I went to The Grove last weekend and paid eleven bucks to see a movie, eight bucks for a shrimp po'boy at that great Cajun place in The Farmer's Market, and twenty-two bucks for parking. For an additional three bucks I could have parked on the street and taken the expired one-hour meter ticket, so it's nice that they give you the option.
Granted, I parked at the fancy valet that looks like you could be pulling up to The Beverly Hills Four Seasons. They have couches, coffee tables, magazines and Tiffany lamps, and naturally they're going to want extra for that. There were only nineteen spots left in the regular parking, and the wait was estimated at half an hour, which would have meant missing the entire first trimester of Knocked Up. Either way, valet parking was a bold choice, since I've recently filed for unemployment, and my friend B. quit his sensible, well-paid job to find himself.
Living below the poverty line here in Hollywood, we are strangers in a strange land skulking around under cover. Since we are both loquacious, alarmingly overeducated and impeccably well-dressed, it's not much a challenge for B. and me to pull one over on our would be peers living the life that somehow eludes us. Passing muster with the ever suspicious help, however, is another matter. A guy who knows desperation when he smells it doesn't appreciate you masquerading around as one of them when you're really one of us.
I sensed I'd been made right up front when the valet made me an offer on my car. He was one of those fast talking young Latinos with a future in either high end auto sales or the ministry. I'm pretty sure he wasn't having this conversation with the drivers of the Mercedes and Lexus SUVs lining up all the way out to the curb for a crack at one of those monster salads at The Cheesecake Factory and a quick buzz through the housewares department at Barney's.
No, it was definitely the dented, 1998 Civic hatchback my mother passed down when she bought herself a new hybrid that gave me away. You have to roll your own windows up and down, so I shouldn't have been offended by his lowball offer. He seemed somehow hurt when I politely declined it, as though he couldn't imagine any other reason I'd be in this neighborhood if not to make a quick cash sale of my most valuable personal belonging.
In retrospect, my biggest mistake was laughing at him out loud, brushing him off and going back to my really important conversation with B. about Steven Spielberg's choice to support Hillary Clinton for President over Barack Obama. Three hours later, when I went to retrieve my car from the enormous, high-end operation, defying all odds, the same valet hopped out. He'd adjusted all the seats and mirrors and was listening to a festive Tejano station on the stereo. He'd either taken it to the car wash and asked for their cheapest air freshener or spent enough time driving it around town that his own cologne--I'm guessing an Aramis knock-off he picked up at Rite Aid--had perma-stamped his signature fragrance throughout the interior.
He seemed disappointed when I offered proof that I had indeed been able to pony up the colossal sum for the parking, as if my failure to do so might have resulted in his ownership of the vehicle by default. B.'s generous tip only added injury to insult. Taking my keys from him, I looked directly into his eyes, something people rarely do in this town, and I felt a twinge of guilt. While I have a dream to cling to like a life raft, bobbing up and down in this ocean of endless possibility while patiently awaiting my rescue, any number of equally deserving folks never even make it off the boat.