The story I’m about to tell you is kind of weird. Kind of like when I got pulled over for being a tired driver and a passing car full of hot-boxers made the officer question whether my husband is a drug dealer. Except, this story doesn’t involve drugs. That I know of.
The scene is a parking garage beneath the medical office where I’ve just received a shot of synthetic joint fluid. My knee is sore and all I want to do is go home. I take my parking ticket to the lobby of the building, where one of those automated machines is supposed to take my money and validate my ticket so I can leave the parking garage.
Bummer for me, the machine isn’t working. The credit card processor is offline, so I’m advised by the repair man to just pay the lady in the kiosk on my way out of the garage.
I limp my way to my car and drive up to the exit only to see that there is no lady in the kiosk. There is, however, a guy in front of me in line who is likewise waiting for the nonexistent lady to let us out. While we wait, car after car queues up behind us until there is a line of idling cars stretching down the parking lot exit ramp as far as I can see.
At this point, it’s been five minutes and still no lady. I turn off my car and start reading an article on my phone. The guy in front of me pushes the Call for Help button on the malfunctioning ticket validator and a loud alert starts booming out of a small speaker: PLEASE WAIT, YOUR CALL IS BEING ANSWERED. PLEASE WAIT, YOUR CALL IS BEING ANSWERED. PLEASE WAIT, YOUR CALL IS BEING ANSWERED.
I roll up my window and keep reading. It has now been ten minutes. Still, the voice booms: PLEASE WAIT, YOUR CALL IS BEING ANSWERED. PLEASE WAIT, YOUR CALL IS BEING ANSWERED. PLEASE WAIT, YOUR CALL IS BEING ANSWERED. Over and over again like the waves of a tension headache.
Behind us, horns are honking and people are starting to yell. The guy behind me uses his truck to hop the curb and drive around the metal arm trapping us in the garage, sideswiping his mirror against a dumpster on his way out.
Fifteen minutes have passed. Horns are more persistent, almost loud enough to drown out PLEASE WAIT, YOUR CALL IS BEING ANSWERED. PLEASE WAIT, YOUR CALL IS BEING ANSWERED. PLEASE WAIT, YOUR CALL IS BEING ANSWERED. Still no kiosk lady. My ears hurt.
Tired of sitting there with my sore knee, I start calling everyone I can think of who might be able to let us out. I call the front desk of the medical office I was just seen in, and they give me the number for building security and promise to do whatever else they can. I call building security and let them know we’re trapped. I call the main hospital security desk and bring them in as well.
Twenty minutes have passed, and I’m about to call the National Guard when a building security guys walks in and surveys the scene with shock. While he fiddles about with the validating machine (useless), the kiosk lady finally returns with a carrier full of Starbucks drinks in one hand and a rolled-up magazine in her other hand. She is likewise shocked and asks the guy in front of me why we didn’t just pay at the lobby. I’m surprised he doesn’t shoot her.
After he’s let loose, I roll up and she tries to charge me extra for the time I spent sitting in front of her extra kiosk. I let her know in no uncertain terms that I will only be paying the amount I would have paid had I not gotten trapped in this stupid garage. She huffs but capitulates, likely because she can sense she’ll find little no mercy among the dozens of motorists who have been held captive to her coffee break.
Finally free, I zoom home with my ears still ringing with the empty promise of a robotic voice screaming PLEASE WAIT, YOUR CALL IS BEING ANSWERED. PLEASE WAIT, YOUR CALL IS BEING ANSWERED. PLEASE WAIT, YOUR CALL IS BEING ANSWERED.
I hear it in my dreams, sometimes. It’s the haunting sound of futility, the embodiment of knowing you’re trapped by a thin metal arm all because you’re not willing to scratch up the front of your car in an effort to escape.
If given another twenty minutes of that racket, I might have.