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Monday, September 10, 2012

You're In Good Hands, Unless... (Part I)

After spending a few days playing single parent to a four-month old I was ready to just play single again so I accepted an invitation from my friend, B, to hang out with him and his friends last weekend.  They planned to meet up on Friday night at DC9, a bar/restaurant at the corner of 9th and U in the Petworth area of Northwest D.C. 
 Though revitalization has begun to take hold of Petworth, its grip is not nearly tight enough for my taste so I visit this part of the city infrequently at best. But I decided it wouldn’t kill me to shed my stodgy suburban tendencies for one night.
Since B and I were coming from different directions and I had another event to attend before joining up with the group, we agreed to meet in the city. I reached 9th and U at about 11 p.m. and parked a block away from DC 9 in a well-lit, attended lot at a corner that featured plenty of pedestrian and car traffic. After the attendant took my $10 and the keys to my car, I headed to the bar.

To my surprise, B and his gang had entered the wind-down phase when I got there and lasted only an hour before making their exodus. Revelers still crowded the sidewalks as we emerged from DC 9 but B insisted on walking me to my car anyway. When we reached the entrance of the lot, a uniformed policeman stopped us and said, "Are you parked here?" I nodded and pointed at my little blue car sitting fifteen feet away.
"You can't go in, and I'll tell you why in a second." B and I looked at each other and shrugged, more curious than concerned.

The cop then unspooled yellow crime scene tape across the entrance of the parking lot, keeping us and a few fellow parkers at bay a la Les Nessman at WKRP in Cincinnati. He came back over and addressed the group from behind the tape. An armed robbery had been committed about fifteen minutes earlier, he explained. The thieves stole all of the cash from the attendants' booth and grabbed most of the car keys before fleeing.
The officer told us he couldn't let us in to look for our keys until the crime scene people arrived and did their thing. B and I stood there looking at my car behind the chain link fence, like patrons at an auto zoo. 
Fifteen minutes later the crime scene guys showed up.  We watched them for a few moments and quickly decided that this episode of "CSI: Petworth" was less interesting than watching parked cars.  We struck up a conversation with other people whose cars were hostages.  Like me, they all believed they’d parked at the safest spot in the neighborhood and were surprised by the timing and boldness of the crime. And they were as grateful as I was not to have been there when the whole thing went down.
Once the officers dusted for fingerprints, they let us approach the booth to eyeball the key rack. Since it held a mere four sets of keys, it took only a second for me to confirm that mine weren’t among them.  The parking lot owner materialized and asked me if I had a spare. I didn’t, as far as I knew.  I remembered giving the valet key to my ex-husband a few years ago and was pretty sure he still had it, along with my pots and pans, a Beethoven piano book and various other possessions too minor to rescue.
“You can’t call him?” the parking lot owner asked, sending me and B into a fit of hysterical laughter.
 My only option, then, the cops informed me, was to have the car towed to my home and a new key made. It was 1:30 a.m., hardly a peak staffing time for most auto insurance companies, I wasn't surprised, then, when a recorded voice informed me that all of the “good hands” manning the emergency roadside assistance service were currently busy assisting other callers.
 For the first five minutes I spent on hold I cracked jokes.  But as five stretched to ten and ten to fifteen, my sense of humor began to wilt, along with my tolerance for the oft-repeated "Your call is important to us, so please stay on the line." (In the Insincere Saying Olympics, this phrase gets the bronze. As good as it is, it’s got a ways to go before it outruns "with all due respect" and the perpetually golden "It's not you, it's me.")
When I was still on hold after 20 minutes, I was ready to give the good hands people the good finger. I apologized to B for inconveniencing him and for my increasing impatience.

He put his arm around me reassuringly and said, "Are you kidding? You've been pretty calm about the whole thing, I think."

Tune in tomorrow for Part II!

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