The parking garage next to my doctor’s office in Beverly Hills is the only almost-free parking garage in perhaps the entire Southland area. I think you get the first hour free, an unheard of amount of time. Like, you could go have lunch, or even a doctor’s appointment. It’s incredible.
There are sixteen signs you pass as you enter that say “Cash Only,” including a little notice taped just above where you take your ticket. It doesn’t matter — you have an entire hour! Who needs cash?
Consequently, it gets pretty crowded in there. The other day I found a spot on the second floor and took it immediately. I knew its location in the corner was going to cause problems after my appointment, but I was already running late (See article I probably will never write, but mentally compose more often than is healthy: Driving to Beverly Hills Sucks In Every Direction: No, Really, I Don’t Think You Understand). I pulled in and hustled down the street to my doctor’s building.
Almost an hour later I was back in my car, but there was, in fact, a problem. An incredibly large line of cars waiting to leave the garage snaked up and around. I could see two floors of stagnant cars, and I’m sure it went up for another two floors at least. It was just after lunchtime, meaning every single one of these cars wanted to get out before their free hour was up, and some douchebag at the front of the line was probably out of cash and ripping up his back seat looking for enough spare change.
As I sit looking over my shoulder with my foot on the brake and my car in reverse, I realize I’m not going to be able to go anywhere. For one thing, the woman next to me was already backing out, forcing the girl driving the car behind her parked car to back up as much as she could into the line of traffic. The car that was next to me pulled forward, but before I could back up the woman parked diagonally from me backed right into the empty space. The girl driving the car who initially backed up inched her way back just a little more.
This is when the man three cars behind her honked. This being Los Angeles, where people make sure to be doing whatever it is someone else is doing because if someone’s doing it, either they want to make sure they’re doing it too, or — more often than not — they had already thought of doing it, so now they need to show off as quickly as possible that they were just about to have already done did that. The point is: lots of people started honking.
Honk-honk. Honk-honk-hoooonnnnk. The girl at the front of the stalled line of cars gives that helpless shrug, looking into her rearview mirror so she doesn’t have to actually see anyone who’s angrily giving her the vehicular, “Enough, Missy.”
But the thing is, nobody’s moving. The two cars that have pulled out around me are now waiting in line just ahead, but they aren’t going anywhere, either. In fact, the only space in this entire parking garage, perhaps up until the roof, is the space right behind my parked car.
And my hour was running up.
And I was pretty sure I didn’t have any cash.
So I backed up. The girl holding back the line of angry cars gives me the saddest little, “Et tu?” scrunch of her eyebrows, so I gave the silent, “I-KNOW-I’M-SORRY-I’M-NOT-NORMALLY-AN-ASSHOLE-BUT-I-DON’T-LIVE-HERE-IN-THIS-PARKING-GARAGE-AND-MY-HOUR-IS-ALMOST-UP-AND-YOU-DON’T-KNOW-WHY-I-WENT-TO-THE-DOCTOR-WHAT-IF-I’M-DYING-THEN-WHAT-HUH?” hand wiggle, head jiggle combo.
She got it. She lowered her head, nodding.
I backed up and pulled up to the cars in front of me as much as I could.
Then the honking really kicked in. One dude about four cars back starts screaming out his window, “Do you need me to find more people for you to let out in front of us?”
Another woman in a different car screams back, “Do you need to be such a dick? What is she supposed to do? We’re all going the same place, you son of a bitch.”
[I always think people don’t really say “You son of a bitch,” except in movies and television, where censors keep us saying things nobody really says. But she really did say that, so… sorry, censors. I still think it sounds like we’re on Lifetime.]
I look forward, pretending I have nothing do with this, because I think I’m possibly one hundred percent responsible for the fighting going on behind me.
When I finally got to the front, the woman taking tickets tells me I now owe two dollars. I frantically search my bag and luckily, luckily, find the cash.
“It’s kind of nuts up there on the second floor,” I say to her.
“Yeah, that’s what the lady in front of you just told me,” she says. She shakes her head, putting my money into her drawer. She doesn’t hit the button to open the gate. Instead, she glances up toward the line of angry cars, listening to the honking.
Then she turns back to me. “It’s like, I guess I could hire someone to stand up there and direct you guys in and out of the building. But the way I figure it? Y’all grown.”
I start laughing.
“See, you get it. Make them wait for a second. I’m not done. I mean it. Y’all all grown. Supposed to be grown-ups, big people, parking your own cars. You all grown enough to drive those fancy things in here, you should be grown enough to drive them away.”
“That’s very true,” I say.
“I mean it. Y’all’re grown. For real.”
I love her.