Who Will Lead Whom?
A Sunset Parking Lot Adventure
Soon we arrived. I took several deep breaths. We had agreed my date would be waiting inside the restaurant. The excited flutter returned to my stomach.
At the door, I stopped. “Oh! I forgot my lipstick.” I had set it on the dash looking for the turn-off sign on the throughway. “If he’s there, tell ‘im I’ll be right in. I need to go back and get it.”
My brother reached for the door handle. “Don’t take a long time.”
I swept my cane ahead of me and crossed the road into the parking lot adjacent to the restaurant. Uh-oh. There were four identical parking lots, one on each corner of the four-way intersection. Which one did we park in? I would just have to check one by one … Great! I couldn’t even see what color the cars were until I was right up on them. This would take longer than I thought.
“Maroon. His car is maroon,” I muttered. It was slow-going. I peered inside all the car windows of the first parking lot trying to figure out which one belonged to my brother, if any.
A woman materialized from out of nowhere. “May I help you?” She emphasized each word, like an old fashioned school marm, her implication clear. She might as well have accused me of checking out the goods in someone else’s car.
“Um, I’m looking for … I mean, my brother’s car is … I forgot something I need to take in to the restaurant … you know, the famous one across the way. Just can’t find … oh no, thanks, I’m okay. I don’t need any help.”
“Turn around and speak to me,” the woman ordered. “You’re too far away for me to hear. What are you holding?”
I slowly swung around, my cane tapping the blacktop in front of me.
The woman’s expression wasn’t clear at that distance. But she seemed to take a step back and that was probably due to my cane, which was in plain view.
How could I explain my peeking into car windows at sunset? What good upstanding person hung around parking lots doing that?
“Retrieving a tube of coral lipstick” sounded like one of my weak, fabricated stories. Funny how the truth sounded stranger than what anyone could dream up. As I saw it, I had two choices—head back over to the restaurant and leave her with the impression I was doing something sneaky. That would also be admitting defeat. Or, tell her I needed something from my car and find something inside it more plausible than a tube of lipstick.
I knew when the light bulb went off in her head because her voice suddenly changed. “Are you … blind?”
That word grated on my nerves. “Well, yes and no. I can see close-up and….”
The woman put up her hand. “Wait here,” she commanded, “I’ll get help.” Her voice brooked no argument.
So I waited, feeling foolish as the minutes ticked by. I wondered if my brother and my date had met and how they were getting along. Had they recognized each other? They were probably looking at a menu and wondering what had happened to me. I wanted to get inside the restaurant.
The sun was going down fast. It looked like a man was moving straight toward me from across the parking lot. He was! “You must be the girl. Are you lost?”
I didn’t have to ask which girl. “Lost. No-o-o, not at all. I know where I am. It’s the car that is lost.”
The man assured me I didn’t have to be afraid. “I’m an off-duty fireman,” he explained, adding that he was a family man—a father and a husband.
Seriously? The lady hailed an off-duty fireman to rescue me? The kind that rescues lost dogs? It appeared he was now rescuing lost women from out of town.
“Thank you, but I’m perfectly capable of—”
“It’s okay.” He spoke kindly, using the same soft tone he might use to persuade a child to jump from a burning building—focused and intent.
I wanted to stomp my feet at his reassuring tone of voice. I. Have. A. Cane.
Be practical, I told myself. How many of the four parking lots would need to be searched before finding the right car? I sighed and pushed back my pride. He’s already here. I’ve been gone this long. At least he can help me find the car and retrieve my lipstick.
“I’m looking for a maroon vehicle. It’s a rental car,” I added to head off questions about the make. Any other detail escaped my mind at that moment except for the generic, “It’s big and clean.”
“Let’s see if we can find it. You want to take my arm?”
No. sir, I do not. You see this cane? I’m perfectly capable of walking on my own.“Thank you,” I said lightly taking the crook of his arm, finding it all around easier to give in.
As we crossed at the light, he slowed his pace to mine. “Your first time in Toledo? What brings you here?”
“They pack a mean hotdog! Have you seen the signed buns?”
“You’ll find hundreds tacked to the walls. Celebrities come in and leave their signature on hotdog buns. Not only actors. Presidents sign ‘em too. There’s even one signed by an astronaut.”
I warmed to this kind-hearted man who came—surely no questions asked—to help a blind woman find her rental car and a tube of lipstick stashed away in the dash. So much effort for a bit of vanity.
“Do you often rescue lost blind women?”
“Wa-a-ll now, I’ve rescued a cat from the top of a tree. I’ve helped deliver a baby. And, of course, put out fires. But you’re my first lost blind woman.”
“Hmm At least you didn’t have to climb up a ladder or tree to reach me.”
The snicker that escaped his lips scored well with me. I felt more comfortable around him.
The off duty fireman and I found the rental car in the parking lot across the street. We hadn’t even locked it. Once inside, I snatched my lipstick and slipped it into my purse. “Thanks for your help. If you could point me in the direction of the….”
“No siree. I couldn’t do that.”
Why did I have to have a conscientious fireman who wouldn’t let me cross the street alone? He took my hand in a fatherly way. When we got to the door, I hesitated. “Thank you,” I said, hoping he’d get the message and leave.
“I want to make sure you find your party,” the man said, opening the door and motioning for me to go in.
“Umm, well, I have my … okay.” I didn’t want to hurt his feelings.
He took my hand again and led me across the restaurant.
After all the talk about who would be leading who where, what could be worse than a real live off-duty fireman leading me into the restaurant? My date might even think I planned this ‘entrance’ as a joke.
Then I heard every woman’s romantic dream greeting. “You … got … lost … in the parking lot?”
And who would have believed the first words out of my mouth would be a protest? “The thing is there were four identical parking lots and four identical crosswalks an’….”
“It’s hard for her to see at night,” my brother cut in helpfully. “She has to use a cane.”
“I wasn’t … lost …per se….” There went my she’s-traveled-the-world-from-one-end-to-the-other reputation spiraling down. Not making it across the parking lot carried a lot more weight right then.
With a spring in my step and an adventure to share, I made sure we all had a good laugh.We needed one. I could see my poor date had a lot to learn about what my life was like!
To what degree do you follow what others tell you to do?What is the determining factor? What kind of experiences have you had that seemed to put you in an unbelievable light to a near stranger, or someone you wanted to impress? How did you handle it?
You have read, an excerpt from “Who Will Lead Whom?” by Amy L. Bovaird. Copyright March 11, 2016. Please take a moment to leave a comment. You will find the exciting conclusion in the next post.