Reasonable Effort

"And that's why you shouldn't tow me, please..."

“And that’s why you shouldn’t tow me, please…”

I left the house at 7 am.

Today was the day of an all day conference put on by Transmedia Hollywood loosely themed around social change and I had been looking forward to it with great anticipation ever since I heard about it last month. Check in was scheduled to begin at 8:30am and I planned to get there a little bit early to have plenty of time to park and get my bearings. When I mapped the address, which was on the campus of UCLA, the travel time said it would only take 37 minutes, but I had checked on it late at night and thought I’d better plan for rush hour traffic to be safe.

An hour and a half, I thought, would be ample time.

Now, I’m not terribly familiar with the UCLA campus having been there only once before. I diligently followed the directions dictated to me by my GPS and arrived at the address on the ticket with plenty of time to spare.

“Your destination,” it told me, “is on your right.”

It was not.

I knew it was not because I presumed that I was looking for a building that would house a theatre. What I was actually  looking at was a stretch of residential houses. Nice houses, but not what I wanted to see.

At a stoplight I inspected the block of text beneath the ticket image that I had printed out to see if there were any recommendations on where to park. It recommended parking structure D, right inside Gate 4. The fee would be $8.  It was right off of 34th Street.

That address seemed wrong to me, but I couldn’t say why for sure. I’ve only lived in LA for a year and while I know my way around in the broad strokes I don’t have every street committed to memory yet. I pulled to the side of the road in a passenger loading zone and read through the text again. The name of the theatre was different there and there was a different address too.

I plugged the address into the GPS thinking that maybe the UCLA Cinema school was separate from the main campus. Stranger things had happened. The overview map that popped up gave me no sense of how far away the second address was from where I was now, but the trip would take an estimated 35 minutes. I was still early so if I hurried I would arrive after the check in opened up but before the panel discussions began so I hopped on the road again.

Thirty minutes later I knew why 34th street seemed familiar- and wrong: because it was one of the main streets that runs along the campus of USC. At another stop light I again inspected the directions on the printout. USC School of Cinema Arts.

I swore at myself. Then I texted my husband so that I could swear at myself with an audience.

The directions were excellent for guiding me to the gate and through to parking. I showed the ticket to the gate attendant and she squinted at it and shrugged:

“We have so many things here today.” She said. “But parking is $10, n0t $8.”

Well, it wouldn’t have been the first typo I’d compensated for, I thought. So I paid the $10 and drove to the top of Parking Structure D to the first space big enough for a minivan and made haste down five flights of stairs to the campus. At least here I was more familiar with the lay of the land; I knew where the School of Cinematic Arts was even if I wasn’t sure about the actual theatre itself. I figured it would be easy enough to find my way once I got to the neighborhood.

I reached the SCA buildings and pulled out the printout again to look for the name of the theatre in the hopes of also finding the name of the building it was in.

But something else caught my eye.

Transmedia Hollywood 3: April 6th, 2013.

“That’s not right.” I thought. “Today is the 12th- I definitely put it on the calendar for the 12th.”

I looked back at the ticket image at the top of the page.

Transmedia Hollywood 4: April 12th, 2013.


I swore at myself. Then I texted my husband and swore a lot more.

I’d felt stupid when I read “USC School of Cinema Arts” after going all the way to UCLA but now I felt doubly stupid for a. doubting myself and b. getting the date and event and location mixed up.

But it wasn’t my fault! 

I lamented inwardly as I fought back tears. I didn’t need to be walking through the WRONG campus crying. I was mad at myself for getting it wrong and for paying for a day’s worth of parking that I would now have to forfeit and re-pay at UCLA and now I was going to be late too.

It was 9:15. I was back in the van on my way back to UCLA. The directions were already programmed into the GPS but morning rush hour had gummed up the roads so the trip took the better part of an hour. I picked the campus gate nearest to the address (Your destination is on your right. [NOITISNOT!!!] where I could see a parking structure with the promising words of “Guest Parking”.

Inside the driveway to the parking structure an arrow pointed to the left for permit parking and to the right for Pay-By-The-Space parking. Assuming I would need the latter I turned right. I glimpsed a pay station, which seemed promising, but it was a walk up machine and I supposed that it didn’t make sense to pay for a space until I knew what space I would be in so I proceeded.

I spiraled upwards through the parking structure which seemed to have built in the shape of a clover. Growing in a nuclear waste dump. As drawn in crayon by a sociopath. On acid.

By the time I found a parking space I was on the fourth level and managed to have warped from Parking Structure 3 North to Parking Structure 3 South (Level 4) without ever leaving the building.

I parked.

I texted my husband that I had arrive.

I gathered my things and prepared to head to the conference. It was 10:12 am. The first panel had already been under way for 30 minutes so I told myself to be cool and not rush.

