Monday, April 11, 2011

I'm Lucy, She's Ethel: How We Escaped Being Arrested in Omaha

In February, my sister Karen took me to a concert for world-famous violinist David Garrett. She was originally supposed to go with her husband, but since he got a new job, he wasn't comfortable taking time off. So Karen drove an hour to my house, left her daughter here, and she and I traveled the three hours to Omaha, Nebraska.

We had a great drive on the way up, talking about lots of things. It had been way too long since we'd done anything like that. When we finally got to Omaha, we were glad that we'd gotten there early, because we couldn't find the venue! We drove around and around several blocks in a big circle, and finally I saw the words "Holland Performing Arts Center " on the side of a building. Gray building, silver, small words. Not so good when you're trying to find a place as it's getting dark.

So, since we'd finally found the building, we needed a place to park. We drove around another couple of times looking for the parking garage we thought was on that side of the building. We saw valets in red coats where we thought the public parking should be, but obviously the valets were there for the ritzy folk. We were beginning to get desperate. After all, we'd been driving in circles for over half an hour.

It was bitter cold, near zero degrees with the wind chill, so we didn't want to park far away. As we made the rounds of the block again, I pointed out a door to a parking garage that had opened every time we'd passed it.

"Isn't that an exit?" Karen asked.

I shrugged. "I thought so, but it must be on some kind of sensor since it opens every time we pass. No cars came out of there. I mean, the door wouldn't go up if it weren't an exit."

She was still unsure, and so was I, a little, but the fact that the door kept opening convinced us to go in. It did seem a bit odd, but we found a nice spot, went up the elevator and came out by the gate to the garage. "That is weird," I said. "But maybe they open the garage for events like this." I didn't want to think about it any further, and neither did Karen. We were both about to freeze our buns off walking half a block to the concert.

Once our buns were sufficiently frozen and we got inside the Holland Center, we found out we'd gotten there really early, so we walked down the quiet hall near the bathroom, leaned against the wall, and talked. There was a lady standing at the end of the hall, an usher. The words on the door next to her were "Green Room." Not long after I noticed the room name, we heard a violin singing from that direction. The elderly usher watched through the window, back turned, oblivious to us. "That might be David!" I whispered to Karen.

She nodded knowingly. "Yep, that's him." (I think Karen could recognize David's music if she were wielding metal trash can lids against swordfighters in the middle of an ice storm.)

I choked back a laugh. "If we run really fast, I can take her out and you grab her walkie-talkie."

Karen chuckled. "I was thinking the same thing."

Of course we left the usher alone, but the thought had been tempting. After another forty-five minutes, it was time to go in. (I'm the one with glasses.)

We had seats so close we could see the scruff on David's face and the twinkle in his eye. Fifth row, center. Booyah!

It was a fantastic concert, and one I never will forget.

When we left, the air was even colder, so we hurried the half-block to the parking garage, only to find the place we came out of locked. Barred. So we tried the revolving doors. They were locked too. It was then I had the sick feeling that we were in trouble.

"Can I help you?" a voice asked from a speaker box outside.

Karen spoke up. "We think we're parked here."

"You think you're parked here?"

"Yes," I confirmed. "We're parked here."

"Then come inside." The security guard pressed a button, and we went in, up to the fancy, big, curved desk and explained the situation. "So," he said, "Let me get this straight. No one used their card to let you in." We told him that was right. "Then you can't be parked here."

I felt like an old piece of gum stuck to a barnyard boot--no, I wished I were an old piece of gum stuck to a barnyard boot. We threw ourselves on his mercy. "We're from out of town, and we weren't sure where to park, but since the door kept opening we thought it was okay to park there."

Karen kept her cool and I squirmed as he looked on his security cameras, then agreed to escort us down to find our car. "Does this look familiar?" he asked, as we rode the elevator down.

"Yes," I said, feeling sheepish. Karen took it all in stride. We got out of the elevator and went around the corner, and like a white lighthouse beacon with tires shining through the dark night, there was her car. "It's here!" I laughed, so relieved.

But our adventure wasn't over.

The security guard grilled us on where we came in, pointing to a direction opposite us. "You came in there, right?"

Frustrated, I said, "No. We came in over there--" and pointed to our left.  "We wouldn't have come in at all, but the door opened every time we went by."

The guard's expression changed and he became a little less like a member of the Spanish Inquisition. "That's an exit. You ladies were lucky." He took a breath and went on. "I blocked that door a few hours ago. It was malfunctioning. It would go up halfway, then come down again. Just go out that way,"--he pointed to the first direction he'd quizzed us about--"and it'll take you out."

At least we felt a bit justified about the mistake, and more than a little relieved not to have had the police called on us or anything. My imagination went wild, and though we were both really hungry (having skipped dinner to make sure we got to the concert on time) we got out of Omaha before stopping at a Burger King for  before heading home. I didn't want to chance getting lost again and parking in--I don't know, an entrance to the sewer or something.

So I guess I'm Lucy and Karen is Ethel--though I'm not a redhead and Karen is far more pretty and fashionable than Ethel. I hope we get to go on another adventure soon, but I think we'll avoid suspect parking garages.


Heidi said...

Fun story! I was in that area a few years ago and it was kind of surprising to me how many different states one could drive through in a short amount of time.

Canda said...

Close parking (heehee), great seats, amazing concert... Sounds like a wonderful escape.

Valerie Ipson said...

It's always an adventure when you try to go someplace new.

Jane Isfeld Still said...

I LOVE Lucy and Ethel. LOL. Sound like me on a good day. :)

Karen said...

I forgot to look at this post! You did a wonderful job remembering, and you made me sound much better than I really am. :)
That was fun.