I flagged down a security truck to alert them to my plight. The lot is now beginning to thin-out, people are leaving, the park is long closed. I still have not found my car. I am still walking, and I have already walked for hours, so I am getting tired. I am also getting frustrated, and feeling increasingly stupid. I send another message to Sharaun, “I’m still here, I’m still walking. I’m really sort of upset now. I’ve talked to security. Do you think people steal cars from the Disney parking lot?”
It’s getting dark. There really aren’t that many cars left and I swear I’m in the right place. It’s been forty minutes of me shuffling around. I am well and fully defeated. I actually feel like I want to cry, like legitimately sit down and cry. Somehow, this situation is all my feelings of “less” come-to-life, given corporal form and mocking me. I can’t find my car; I’m this stupid; what is happening to me?
Sharaun calls to say they’ve arrived home. It’s been an hour and I’m still walking around the lot, now in a state of mixed desperation and shame. I don’t know what to do, I’m starting to question everything… Am I on the wrong side of the park? Am I misremembering entirely? And, again, what the hell is wrong with me? I am not irresponsible; I don’t lose my car; I don’t forget things. This. Is. Not. Me.
It’s so empty here. It’s dark. The pavement is still hot from the Florida summer afternoon, though. I’m sweaty and so tired of walking. I have no water. The car must be gone, stolen or whisked into a black hole or… or I don’t know. I have lost my edge. I am not who I think I am. I am incapable. Is something wrong with me? Should I go to to a doctor? I still feeling like crying, I think I might be breaking.
Eventually, over an hour after Sharaun and the kids left I managed to find the car. It was in the section I knew it was in, in the aisle number I knew it was in, just a few hundred feet further down than I remembered… and apparently I walked around it the whole time and never managed actually see it. I got in and drove home, hitting a massive backup on the highway which delayed me even further.
I don’t know why but this experience really took it out of me; wrecked me. Writing about it now it’s not painful anymore… but man at the time I was deeply embarrassed. I felt stupid. All I could do was laugh (nervously) at myself.