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Parking garages present tiers of challenges

December 04, 2005|By KATE COLEMAN

I bet it's happened to everybody once.

Everybody, that is, who's parked a car in a multi-tiered garage.

You come out of the theater, you walk out of the airport, happy after a nice evening or a nice trip, and you can't find your vehicle.

I've done it more times than I'd like to admit, so for several years, I've been careful to mentally note - sometimes even to write down - the level and row of my parking space.

I don't ever want to repeat the surreal experience I had in a Washington, D.C., parking garage a few years ago.

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My daughter, Maggie, her friend, his mom and I got tickets to "Les Miserables" at The National Theatre.

I had loved the show on Broadway and wanted to see the road company which featured former Washington County resident Dawn Younker in a leading role.

I drove and we parked at a garage conveniently located just around the corner from the theater.

The production was wonderful and, having previously interviewed Younker for a newspaper story, I was determined to say hello and get her autograph.

Our friends decided to go to the car, and Maggie and I waited for the cast to come out.

About a half hour later, mission accomplished, Maggie and I hurried back to the parking garage. We were sorry it had taken so long, but happy to have met the gracious Williamsport High School graduate who was on her way to the Broadway stage.

We walked into the garage and down the ramp a few levels - all the way to the basement.

My car - with our friends in it - wasn't there.

Hmmmm.

Well, we thought, we just must have missed it. Maybe we went down too far.

No problem. We'll take the stairs to the next level.

Uh oh.

Uh oh again.

And again.

As we climbed each flight of stairs, the door through which we had entered closed and locked behind us.

Finally, we reached the last door at the top of the stairs. No car.

Next stop, the Twilight Zone.

I opened the door and we walked into the street-level lobby of a Pennsylvania Avenue office building.

I got funny looks from a couple of people out on the sidewalk when they saw me trying - just a teensy bit frantically - to open the front doors to get out.

Then Maggie handed me what looked like a courtesy telephone.

"Hello?" I said to the official-sounding voice on the other end of the line.

"Do you know where I am?" I asked hopefully.

He did.

I explained how I got there and that I wanted to get out.

He told me where the release button was to open the front door.

Whew!

So, like I said, I'm more careful about noticing where I've parked my car.

Or so I thought.

Cut to Saturday, Nov. 12, as I prepared to cover the 8 p.m. performance of the Maryland Symphony Orchestra at The Maryland Theatre.

In order to write my story for the Sunday Herald-Mail, and make my deadline - it's always close - I have to leave during intermission.

I arrived and noticed vacant spaces right behind the theater in the courthouse lot.

Great. It's Saturday night, court's not in session, I'll park here and get back to the newsroom sooner.

The first half of the concert was wonderful.

I got chills hearing the MSO and 25-year-old piano soloist Andrew von Oeyen perform Edvard Grieg's Piano Concerto in A minor.

As usual, I enjoyed watching Music Director Elizabeth Schulze conduct. She's expressive, she's emotional, she's athletic. You can almost see the music when you watch her.

And she's nice, too.

I know this because my car was still in its parking spot when I left the theater.

Flapping on the post right in front of it was a piece of paper:

"RESERVED FOR ELIZABETH SCHULZE."

I bet it's happened to everybody once.




Kate Coleman's column appears in the Lifestyle section on the first Sunday of each month.

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