In the nick of time
JUNE 4 — We walked through the door. A wave of foreboding washed over us, not unlike the warmer air we had just walked into.
It’s a vast, crowded space, dimly lit. The gloom provides a stark contrast to the well-lit corridor we left behind. My partner led the way, our footsteps echoing faintly in the relative silence enveloping us. As we walked, my eyes drifted around, alert for anything suspicious; we live in dangerous times, and some places are more dangerous than others.
I saw a man walking in the distance, but no one else. Matching my partner’s brisk pace, I knew I wasn’t the only one feeling cautious.
Walking through the dull, featureless landscape, it’s easy to get lost amid the congested emptiness if you’re not paying attention. Rather, it’s easy to lose your bearings.
Big columns marked with letters provide the only reliable marker of position; everything else tends to shift and change with the passing of time. And anyone in our situation would agree that time is vital. We cannot afford to linger.
Then my partner suddenly stopped and looked around. It wasn’t there. A slight feeling of alarm began to gnaw at me. “Maybe it’s over there,” I offered, motioning to the far right with my head. My partner nodded, almost imperceptibly, in silent agreement. We needed to find it quickly. It was getting late, and we were on the clock.
So I took the lead and we started walking towards a different part of the area. Mindful of my partner, I occasionally glanced back to ensure that I was not walking too fast. Some of the lights in the distance flickered; a small number were out completely, creating dark pockets of unnerving darkness.
It only added to our sense of haste. My fingers began to feel the burden I was carrying, reminding me yet again why I have always preferred carrying things in my backpack. We just wanted to find it and get out — fast.
We reached the area I had indicated earlier, but it was not in sight. I saw my own feeling of alarm in my partner’s eyes, who asked: “Are we even on the right floor?”
“I think we are... I’m almost sure that we are,” I said. It was an unspoken consensus between us that I had the better sense of direction. I looked at my watch, and then wished that I had not. Nearly 10 minutes had passed since we passed through the door. The stuffy warmth was beginning to feel acute; the first beads of sweat were beginning to run down my cheek and back.
And then something came to me. Recalling what I once read in passing in the manual, I started walking slowly, still quiet. Without glancing back, I sensed that my partner had followed.
Shifting my burden to my left hand, I rummaged through my right pocket for the remote. Time was running out. I took out the remote and held it up at eye level. I involuntarily held my breath as I pressed the button.
My heart leapt as we heard a faint beep. It didn’t sound too far from where we were. As we started walking faster in its direction, I turned to my partner only to see the same relief that must be showing on my own face.
Approaching the area where the sound came from, I pressed the button again to pinpoint the location. Another beep sounded. And when we found it, we understood why we had missed it: two larger vehicles, not there when we first arrived hours ago, were parked on either side of it, obscuring it from view.
Now that we could make our exit within the grace period, we didn't have to repay the parking fees. That was, hopefully, the last time my wife and I forget where we parked the car.
* The views expressed here are the personal opinion of the columnist.