We've all been there, even though you might never admit it. You leave the shopping centre, purchases in hand, and head to your car spot. Only it's not there! You're sure you left it there only an hour or two ago. You remember it clearly. You remember it clearly because you almost fell down the fire stairs when you got out of the driver's seat. And there you are, staring at the same set of stairs with no car in sight. Then you remember that it was raining and you were worried about your new jeans trailing in the puddles andâ€¦ now you have a skirt on and it's not raining. It's dry. The concrete and the cars surrounding you are entirely not-wet. So you mentally retrace your steps - where you drove into the car park, how many aisles you passed before you turned left, the ramp you circled and the spot reserved for Police and Ambulance vehicles you contemplated taking, before seeing the vacant spot at the end of the row. That spot is downstairs, almost directly below where you are currently standing. Then you have to do the whole "I forgot something in the shops" charade for the person waiting to take your car parking spot - the spot that's downstairs, where you aren't.
If you're not smiling it's because you've done it.
How about this scenario: you can't find your car so you walk around aimlessly, pressing the remote in the hopes that your vehicle will pick up the signal and toot - a welcome "I'm here!" in amidst all the other vehicles. When you do eventually locate your vehicle, the reunion is akin to a mother and missing child. The relief is instantaneous and completely overwhelming. You collapse into the seat - any seat - and stifle a sob. You found it. Your car. Cue parting clouds and angelic choirs.
But back to the fire stairs. In a recent study published in the Applied Cognitive Psychology, women relied more on 'visible landmarks' - read, fire stairs - (38% women versus 15% men) and took more indirect routes to find a missing car, while men took a more direct route as they are better at estimating distances. The study showed that men were significantly better at guessing the location of a car on a mapi
Of course, you could always download an app to your smartphone (such as "Where Did I Park My Car?"ii) so you can remember where you parked your car via GPS - or, take a photo as it'll more than likely be geotagged. If you snap a shot of the sign for the area you've parked in (Smith Street, A2, Blue Fish etc) it'll also tag the shot with the GPS co-ordinates so you can't possibly forget. Probably. You just have to remember to take the photo. Perhaps you could set a reminder to take a photo.
Shopping centres aren't the only places to lose your car, however. Train stations are another prime culprit, discombobulating unsuspecting passengers at their point of embarkation by moving their vehicles while they're away. Multi-storied carparks outside concert venues do the same thing. Audience members lose themselves for a few hours, listening to their favourite artists, only to have lost their cars when they return with ringing ears and wringing hands.
Then there are the times when your car is not lost, but towed. You obviously might not expect it at first so there's much searching before you take the time to read the parking restrictions - something you really should have done when you originally parked your car. You chase down the number for the towing company, pay the fee, and become one with your car yet again.
Every drivers worst nightmare is of course is that your car has been stolen and after a few minutes of unsuccessful car hunting this is surely the first thing that springs to mind. If you absolutely cannot survive without a car you may choose to take out a car insurance policy which includes third party property damage, fire and theft cover, just in case.
It's nothing to be ashamed of. It's not a sign of advancing age and memory loss. It could simply be a matter of not reading, not paying attention or not being familiar with your surroundings. Just remember to laugh.