So, the hubby and I got away this past weekend. The first time in, I think, 5 years that we were alone. No nursing babies. No pregnancy-induced-morning-sickness. Just my man and me. It was wonderful. Thanks to a wonderful friend who cares about me, us, my marriage, and loves my girls, we didn’t worry about the two little ones one teeny bit. But we did miss them. We also enjoyed the sleeping in . . . if you call sleeping in ’til 8:00 sleeping in, that is. Parenting dies hard. 🙂
On Sunday, we stopped in at a Starbucks in a suburb of Atlanta, spontaneously decided to walk the sidewalks, tucked my purse into the car, walked past the Starbucks, and gawked like true, small town suburbians as we walked under glass skyscrapers’ shadows. We laughed at the two-story Target and stopped into a bookstore and talked and reveled in each other’s company while sipping on our Mocha Frappuccinos. I got a tiny sunburn. It was warm. Fun abounded.
We walked back to the parking lot to grab our car before heading to lunch. From a distance, Jonathan saw an orange sticker on the driver’s side window. Hmmm . . . what could that be? We walked a little closer and saw that, guess what? Our car had been boot-locked. Is that what they call it? We didn’t realize it, but as we were gasping and muttering, “What in the world?!”, we were standing next to the two men who booted our car. Their eyes watched us.
“What’s with the boot?” My husband asked them, annoyed.
“Well, you parked your car in the lot, went into the Starbucks, then crossed the street. That’ll be $50. I take Visa, Mastercard, or cash.”
Now I don’t usually get seething angry about little things like this, but I was mad. Really mad. And for, I think, the first time in our marriage, I was more adamant that we stand up for ourselves than my often, very opinionated husband (who loves our car, I should add).
“What are you talking about, we didn’t see any signs!” I said.
The parking man scoffed at me.
“There are eleven signs in this parking lot, ma’am.”
My eyes followed the parking man’s arm outstretched.
“Eleven signs?” I was scoffing now. “Those are microscopic. And this is a large parking lot, we’re not parked anywhere near those signs. You’d have to be parked right in front of those signs to read them. If you’re going to fine a person an exorbitant $50, there should be a sign at every. single. parking spot. And you were obviously watching us, waiting for us to cross the street. It would have been nice if you’d warned us. We’re not from here . . . we didn’t know we weren’t supposed to park here.”
The man smirked. “Yeah, warnings are nice. That’s why there are red letters at the top of the signs that say ‘Warning.'”
We paid the fine. He took off the boot. I called the number at the top of the “receipt” and was told I would receive a call from the manager. I’ve yet to receive that call. We sat in the car for a few more minutes, trying to calm the feeling of being preyed upon.
“I’m going to go ask them for our money back until we hear from the manager and they can send us a bill. How do we know these people are even legit? If they say no, can we buy them a drink from Starbucks? I am so angry at those men, I feel like I have to do something nice for them if I’m going to let this go.”
My quiet husband shrugged. “If you think you need to,” he conceded.
Of course, they didn’t give us our money. They laughed when I asked. Of course.
We walked back inside the Starbucks and we joked about walking to the sidewalk and taunting them to boot our car again. But, not wanting to pay another $50 or $75, we decided against the risk. 🙂
We ordered two more frappuccinos, walked back outside to where the predatory parking men (can you tell I’m still a bit bitter?) had been previously parked. They were gone! Great. Now it felt even more like some huge scam.
We frantically looked around and saw they had moved to the front of the parking lot, near the road. Whew. I didn’t really want to drink another frappuccino (I know. Hard to believe.)
We handed them their drinks. I said something about my needing to let the anger go. Jonathan said something about there needing to be better signage (is that a word?), especially because where they watched us walk up onto the sidewalk, there were NO signs. They thanked us. They actually conceded that we wouldn’t have seen the signs. We walked back to our car and went on with the few short hours we had left together before going home.
Buying them the Starbucks drink didn’t help me let the anger go. But you already knew that, didn’t you? It didn’t keep me from feeling preyed upon – watched by someone just hoping I’d fall into their trap. Forgiveness didn’t magically make a horizontal move when that drink went out from my hands and into theirs.
There’s only one Way to that kind of power. Calling on Him, who knows *my* sin and has taken me in with arms wide open anyway. Because she who has been forgiven much, loves much. I’ve been forgiven . . . MUCH. The forgiveness – the letting-go-power – all comes from the same Source. Whether that forgiveness is needed for our own sins, those who have hurt us to our souls’ very cores, or those who pelt us with petty annoyances.
And thankfully, He doesn’t just watch us, waiting for us to mess up so He can pelt us with the need for some sort of penance. He sanctifies. Purifies. And maybe, just maybe, He even uses predatory parking dudes to help me see my need for Him.
Let me lay it all down.
At the cross.
At the cross.
And in the shadow of that cross,
it all suddenly feels