The other week I was having difficulty unlocking my car door. I knew the lock couldn’t be frozen because despite the cold, the temperatures had not reached the freezing-locks-shut point.

Then I looked at the interior of the car – it was remarkably clean. No straw wrappers on the passenger seat and no random sweatshirt on the backseat.

This, apparently, was not the vehicle I was looking for. Of course the door wouldn’t unlock; this wasn’t my car. My car was parked next to it. This was my car’s doppelganger.

I used to have a car whose color would best be described as electric blue. It easily stood out not just because of the color; my car was also missing all four hubcaps so it was quite recognizable. My current car is a black, four-door vehicle and has all of its hubcaps. It blends in very well with all other existing black, four-door cars.

And that’s a bit of a problem.

You see, there are times when I don’t pay attention to where I park. Typically, I try to pull my car into a space near a visible landmark like a light post, tree or a shopping cart corral. But many times – especially around the holiday shopping season when parking lots are filled with vehicles – I have only a vague idea of where my car is located. I can recall about how many aisles from the store’s doors the lane was, what direction the traffic was flowing or if the car was near the ends or middle of the aisle.

This lack of awareness can result in a rousing game of “wander the parking lot, find your car.” It’s a tad frustrating for me and, I’m sure in the busy shopping season, when drivers follow people walking to their cars in hopes of finding a great parking spot. At times I’ve felt like going up to these people and letting them know they are more than welcome to my parking spot – I just have to remember where that is.

There are a few minor distinguishing physical characteristics on my vehicle like the ding in the passenger side back door or the fact the driver’s side front tire’s hubcap is secured by a zip tie. My car’s exterior is also a bit on the dirty side.

It turns out the car I thought was mine but wasn’t had parked next to my car. I just hadn’t been paying much attention. I saw a four-door black car with a state park sticker on the windshield and thought “This is me.” I know that car hadn’t been there when I pulled in because I try not to park right next to a vehicle that looks like mine.

This game of “find the car” is not new; I played it a lot in college when I only used my car a few times a month. If the lot was full, I would wander around trying to remember where my car was located. Thankfully, since my car was bright red with a spoiler on the back, it didn’t take too long to find it. Unless it was covered with snow. Those were what I refer to as the challenge rounds of the car finding game.

I should probably find a way to differentiate my car from all the others that look eerily similar to it. Maybe it needs some type of decoration from the antenna that is easy to discern; or maybe it needs something distinctive hanging from the rearview mirror; or, I could just learn to pay better attention to where I park.

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