Two days ago, my friend’s car went missing. This was a major problem for two reasons:
- It’s pretty awful to lose a whole car.
- We needed the car to get to work.
We were both working in Chicago at a tradeshow, and the car went missing on the first day of work. My friend lives in Chicago but she had just come back from working in Denver and didn’t realize her car was gone until the morning we needed to drive.
That morning, we stared at the empty space where she swore her car had been. And we looked for ‘No Parking’ signs, or street cleaning signs, but we didn’t see any. We wandered the neighborhood helplessly until finally, near tears, we had to leave and ended up calling an Uber.
Later, my friend found her car- it had been towed. Turns out the whole city of Chicago is known to have ‘tow bait’ blocks, where cars will be parked and then towed without much notice for some reason or another. Signs would be posted at the last minute in order to trap unsuspecting out of town drivers and tow their cars away.
The car and sign issues kept happening.
Tonight I was running to catch the train to Chicago Midway airport right after work. My aforementioned friend was driving me to the train station, but we couldn’t find her car once again. We’d just gotten the car out of the tow pound the night before and parked it at the Chicago convention center. But we couldn’t remember where we parked it. We realized we weren’t seeing the signs right in front of us.
Parking Spot N3
We followed those signs to Lot A and tracked down parking spot N3. We found her car, and she drove me to the train station, where I saw a sign for my train to midway.
The sign for the train to midway was mixed in with a bunch of other train signs. I had to know where to look. And I remembered from other times I’d been to Chicago how annoying and hard to understand the Chicago train signs were. I remembered the signs from experience so I was able to find what I needed.
And then I started thinking about all the simple signs everywhere but are sometimes hard to see and recognize. I feel really silly when I pull a door that says ‘push’ or when I go down the subway stairs that say ‘uptown’ when I really want to go downtown. Similar problems arise when I don’t see stop signs and breeze through them or ask where the restroom is while the big ‘Restroom this way’ sign is right in front of me.
In my thirties, I’ve experienced this lack of seeing over and over. I’ve made the lack-of-reading-signs mistake so often that I should know to look up- the world is giving directions. The directions are so simple as to be laughable- I’ve seen them before. The signs are right in front of my face.
Do you find this to be true sometimes? We’re so distracted by our thoughts and our worries and our iPhones and our preconceived notions. We end up in our heads trying to figure life out, but blind to the clues around us.
Are you truly seeing the signs in your thirties? Are you used to them by now? Or are you still stuck in your own head, buried in thought and missing all the simple notifications that can tell you exactly what to do?