Lost in the parking lot
by Rick Watson
Oct 07, 2012 | 1683 views | 0 0 comments | 17 17 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Rick Watson
Rick Watson
When Jilda’s parents retired, they kept the roads hot. They owned a 1974 Pinto station wagon, and when they went shopping the first of every month, the back bumper of that old Pinto almost dragged pavement on their way home.

When they remodeled their house, they didn’t have a truck. The old Pinto doubled as a pickup.

They hauled lumber, plywood, paint and sheetrock from discount salvage and home improvement stores all across central Alabama.

Once when I was down there helping unload some wood, I noticed a red and white fishing cork as big as a golf ball on the antenna.

When I asked my father-in-law Sharky about the fishing cork, he laughed and said that on a recent shopping excursion, they’d misplaced the Pinto and had walked the parking lot from end to end without finding the car.

Just before they were about to go inside and call the police to report the car stolen (who would have stolen a 1974 Pinto?), a van backed out of a parking space, and there it sat.

The Pinto had a curiously long antenna and when extended to its full length, the cork was like a beacon. You could spot the vehicle from 30 yards away.

Fast forward to today: Jilda and I went to her sister Pat’s retirement party, and afterwards we drove to the nearby Apple store to buy a car charger for my new iPhone.

Jilda decided to check out the Williams and Sonoma store a few doors down, and when I finished, I joined her.

After browsing for a new coffee maker, we headed to where our car should have been. It wasn’t there. We walked a few aisles over and nada.

Like the Pinto, I couldn’t imagine anyone stealing a 1996 Volvo with a quarter million miles on it, but the car still looks good, and the longer we looked, the more plausible it seemed that Ingrid had fallen victim to grand-theft auto.

I’ve had a car stolen before, and I can tell you from experience it’s not fun.

A few months before I got drafted into the Army, I was in downtown Birmingham Sears looking at tools. I’d driven my 1965 Chevy Impala SS and parked it by the doors at the front of the store.

I was in the aisles between ratchet sets and screwdrivers when I heard the old beast crank up. I ran for the door, but when I got to the street, all I saw was tail lights. It broke my heart. Ingrid means as much to Jilda as my old Chevy did to me. As I stood there scratching my head and trying to figure out our next move, a big old SUV as big as a mobile home backed out, and there she was.

I laughed and started to speak, but Jilda beat me to the punch when she said, “We need a fishing cork for our antenna.”

We both howled.