Parking Down Memory Lane

The search for lost cars

Illustration by Brad Fitzpatrick

Winter in New Hampshire is an opportune time to examine how memory works. Nothing suits our shut-in cabin fever chills better than pondering the imponderable.

Now, if you’re “from away,” and before you get your indignant union suit flaps in a bunch, I’m not claiming that snowbound souls in other parts of the world don’t similarly suffer through their cold and dark seasons, but New Hampshire is unique in its terrain, and Granite Staters independent in their temperaments.

Nothing runs east and west here, and except for intersections, everything is a four-way stop (pardon my metaphor, but that should take care of both our geography and our mindsets).

New Hampshire winter living is best exemplified by looking at the different ways men and women remember. Let’s take Samuel and Jenny, lifelong NH residents and real friends of mine, but not their real names. I promised them that I’d never tell about their methodology and practice of effectively dealing with the artful dodge of recollection.

In this case, how they both solve the problem of finding lost things.

In this lower case, their cars.

Like the rest of us ruralites, their short-term memories are short-circuited by big, full parking lots. When they go to a department store separately and search for a front-door-approximate parking space, and before having to settle for a spot halfway to Massachusetts, they’ll first circumnavigate the area a minimum of 10 times. Not their fault. It’s the law.

Samuel, upon leaving the store and remembering that he forgot where he parked, will apply geometric deduction and begin to hike the outer perimeter, maintaining a purposeful stride, refining his search into smaller concentric paths until he happens upon his vehicle.

"As a male, his primary goal is not to find his car, but to ensure that no one notices his predicament."

Or, true to manly form, he will assume it’s been towed or stolen. Or he will convince himself that he’s finally slipped into dementia, and when it’s all over, he’s checking in for that brain scan. Or a variation of all of the above.

As a male, his primary goal is not to find his car, but to ensure that no one notices his predicament, much the same way that the goal of fishing is not to catch a fish but rather to be fishing.

Jenny, however, will simply apply the natural prowess that women have for problem solving:

She will not care if anyone notices her dilemma, and will in fact make a show of her haplessness, especially if it’s nearing the end of a long day. At the height of our winter, that is equivalent to its beginning (see: four-way stops).

This unabashed display of her obvious befuddlement will often attract another woman who has also misplaced her vehicle, and they’ll each go off in search of the other’s. When this fails and they reconnoiter at the storefront, they’ll draw upon the supreme logic that only women possess (I will not debate the political correctness of that assertion, so don’t even try it): They’ll go to a nearby restaurant, sit contented and commiserating in a warm booth facing the parking lot … and simply wait for everyone else to drive away.

High and low and behold, their cars eventually materialize.

Now, if I’m remembering correctly from last winter, this is how to best make it through until spring. 


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