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Saturday, January 30, 2010

Life as Lucy Ricardo, Part XV – -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- Mr. Magoo Rides Again

During my years handling public relations/media relations for the California school district, I enjoyed many invitations to speak to student groups and other school districts. The university classes were the most fun and, although my ability to drive at night was getting iffy, I continued to accept invitations – but with caution.

On a particular early evening, I was headed to Cal State Fullerton to speak to a colleague’s PR class. Entering the campus on an attractive, divided street, I made a left turn into the designated parking lot and carefully surveyed the area. I would be exiting the parking lot after dark, so I needed to get a handle on the layout.

I noted that the lot’s entrance blossomed wide with neat parking rows to the right. I located a strategic parking place and pulled in. It would be simple. I would back out of the parking place on the last row and hug the curb which would take me to the campus street which would then lead me to the traffic light where I would exit the campus. I knew how to proceed safely home from there. Staying close to the parking lot’s curb would prevent me from getting “lost” at the wide entrance. Obviously, at the end of the curb I would be in position for the right turn.

With my exit strategy in place, I went into the adjacent building, found the classroom and had a lively discussion about school public relations with the students. I was still jazzed when the instructor walked me to my car. I assured her that I’d be fine getting home.

Exactly as planned, I backed out of the parking place, spotted the curb and eased the car along that border until it ended and I took a right onto the waiting pavement.

It wasn’t long until something just didn’t feel right. In the darkness, I could see little outside the beams of my headlights. I couldn’t make out the landscaped divider that was supposed to be on my left. I began to think that I’d made a wrong turn, but I had seen no other streets entering the parking lot. Knowing that I must be going in the right direction, I continued slowly.

Until a street light on my left illuminated the area sufficiently to answer all my questions.

I was driving down a sidewalk.

The walkway was wide enough to accommodate the car, but just barely. If I had tried to drive that far on the sidewalk, I’d have ended up in the grass. But there I was.

I came to a complete stop, and I’m sure you know the first thing you do in a situation like that. You look around to find out if anyone has seen you. No students; no cars; no campus cops. So I could laugh before figuring out how to get the heck out of there.

There was no choice. I had to back out to the place where the sidewalk flowed into the parking lot. I’ve never excelled at driving in reverse and, at that point in life, I had certainly proved that I wasn’t great at night driving. I inched backwards occasionally opening my door to ensure that I was still on pavement. I thought it would take all night, but eventually I could tell that I’d made it to the parking lot.

I cautiously made the turn off the walkway and carefully pulled forward to ensure that this time I made the proper turn. Bingo! I accelerated on the way to the exit traffic light and then made for home.

Mr. Magoo and I must have had guardian angels protecting us despite our misadventures.

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