There didn’t seem to be a pay station on Level 4 of Parking Structure 3 South so I figured I would just pay when I got to the one on the ground floor. I stood at the elevator and pressed the button. The light didn’t come on and I could hear faint elevator noises but they seemed very far away. Nearly a minute passed and I was literally walking away  when the door opened.  I got inside and pressed the button for Level 1.

The door closed.

The elevator shifted and made elevator noises.

Then it stopped and it didn’t seem to be doing anything.

When the door opened I thought I was surely on the first floor and that the long creepy silence had just been an extra slow and gentle braking system. This may have been true, but it had only taken me down to Level 3.

I got out again. I wasn’t in a rush but I wasn’t looking to waste my time either. The stairs took all of thirty seconds to bring me down to the ground level where a pay machine stood just inside the stairwell.

I touched the keypad to wake it up.

::This Pay Station Is Not Accepting Payments. Please Find Another::

I punched the keypad again in disbelief.

Same message.

Great. Just Great.

I started walking in the hopes of finding another Pay Station and I found myself near the entrance again where a few workers in reflective vests seemed to be guiding cars in. I told them about the machine and they just shrugged and suggested I try one of the machines in the other building and pointed up the driveway to where I had pulled in.

OK, I thought, it’s a walk but I’m in no rush- and I know there is a Pay Station there. I’ll pay, I’ll put the receipt on the dashboard and I can finally get to this stupid conference that I paid good money to be missing right now.

I walked to Parking Structure 3 North and found the nearest Pay Station. I punched the key pad to wake it up.

::Enter Parking Space Number::

I stared at the screen completely baffled. Had there been a parking space number? I didn’t think so.

I looked around. The spaces near me did have numbers.

F*&% I was going to have to walk all the way back across Hell’s half acre to the van, look up the space number, walk back to the pay station, pay for the ticket, walk back to the van to put it on the dashboard and THEN go find the stupid conference that I paid good money to be missing right now.

“Keep it together”, I told myself. “You’re not in a rush.”

I walked back up to the van.

The parking space had no number.

I looked around at all the spaces near where I was parked. There were no numbers there either.

Had I accidentally driven into permit parking? There weren’t any signs for that either. I glanced at the cars parked nearest me on either side. Some of them had hangtags around the rearview mirrors but not all of them.

Would I get ticketed?

Would I get towed?

The possibilities all seemed pretty likely to me right then, considering my luck.

I unlocked the van and got in. It was 10:45 am and I broke down and cried like a baby: full on snot-and-tears.

Between sobs and the rivers of snot (Really. There was a lot of snot) I texted as much as I could manage of this epic parking Odyssey to my husband who offered to drive out for lunch and give me a hug. I was upset, but not irrational, so I pulled myself together and declined.

I was Fed Up.

There was no way I was walking all the way back down to the Pay Station again, but I didn’t want to come out of the conference (assuming I found it) and discover I had no way to get home because the van had been towed away. So I decided to do what I do best: I wrote a letter.

The abbreviated account of my misadventures took up a page and a half and I lay these out on the dashboard along with my parking receipt from USC and a discarded UCLA Pay Station receipt that I had found on the ground as Exhibits A and B as evidence of my attempts.

“Please, Please, PLEASE call me if I need to move the van.” I begged. “I tried really hard.”

Then I once again gathered the completely decimated shreds of my own confidence, glued them back into place with snot (so much snot), wiped my tears on my scarf and headed out of the parking structure in search of the conference.

I did eventually find the Transmedia Hollywood 4 conference. It was at UCLA and the van was not towed when I emerged later in the evening. I made it into the auditorium just in time for the final Q&A for the first panel to wrap up- four hours after leaving my house that morning.

I’ve said it before that I don’t consider myself to be a superstitious person, but it sure felt like either the twisted fate brought on by an angry Greek diety or the curse of a Gypsy woman keeping me from making it to that conference today.

~ by Gwydhar Gebien on April 12, 2013.

2 Responses to “Reasonable Effort”

  1. I just read your blog about the parking experience from hell and can’t make up my mind whether to laugh or cry in sympathy. I’m so sorry you encountered such trouble and am writing to give you a big Mommy Hug from afar! I expect to see this experience written into a screenplay of yours some day. It’s just too delicious and universal not to be part of some Academy award winning movie of yours!!

    I love you!


  2. It seems that we escaped the Parking Hxxx that you went through when we visited there. What a trial of a day!! I agree with MOM, combo of laugh and cry from me! Of course, we had the “honking people” follow us around in LA. They even followed us to San Francisco! Must have been the same people every time we didn’t know exactly where we were going and were going a bit slower than the honking people behind us wanted us to go!

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