Monday, November 24, 2008

New Kid on the Block

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.


Life As I Know It Now said...

wow, you remained relatively calm during this mini crisis. I might not have done so well!

Christopher said...

It all sounds like an episode from the X-Files.

Imagine if you had somehow managed to slip into an alternate time/space and you couldn't get back?

The Quantum Physics folks believe there are other universes existing side-by-side. It's the basis for String Theory.

I remember putting a new luggage rack on my SUV. I was so pleased by how "finished" it made my truck look. But for the first week, I kept losing it in parking lots. It didn't look like my ride.

Sometimes our hold on reality is tenuous at best.

Sue J said...

Oh! I have had that feeling once or twice before when you don't see your car and start to wonder if it was stolen. That's an awful feeling!

Sounds like they should have handed out some maps!

Randal Graves said...

I saw a glimmer of a reflection from a car behind the shrubbery.

I'm sure there's a Holy Grail joke in here somewhere.

Next time, have a flashlight. ;-)

Christopher said...

The car thingy happened to us at Disneyland.

I've never seen such a big parking lot and after 12 hours riding the rides, seeing the shows and eating, we left and we spent half an hour searching for our car in the dark.

Finally, this nice boy on a Disneyland golf cart came by and asked if we lost our car. He took us right to it and said this happens all the time at Disneyland!

Anonymous said...

Yikes! That's a big place you're working in.

I'm glad it turned out well.

Fran said...

This sounds like a diary from a hampster in a maze!
All those cookie cutter buildings, and the dark shadow parking lot. Spooky!

In lieu of Security guards, you might want to get some Pepper spray in case you meet some strangers in the dark.

I worked in a place that had a parking garage, after hours, it was well lit, but all kinds of hiding places by structural pillars.... plus there were mall rats that made a living panhandling the walkway to the garage.

That spray made me feel less freaked out, and there were times I left after 10 pm, where I actually carried the spray IN HAND. ... not just in my purse.

I'm glad your car chirped to let you know it was there, as you navigated the maze.

Have you considered breadcrumbs?? LOL

Anonymous said...

wow, quite a story Maui! Glad you finally found your way out of there! Perhaps you shouldnt' go back! LOL. I know that feeling though when your mind just cannot make sense of where you are anymore. I have lost a car more than once. Entering some malls are like that, there are several levels and if you exit the wrong one, you will never find your parking lot!

Mauigirl said...

Liberality, I started to panic but I told myself that I had a cell phone so it's not as if I couldn't get home somehow.

Christopher, you're right - X-files, or even Star Trek! Those alternate universes can really get you. I seriously was starting to wonder if I'd wandered into the Twilight Zone.

Sue J and Randal, a map AND a flashlight would probably be helpful!

Christopher, I wish I'd run into someone who could have helped as you did at Disneyland! I was starting to feel sorry for myself as the few cars that were driving out of the lot passed by without even slowing down to ask if I was OK!

Fran, good suggestion about the pepper spray. I had my keys in my hand (they're good at doubling for defense if you poke someone's eye with them) but pepper spray may be a better idea. As for bread crumbs, I was thinking the same thing this morning after I parked! I memorized exactly where I put the car but I wished I could leave markers somewhere!

Feather, I've been known to get lost at the mall too in similar circumstances!

There was a reason I stayed at the Big Corporation for 30 years - I knew how to get in and out of the building and not get lost! ;-)

Mauigirl said...

Whoops, left out a response to DCup, sorry DCup! Actually the place isn't so much big (it's fairly normal for a New Jersey office park - which I guess is big compared to some plaes) as it is too identical. All sides of it are the same. And each building is like that. I was actually starting to wonder if I was even still at the right building after awhile!

My old office had its issues too. It had four identical wings as well and when I first worked there lo those many years ago, I used to get mixed up all the time. Even after all that time, I sometimes went out the wrong side of the building after hours and realized my car was on the other side.

Ruth Hull Chatlien said...

Wow, what a story. I hope it went more smoothly today. Maybe you should leave bread crumbs from your car to the office. (Just kidding.)

Mauigirl said...

Hi Ruth, I didn't do breadcrumbs (I did think of it though) but I made sure to note exactly which entrance I came into the second day, and made sure to remember to turn left when I came out. Sure enough, I found my car!

It's pretty pitiful when I consider it a successful day when I manage to find my way out of my office to my car without being lost.

Anonymous said...'s all a learning process. No? Soon enough you'll be navigating the office park blindfolded and have every pebble on the asphalt mapped out. Buit that's some first day.

Mauigirl said...

Spartacus, I was thinking the same thing - that one day it will all be second nature to me, just as it was at my old building.

Anonymous said...

Good point, though sometimes it's hard to arrive to definite conclusions