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Hospital visit made interesting with trying to find my car

Updated: May 7

By Edward A. Forbes

The Bulletin

I undertook a visit to my brother, Donnis, at St. Lukes Hospital in the Houston medical center, a journey that many of my friends and people of a certain age are familiar with, but as is usual, my journey was not normal.

I loaded up my trusty Ford Flex for the pilgrimage to the medical center and decided to use the 288-toll road on my journey. It was a lovely Saturday morning, and the traffic was still heavy as was the construction.

I traveled at a slightly sub-par Nascar speed, bouncing over joints and bumper strips that meandered through the lanes in the construction areas in a semblance of road racing tracks. No figure eights though, just a drunken stagger throughout the journey. I elected to allow GPS to guide me to the 6624 Fannin parking garage.

I arrived at my destination and found I needed to circle the block to be on the proper side to enter the parking areas. In my panic, after passing public parking and before arriving at the valet parking, I entered a narrow entrance with construction sawhorses and a warning “7-foot clearance.”

I put my credit card in the machine, the arm lifted, but no ticket emerged. I proceeded up the ramp, and the first level was “reserved for Door-Dash and food deliveries only;” the second level was “reserved parking for Westin Hotel Valet only,” and the third level was “free valet parking.”

An elderly attendant sat at a podium; I lowered my window. “Do I need to leave my keys with you?” I asked. “No” he replied. “Just park in that spot.” “It’s a handicapped spot, and I’m not handicapped” I replied. “It will be just fine and keep your keys” he assured me.

I did as he said and left, not feeling particularly reassured, to find the elevators. I took the elevator to the sky walk and then began a hike to find the elevators to St. Luke’s hospital’s 14th floor. They used to have colored stripes on the floor (or maybe the walls) to direct you, but now it’s overhead signs, and purple was the color that directed me around various turns to the yellow elevators.

I nervously asked a nurse, “will this get me to the patient’s rooms?” She assured me that all was well. I arrived at my floor, exited, and at the nurse’s station was given directions (a range of room numbers with arrows were displayed on walls as well). I finally arrived at my brother’s room.

We visited for a couple of hours and various doctors (cardiologist, cardiac physiologist, urologists), nurses, and finally a technician drifted through. This technician performed an echocardiogram on him. I stayed until the exam was completed and then left around 3 p.m. to hopefully get a jump on the after-work traffic.

I reversed my trek to the sky walk and an elevator to the parking garage. I got off the elevator, and nothing looked the same. I didn’t remember all the red paint (signs, arrows, and directions).

I decided, “Oh well, that’s just me” and started walking around the 3rd level looking for my car and then the 4th level, the 5th level, and back to 3rd level, 2nd level, and back to 3rd level.

No car, no landmark I recognized. There were some areas blocked off for construction, but they didn’t lead to anything helpful. I went back to the elevators and down to the cash pay level. I asked the gentleman how to find my car, and he referred me to another gentleman with an information sign on his desk. He unfortunately didn’t understand me and essentially sent me back to the parking level I had begun my now-slightly irritating search.

I decided to go to the street level and walk down Fannin to see if I recognized the entrance I used. I found it! One entrance before the valet parking that I was supposed to use. There was no pedestrian entrance, so I walked up the ramps keeping a wary eye open, watching for cars, which would suddenly appear. I walked up to the 3rd level, and hallelujah, there was my car. It was still in the handicapped reserved parking space, no nasty notes, and no attendant or podium in evidence. I loaded myself in the car and started to exit the parking spot. There was a car behind me, just sitting there, with a person of the female persuasion, doing what - I have no idea. I backed up as far as I could, pulled forward, cut the wheels and backed up again.

She finally pulled up about three feet, and I negotiated a path around her and her vehicle, wishing her a good day and a happy life in the process. I made it down to the exit, and the machine there had directions - “scan your parking ticket.”

I didn’t have one and didn’t get one when I came in. “For lost tickets, insert the credit card you used to enter lot.” I did, and the arm lifted, but no receipt emerged from the machine. All this fun stuff led to my entry into the Houston 4:30 p.m. traffic, and there was a lot of it.

I arrived back in Angleton a little over an hour later, still early enough to purchase a Holy Comforter Episcopal Church Lenten fish dinner. I then went home and collapsed into my recliner; dinner could wait until I lowered my heart and exasperation levels.

The positive side of all this is - on my subsequent visits - I didn’t make the same errors, and apart from using the 288-toll road (which is extremely expensive), the return visits went smoothly.

I don’t get horribly upset when I make errors like this. That was a thing of my youth; now it’s just “things could have been worse.”

My brother went home after a week in the hospital and is doing as well as can be expected. He’s tough and a trooper.

As proof that these things are self-inflicted, I must tell you  about my new 65-inch 4K capable TV. I purchased it on sale at a competitive price, and my son hooked it up for me. That evening, as I was watching a program, I noticed that in the protagonist’s apartment there was a painting exactly like the one in my living room. This can’t be! My brother painted that for me as a birthday present! I then realized that my living room wall (and painting) were reflected on the screen. None of these types of things embarrass me anymore. This is either a sign of maturity or senility, and I’m not sure of which.

(Edward Forbes wants to hear from you. Email him at or send comments by snail mail to The Bulletin, P.O. Box 2426, Angleton TX. 77516.)


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