The Good Ship Parking Lot
Not too long ago, my parents booked themselves on an Alaskan cruise. My mother, the mastermind of this excursion, was filled with anticipation and spent a busy few weeks gathering the right gear and clothes, making reservations for excursions, and plotting ways to avoid ruining her diet.
My dad, on the other hand, left the packing and other preparations to my mom and devoted his energy to losing 5 pounds through intermittent fasting so he could board the ship and eat everything in sight. He showed mostly tolerance for the escapade, but in private, he said to me that he wasn’t thrilled about the idea of spending 12 days on a “giant, floating petri dish.”
These two funny individuals asked me to take them to the port for embarkation. And I was glad to provide my services – they are after all, the people who gave me life, fed and clothed me for 18 years, and now love my children way more than free samples at Costco.
I’ve been near the Port of Los Angeles, actually located in San Pedro, several times. I had no doubt about my ability to convey my parents to their floating petri dish. My only real worry was parking. But I searched the internet, and apart from the exact location of the lot, felt sure parking would be available.
The day arrived and we loaded their bags into my car and headed for the freeway. This is where I started to have concerns. As I drove, my mom spoke with excitement about the days ahead, rifled through her paperwork, and then transitioned to chitchat that covered a neighbor’s recent surgery and the strange behavior of the husband of a third cousin twice removed.
I was distracted, then confused and got off the freeway one exit too soon. Not a problem, because we left nice and early, but we did sit in construction traffic for a while. My mom did not know anything was amiss. My dad refrained from commenting on my mistake, and instead, lovingly thanked me for going to all the trouble. Not long after, he mentioned I was tailgating and said I have a lead foot. He also groaned in agony whenever I hit a bump or pot hole.
My early exit wasn’t catastrophic, and once we got by the construction we were quickly back on track. Then I found myself at a 6-way intersection with no time to think and my parents’ inner voices growing ever louder in my head: my mom’s wondering if she’d packed the right coat and my dad’s considering why a college graduate had just pulled in to the only dead end of an intersection full of better options.
The placement of signage around the World Cruise Center is haphazard – or maybe it was my mom’s stories about my niece’s love for sushi and my nephew’s new job as a dog walker. I missed two signs that would have been truly helpful and ended up driving in circles. My dad saw the signs, but by then he had decided to stop playing the part of backseat driver and just hope for the best.
After a thorough tour of the roads around the parking lot, we made our way into the long line of cars aiming for the terminal. Two cruise ships were embarking that day. Throngs of people, clusters of porters and heavily loaded luggage carts scurried all around us. A man in a bright yellow-green vest waved me forward without asking where I needed to go and I drove right past the entry for parking.
Hoping some kind of redemption lay ahead, I moved forward and finally saw a sign I could respond to in a timely way. We pulled up to the terminal, and I started to breathe again. I gave up on the idea of parking – not wanting a second tour of the surrounding areas – and I helped my parents unload on the curb. They didn’t mind at all. I took a picture of them, they flagged down a porter, we said goodbye and that was it. I drove home thinking about how there are times when loving people can be so stressful. More stressful than parking, even.
As I write, they’re still out there sailing with 3,000 people and 10 million germs, and I hope they’re having a great trip. I’m sure my dad has sampled every dining option available and my mom has made a friend she can talk to about grandchildren and bizarre relatives while walking laps around the deck. I’m picking them up on their way back and this time I know exactly where to park.