I had just pulled into the parking lot of the local Costco when Angie, my next door neighbor sitting next to me in the car, said, “I don’t know why you’re heading toward the front of the store. This place is so crowded, you’re going to have to park practically in the next county!”
Smiling, I replied, “Maybe, maybe not.”
Sure enough, as I reached the row closest to the entrance, a spot opened up next to one of the handicap spaces.
“Well, I’ll be damned!” exclaimed Angie. “Talk about lucky!” I didn’t say anything. I just let her continue to think it was pure luck.
We did our shopping then hit the food court for some pizza. While we ate, Angie once again mentioned how lucky I had been to have gotten a parking space so close to the front entrance, “Especially since, this place looks almost as crowded as Times Square on New Year’s Eve.” I couldn’t help but laugh at her exaggeration.
Next, we headed for Trader Joe’s. Both of us still had to get certain items for our Christmas dinners that you couldn’t find anywhere else. “One thing for sure,” said Angie, as we waited for the stop light in front of the store’s lot to change, “there’s no way you’re going to find a spot anywhere near the front.”
You should have seen the look on her face when I found a space right in front of the doors. Her eyes bulging, she said, “You’re either the luckiest person in the world, or you have some kind of parking angel on your side.” Glancing sideways at her, I just smiled.
From Trader Joe’s, we headed across the street to the other parking lot where Michael’s was located. Angie wanted to get some yarn for herself, and a Christmas ornament for her niece. I just liked to look at all their stuff. Once again her eyes bugged out when I pulled into a space right in front of the entrance.
“What the hell is going on?” she exclaimed. “I couldn’t score a space close to the front of a store, even if the parking lot was empty!”
“I’ll tell you later,” I said to her. “First, let’s get your stuff then go over to Starbucks for some coffee. I’ll buy.”
Angie eyed me suspiciously, but didn’t say anything until we got our coffees and sat down. “Okay, Jan, so now, tell me what’s going on?”
Taking a sip of my coffee, I began. “It started with my father.”
“Your real father, or your stepfather?”
“No, my real father.”
“I must have been around thirteen the first time I noticed he always seemed to get a parking space right in front of a store or wherever—especially when things were really crowded. When I asked him about it, he told me it was because of his parking angel.”
“And you believed him?”
“I was thirteen; he was my father. Why not?” Angie shrugged and started to take a sip of her coffee. “Anyway, he told me his angel’s named was Crystal.”
Angie spit out some of her coffee back into her cup. “It had a name!”
“Yep! He said he didn’t even have to call on her. If things were crowded, she’d make it so he could find a space close to the front of whatever store he was going to.”
“Sounds a lot like a fairytale.”
I nodded. “Yeah, I know, it does, doesn’t it? But I didn’t care. As a thirteen year old, it felt kind of nice to think about an angel watching over him. But then when he died five years ago, it really hit me hard. It took me at least six months before I even thought about his parking angel again. That was the first time after his death that I asked her for help finding a parking space.”
“And she did?”
Angie looked at me curiously. “So how does this work?”
“If I know things are going to be really crowded, I’ll ask Crystal to help me find a parking space, usually as I leave the house.”
“You say it out loud?”
“Yep! And then I’ll say thank you to her, and tell both her and my dad they’re awesome.”
“That’s your dad’s ghost, you’re talking about?”
Angie shook her head. “Sounds a little crazy to me.”
“I know but, believe it or not, Crystal even saved my life once.”
Angie stared at me, her eyes popping. “She did what!”
“She saved my life.”
“It happened about two years ago. I had just pulled into the Trader Joe’s parking lot, when a spot opened right next to the doors. But when I tried to turn into the space, my car wouldn’t turn.”
“At that moment, I had no idea. All I knew was it felt as if my steering had gone out or something. The car wouldn’t turn! I was freaking out, but kept on rolling forward. That’s when a car behind me pulled into the space where I had originally planned to park. Almost at the same instant, I heard this really loud crunch. For a moment, I thought someone had hit me.
“Stomping on my brakes, I looked back and saw that a car had hit the one in the space where I had tried to park. That’s when I started shaking; I realized it would have been me who had gotten hit had I parked in that spot. A moment later, several cop cars showed up. They arrested the guy in the car that had crashed. It turned out they had been chasing him, because he had car jacked someone. Why he turned into the Trader Joe’s parking lot, only God knows!”
Suddenly, Angie’s eyes got big. “Wait a minute! I remember that incident! Didn’t the woman in the car that got hit die?”
I nodded sadly. “Yeah, a day later in the hospital.”
Angie looked at me serious-like. “And you think you were saved, because your father’s parking angel stopped you from going into that space?”
“Absolutely! Right after it happened, my steering went right back to normal again. It’s never ever froze up like that since.”
“Whoa!” said Angie, her eyes getting big for the moment then drifting down to stare at the table in front of us. I could see she was in deep thought.
“Anyway,” I said after a moment, “how is your sister and her kids doing? Are they coming for Christmas?” That brought her out of her thoughts and we continued to talk until we finished our coffees. Then I said to her, “You ready to go?”
Angie hesitated a moment. “After that story you told me, I’m not sure whether to go home with you, or call Uber for a ride.”
I had to laugh. “Don’t worry. Crystal and my father will make sure nothing happens to us.”
Angie raised a skeptical eyebrow. “I hope you’re right!”