The sign that wasn’t there

August 18, 2018

By Matthew E. Milliken
Aug. 18, 2018

The other day, I wrote about my woeful performances in two recent pinball tournaments. What I didn’t mention was that I was feeling a little off-kilter going into this month’s event.

Part of the reason was that my stomach was a bit uneasy that evening; part of it was that I left for the venue a little later than was ideal. That last factor ties into the forthcoming vignette about something else that was distracting me entering the tournament.

Because it was raining and I wanted to avoid getting wet, I drove to the parking deck right across the street from the arcade. The structure has two entrances; the main one is on Ramseur Street, but there’s also an auxiliary entrance on Main Street. I used the latter portal.

But as soon as I’d passed the open gate, a man rose from the stool he’d been perched upon about 25 feet from the entrance and signaled to get my attention. I rolled down my window.

He held up a hand. “Five dollars,” he told me.

I smacked my forehead. “What, is there a Bulls game?” I asked.

He nodded.

I told him that I didn’t want to park in the deck. He pointed to a space for me to pull into while he dealt with the car behind me.

“There’s no sign out there,” I told him as I prepared to move out of the way.

“Yes, there is,” he told me.

“No, there isn’t,” I retorted.

“There is,” he answered.

“No, no, no,” I said as I maneuvered the vehicle.

“Y’all gotta learn how to read,” he muttered under his breath as I pulled into the space he’d indicated.

Now I’m sure that this guy didn’t like being contradicted, which I understand. But neither did I like being told that I was either unobservant or illiterate. So I stewed in my car as I waited to exit the deck through the entrance I’d just used.

When I was able to leave, I kept a sharp eye out for the supposed sign indicating that there was a special event for which a $5 after-hours parking fee would be incurred. I saw no such sign.

I parked on a nearby street — fortunately, the rain had abated somewhat — and walked to the arcade. I made a point of passing the entrance to the parking deck that I’d just utilized. Sure enough, there still wasn’t a sign on Main Street. Nor was there any sign on the approach to the entrance with the open gate.

That’s a small thing, I know — a very small thing! — but it ate at me for part of the evening, and for a day or two afterward.

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