I was lost. Not panicky yet, but on the verge.
The reality hit me as forcefully as the rain that soaked my clothes, the cold winds that swirled around me. I stopped to remove my fogged glasses which made seeing even more difficult in the dark night, but in that instant when I stopped, the hordes of people who were walking behind me stepped around to unintentionally get between me and my fearless leader: Pretty.
We were exiting Colonial Life Arena following the hastily scheduled South Carolina women’s basketball game against Mississippi State last night because our original opponent, Ole Miss, couldn’t safely play due to health protocols. Pretty and I had questioned whether we should even go to the game in the first place but decided to take the risk since we knew the people who always sat in our area would be vaccinated and wearing masks.
Not so fast, my friend. Apparently a family of three had purchased the tickets for the seats in front of us that had been empty during the preseason games – a young couple with a little boy who sat between them. None of them wore a mask. Bummer.
The game was fun, the #1 team in the nation rebounded from our loss at Mizzou on Thursday night; Pretty and I were in a celebratory mood by the time the game reached its 80 – 68 conclusion only to be greeted by a monsoon when we stepped outside to start the trek for our car. The weatherman had predicted inclement weather, and I had worn my lucky Gamecock baseball cap along with a lightweight windbreaker in the unlikely event he was right, but Pretty doubted his track record for forecasts and opted to come bareheaded without a raincoat.
Parking for our game had also been a bit tricky. Our assigned parking lot which was in a garage directly across from CLA was closed so we had parked much farther away in an open lot that was a hike from the arena. Pretty, who always drove us everywhere, had taken great care to park our new (to us) family car toward the back of the lot when we arrived.
I had hollered to Pretty when we began walking toward the car after the game for her to go on ahead of me, that I would follow her, not a problem. I sincerely believed it. (A) I walk for 45 minutes every morning so the 10 minute walk to our car should be easy (B) Pretty was getting drenched and hated getting wet with a passion (C) I never walked as fast as she did and didn’t want to slow her down. It seemed like such a great plan.
Everyone knows the best laid plans of mice and men oft go astray.
Clearly our plan and I both went astray in that parking lot. I was sure I remembered where we parked two daylight hours earlier, but that didn’t help when I walked to where I thought we were – and we weren’t there. But a biting cold wind was there along with a deluge of rain on a dark night illuminated only by the headlights of car after car driving around me while I wandered in a wilderness of disorientation looking for Pretty.
At one point I thought I saw our new car pulling around and slowing down for me. Such a relief – Pretty on the move to get me. But alas, as I approached the passenger door of the front seat, the man who was driving waved me away. I scared him almost as much as I scared myself.
Finally I stopped for shelter under a large tree in the middle of the lot. I’ll just give Pretty a call, I thought, and fumbled in my pocket for my phone when that nasty know-it-all sarcastic voice in my head that I knew only too well reminded me of those famous last words I uttered before we left home for the game. No need to take my phone – no one ever calls me except you, I had told Pretty, and I’ll be with you. Okay, time to panic.
My one comfort was I knew Pretty wouldn’t leave without me.
“Sheila, SHEILA, SHEILA!” I heard Pretty yelling for me and finally saw her standing in the wind and rain, waving frantically from a short distance across an exit lane in the parking lot. I was found.
Pretty laughed at my story of the man who wasn’t her. We were both happy the Gamecocks won – and I promised to bring my cell phone to every game.
Stay safer, stay saner, please get vaccinated and please stay tuned.