I HAVE lost my car in a multi-storey in Hull and this says something about me as a man. Men carry on when they can’t remember where they parked, so I am not being man enough about this.
This will be revealed by the man who miraculously tracks down my car, a sort of lion-hunter of these concrete plains – or, in this instance, a Leon-hunter.
I stand before the sign reading inquiries. In my mind it says: “Idiots queue here.” The car park office has a mirrored wall and I see a reflection of a balding bloke in a white shirt and Levis. He is frowning.
I have been here for an interview. Crime writer Nick Quantrill, that friendly man of Hull, told me to park in one car park and I accidentally ended up in another. A small misunderstanding, but not a surprising one if you are me.
The car park has many storeys and I park somewhere near the top. On the way out, I notice a sign saying that you need your registration for the payment machine. I find a scrap of paper in my wallet and write it down.
Two hours later I return and type the registration on the screen where you pay. It doesn’t recognise the car, so I type it out again. Still no joy, but the machine lets you estimate your time of arrival and you pay accordingly. Two hours in the centre of Hull cost me £1.90 – a sum they’d charge you in York for driving past and thinking of parking your car.
Feeling pleased with myself for having worked all that out, I go up to the top floor where I parked my car. And it’s nowhere to be seen. I dash around, but it’s still not there. Concrete rampways are climbed and descended. But that car is still not there.
After ten minutes of this, I admit defeat and walk all the way down the concrete stairs and find myself in a dead end by the fire escape doors. I go back up the stairs, trudge across more concrete acres until I am looking at myself in that mirrored wall.
Remembering that the machine didn’t recognise the car, I wonder if I have wandered into a different multi-storey or possibly a parallel universe.
The window opens and the car park boss, enormous through the smallish opening, listens to my sorry tale. He is unsurprised by what I say. Happens all the time, apparently.
He sends someone out to help me. This man is the most cheerful car-park worker in the whole of Hull or quite possibly the world. He writes the registration on the edge of his hand, where another number is already there in a biro tattoo.
This valiant hunter of lost cars then dashes off, saying: “I know where it’ll be.” Which is more than I do. Five minutes later, he returns and takes me up in the lift. I apologise for my idiocy. He assures me that I am a gem. “Women come and ask for help,” he says. “But most men carry on when they can’t find their car. When I show them where it is, they say, ‘Well, you must have moved it’.”
As he leads me to the car, he says that the multi-storey has a new numbering system. For now the floors have different numbers depending whether you are inside or outside the parking area. He generously offers that as an explanation for my car dislocation.
“Never lost a car from this place in 30 years,” the friendly man says, whizzing off to rescue the next forgetful driver.
This leaves me wondering why I am not man enough to have a testosterone fuelled paddy about my own stupidity. It seems that I am just like a woman when it comes to losing my car.
I drive down all the levels, remembering why crime dramas set car chases in these places, all concrete claustrophobia, steep ramps and crying tyres.
My own tyres are not crying as I pull up at the automatic barrier. This doesn’t budge. Other cars pull up behind me. I have spent so long looking for my car that I have outstayed my welcome. I press the help button.
“Hello, you just helped me find my car and…”
“Hang on a moment, sir” says the cheerful man who has been 30 years in this place.
The barrier rises and I head for home, a journey that passes without incident so long as you overlook me losing my way around Beverley. And that, for non-northern readers, is a pretty market town and not a girl.