I am not a shopper but once in a while, I can’t avoid it. If I must, I  prefer shopping early in the day before the stores get too busy and when finding a parking spot is a breeze. When I come out of the mall hours later, the parking lot is a sea of cars and I haven’t a clue where I parked. I fully intended to remind myself to check for landmarks, but it slipped my mind. I resort to walking around the lot, pressing the lock button on my key listening for the telltale beep and flashing headlights. This has happened to me numerous times, but to date, knock on wood, I have always found my car. Please tell me it has happened to you. I am not alone, am I?

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A few years ago, Glenn and I went to a Boston Bruins at Ottawa Senators game at the now Canadian Tire Centre. We arrived extra early and deliberately looked around to note where we parked. A few hours later, we came out of the arena in minus 20° weather, and nothing looked familiar.

There were literally acres of thousands of cars. Totally bewildered, I returned to the lobby, where it was warm, while Glenn tramped up and down countless aisles looking for our silver Chrysler 300. You would not believe how many silver cars there were — it seemed like 9 out of 10. As the parking lot cleared, we found our car, exactly where we parked it hours earlier. Why couldn’t we find it? I think we convinced ourselves it wasn’t there and threw in a double dose of panic.


There was also the possibility our car had been stolen. It had happened before in the parking lot of the Quinte Mall in Belleville. It could have happened again.

But I must tell you these stories pale in comparison to a true story I heard from a friend recently. Sit back, enjoy and be grateful it happened to him and not you.

A fellow we know, let’s call him Richard, parked his car in a Toronto parking lot, hopped on an airport shuttle, and boarded a flight for a sunny destination. Richard returned late at night and couldn’t remember where he had left his car. His parking receipt would have identified the parking lot, but he had lost it. Toronto’s Pearson Airport is surrounded with more than 500 hotels and about as many private parking lots. Where would he even begin to search for his car in the dead of night?

Poor Richard had to hire a detective who drove him around looking for landmarks that may trigger his memory. Did anything look the least bit familiar? They drove all over creation, and at long last they located Richard’s car. Detectives do not work for free. I don’t know how much Richard paid, but I’m sure it was a tidy sum.

 

What do you suppose the detective said to his wife when he got home?

“I’ve been hired to investigate cheating spouses, to find birth parents and children, to keep tabs on parents in child custody disputes, to shadow people claiming to be disabled, to track down delinquent credit card holders, to locate missing people, but tonight was a new one. Would you believe I spent three hours driving a man around parking lots near the airport to locate his car?”

I am sure you don’t want to repeat Richard’s experience. Here are some suggestions that may save you a few bucks and a lot of time:

  • Send yourself an email with parking information.
  • Make your car stand out by placing a ribbon or sports flag on the aerial.
  • Park near an exit. That will prevent roaming around the whole parking lot.
  • Use an app on your iPhone or android. Check iTunes (Take Me to My Car) or Google Play (Find My Car) for options.
  • Take a picture of your parking spot.
  • Park right beside the shopping cart corral.
  • Press the panic button on your remote.

If none of these works, sit in the mall food court and wait until the stores close.

 

There is one more possibility which I hesitate to mention, but is it possible you unknowingly parked illegally and your car was towed away? In that case, swallow your pride, call the police and be prepared to pay an arm, a leg and a couple of  ribs.