It’s always a quiet car ride after committing a misdemeanor.
Thoughts of will this be the last time I pee with a door? and where did I put the card of that criminal lawyer I met at that party? consumed me the entire way home.
The silence was momentarily interrupted by a chatty toll booth operator who asked us if there was some sort of Halloween party on South Beach, because, according to her unofficial math, we must have been the 100th car to pay the $1.75 fee to get through her mechanical barricade dressed in elaborate costumes.
I thought about responding very many ways with my normal sardonic wit, like “What do you mean? This is how I normally dress.” Or “We’re the 100th car? Did we win a prize?” Or “Are you really a toll booth operator or is that a costume?” But I just smiled and agreed that we had just come from a party. And my passenger was pleased at my show of restraint. “Thanks for not saying something stupid back, ” she said.
She normally doesn’t mind my brand of humor, but after making her an accessory to a crime while dressed as the infamous Queen of Hearts from the imagination of Lewis Carroll she wanted nothing more than to off my head. The irony of all of this was not that I was dressed like Alice, but that earlier that day, before my transformation into the silly girl that falls down the rabbit hole, I began reading “Orange is the New Black.”
I didn’t get more than 10 pages in before The Queen needed help with her crown, so now I won’t know the ins and outs of prison life or how to select the right jumpsuit size or how to court a proper prison wife that will treat me well.
“Thank you for not saying ‘I told you so’ in the garage,” I said while removing my make-up.
She looked up from the sink, still with the toothbrush in her mouth, and winked at me.
Just 45 minutes prior, there was no winking inside a garage that held my car against its will.
Just two hours prior, there was no smiling when I broke the news that I had lost the parking ticket somewhere in my plush clock purse. The same parking ticket The Queen had said she would hang on to so I wouldn’t lose.
Just four hours prior, we drove into the now unsatisfactory garage because we thought it was closest to the entrance – only to find that it was a 15 minute walk from the door of the car to the door of the party.
Just five hours prior, I had dismissed The Queen’s claim that we should get there early to be able to valet park.
But there we were. Leaving the party with a new and uncertain reality – all because of a series of unfortunate events that would have been preventable if I had only listened to The Queen.
With two pairs of feet already throbbing, we walked out of the party and walked to the car. Sometimes quietly stepping over the homeless people along the way, sometimes waving at the cars honking at us as they zoomed by with their stereos blaring. Once at the garage we found a “Lost Ticket” button on the machine that normally accepts your ticket and your hard-earned money for the temporary rental for a slice of concrete and steel.
The machine charged our credit card $20 for pressing that fateful button. A whole $5 more than what we would’ve paid if I hadn’t lost that stupid ticket. Only, the machine didn’t spit out a receipt or a new ticket or a Hallmark Greeting card that one receives when they are having a tough time at life. So, we decided that our woes were better explained in person to an attendant, and jumped in the car and drove down the ramp.
Only there was no attendant in the glass box.
There was, however, another car who was also unable to get out of this now horror-movie-worthy backdrop. Although he did have a ticket, the machine refused to accept it. It would spit back his ticket like a bulimic, over and over again. He looked over at us and shook his head.
We spotted another machine with a “Lost Ticket” button and decided to give it another go. Only it had a printer error. Now we were $40 in hole and still ticketless. But even if it gave us a ticket, there was no guarantee of it working at the gate.
Our new friend had now given up on getting the machine to read his ticket and was now using a garbage bag to cover his license plate, because as he pointed out, “there are cameras everywhere.”
I looked around. He was right. At the machine. At the gate. At the elevator. At the office door I pounded. Everywhere.
And there I was, dressed like Alice, and I couldn’t help but smile as I looked straight into the black ball that held one of the many security cameras and recalled my favorite passage from Alice in Wonderland:
‘Would you tell me, please, which way I ought to go from here?’
‘That depends a good deal on where you want to get to,’ said the Cat.
‘I don’t much care where —’ said Alice.
‘Then it doesn’t matter which way you go,’ said the Cat
‘But I don’t want to go among mad people,’ Alice remarked.
‘Oh, you can’t help that,’ said the Cat: ‘we’re all mad here. I’m mad. You’re mad.’