Today was my first day in our company's new location. I arrived bright and early, before nine - which is relatively unheard-of for me - but I wanted to get there and see what it was like.
Our new location is in an office park and there are several nearly identical buildings, all with 2 or 3 different sections labeled with letters. I had been to a neighboring building before for a few meetings, but not to this one.
I figured out which building was ours, looked around, and hastily parked in a free space. There are four ways to get into our building: Two entrances labeled "Atrium D/E" (one North, one South) and two labeled "Atrium E/F." Our floor is in section "E" of the building. I walked to the building and entered at one of the "Atria" - the one labeled D/E.
Once inside, I had to choose which direction to walk so as to end up in the "E" section of the building. Of course it then took me 10 minutes of wandering around until I came upon the right part of the building and found my new office.
All of my boxes made it to the new office and I spent the morning unpacking files and the various detritus that I keep packing and unpacking from one office to another; a group picture of the Marketing Department taken at a 1994 picnic, old photographs, scraps of paper with important phone numbers on them, loose binder clips, a bottle of Purell, hand cream, and various other treasures I can't bear to throw out.
The day passed quickly. There were the usual glitches with files that didn't get transferred to our new computers, and the IT support people were running around all day helping people figure out the new computer systems, but by the end of the day all was well.
I spent the last part of the day updating contact information and moving things around on my computer. Before I knew it, it was pitch black outside and I realized I was one of the last people still there.
I gathered up my belongings and headed out. I tried to go out the same atrium that I came in, although I wasn't sure if I managed it.
Once outside, I looked around but didn't see my car. Everything looked different in the dark and my memory of the location was hazy at best, even if it had still been light out. The symmetry of the building and the parking lot worked against me; everything looked the same in every direction.
I started to get nervous. Unlike our old location, there is no 24-hour security guard station at this building, and once you're outside the building you can't get back in without using passcards that, when several were tested earlier in the day, had not yet been programmed properly and weren't working yet.
I thought to myself, "Well, maybe I came out the wrong atrium. I'll just walk to the next one and see if it turns out to be where I parked." I kept seeing cars that I thought might be mine, but on closer inspection turned out to not even be close. I had my keys in my hand and I kept pressing the "unlock" button hoping that my car would suddenly spring to life with the reassuring "tweet tweet" it makes when it unlocks. But I heard only silence.
No one else was around. The parking lot was deserted except for a few cars here and there. If my car were anywhere around, I would see it.
I kept walking. DH called on my cell phone wondering where I was. I explained the situation but reassured him that I was sure my car was here somewhere. But in the back of my mind I was thinking that at some point I would just have to give up and DH would have to drive all the way to my new location and pick me up and we'd have to drive around looking for my car. Then I started to wonder if maybe it had actually been stolen. Surely I would have seen the car by now?
I walked all around the building - at least twice. I passed the same cars that were so temptingly similar to mine and kept clicking on that unlock button, to no avail.
As I was approaching another atrium for the second time, I noticed it was particularly dark in this area. I realized this must be the atrium where I had originally exited the building, because it was definitely the darkest section of the parking lot.
As I was passing by a parking area surrounded by a hedge, I saw a glimmer of a reflection from a car behind the shrubbery. Out of habit, I clicked the unlock button on my key, not expecting any response. But lo and behold, my car tweeted in reply! Sure enough, there it was. It had been there all along, and I had probably walked right past it in the dark more than once, since it was hidden by the hedge.
Having wasted a good half hour searching for my car, I gratefully got into the car and headed out -- and promptly got lost trying to escape from the parking lot. Finally I managed to find the road leading out of the office park and made it home without further incident.
I think tomorrow I'll leave while it's still light out. It might be safer that way.