Alcott Held Hostage, Day 5 : The Look of Lorne

My kids attend preschool nearby.

The school is in this weird kind of mini-mall. The mini-mall has an two parking lots. One is very small, like 15 cars, and on street level. The other is two levels deep and holds plenty of cars.

The first day I came to drop my kids off at school, there were no parking places on street level. I didn’t know where the school was located (it’s deep within this odd, twisty inner-court) so I figured I’d better park in the underground lot.

Parking in Los Angeles is a constant hassle. If they’re not trying to rip you off, charging you eight bucks an hour for parking your car, they’re trying to park it “for” you, so you have to tip the valet guys too. So there’s always a little tension around parking lots.

I pull into this parking lot. There’s an attendant there, looks like Lorne Greene, but older, maybe 70, with a grey moustache. He’s got a little desk in the middle of the entrance to the parking garage. It’s his job to hand out tickets to cars coming into his lot. Some garages have a little robot machine on a post doing this job, this place has Lorne Greene.

I roll down the window and say, perfectly cheerfully, “Hi, I’m just dropping my kids off for school.” Lorne Greene smiles at me and waves me in. No ticket, no paying. I park, I take my kids upstairs to the school, I leave, I get my car, I pull out of the garage, I wave to Lorne Greene as I go out.

Next time I go to deliver my kids to the school, I pull up to the entrance, Lorne Greene sees me coming and takes out a little ticket to give me. I roll down the window and say, again, perfectly cheerfully, “Hi, I’m just here to drop off my kids off at school.” This time, Lorne Greene gives me a look that could pierce tin. He waves me in with a wave that indicates that, if he chose to do so, he would crush me like a bug and eat my children while my severed head watched. This time, while leaving, I make a special point of trying to catch his eye so I can wave cheerfully at him. He makes a special point of avoiding looking at me altogether.

Every time after that, it’s the same thing. Lorne Greene hates me. Every time, he sees my car coming, takes out a little ticket, I roll down my window and say “Hi, I’m just here to drop my kids off at school –” and he gives me another tin-piercing look. He never says “Doesn’t matter, you have to take a ticket,” never says anything. Just that look. Every time, he hopes I’m there to park for money, and every time he’s thwarted, his unused ticket clutched useless in the iron fist of his Lorne Greene-like hands.

I know what happened. That first time, he saw a dad with a car full of kids, it was their first day at school, and he thought “Hey, I’ll givethis guy a break, show him what a swell guy I am.” But then I pulled the same stunt again and again and again, and now he feels like I’m taking advantage of his good nature. He feels like I think I’m some kind of landed gentry, rolling into his domain in my fancy carriage, doffing my snuff tin to him as he grovels in the filth for roots and berries. I can see it in his face. He’d like to murder me. He’d do it too, if he thought he could get away with it.

Look. I’m not a praying man, but this look from Lorne Greene has so unnerved me that every time I go to drop off my kids at school, I pray, I pray there is a street-level parking space available, and I rejoice whenever there is. It isn’t often.

This relationship, which has, to date, taken up a total of about 35 seconds of my life, has been haunting me all out of proportion. I’ve developed a Larry-David-level anxiety about what I’m supposed to do to make this man happy, and why he won’t tell me why he hates me so much. My wife, of course, thinks I’m crazy and imagining the whole thing.

Then, the other day, I’m hanging out with my son and a friend of his from school, and I’m talking about the school and the parking lot and his friend’s mother (her name is Susan) starts talking about Lorne Greene. Apparently I’m not the only one who approaches this man’s podium with fear. Apparently he puts the heebie-jeebies into everyone who parks there. Susan has taken it upon herself to learn the man’s biography, in the hopes of better understanding him.

It seems that Lorne Greene is Afghani, a doctor by trade, and fled his homeland during the Russian invasion back in the 70s. He came to LA with the intent of bringing his family over with him, but they were captured and killed by the Russians. Either from heartbreak or bad planning, he’s unable to practice medicine in the US, speaks little English and works at this podium in this mini-mall, handing out tickets to motorists all day. Apparently he’s one of the angriest, most miserable men on the planet, for good reason, and every time I pull up to his entrance I diminish him that much more by denying him the one miniscule action that American society has deemed him worthy to do.

Strangely, Lorne Greene is not the only “sole survivor” we know about in our neighborhood. Apparently the West Side is teeming with Iranians who fled Iran when the Shah got kicked out. My son has a friend at school whose father is a sticker magnate (yes, he manufactures stickers for a living, and a good living it is) and whose mother is some kind of actual Iranian royalty, again, whose entire rest of family was killed trying to escape on camelback.

And all I ever escaped from was Illinois.
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3 Responses to “Alcott Held Hostage, Day 5 : The Look of Lorne”
  1. eronanke says:

    Why not bring him a small present on ‘Jeshen’, (AKA: Afghani Independence Day)? It’s August 19th. Unfortunately, you missed “Remembrance Day for Martyrs and Disabled”, which was in May.

  2. urbaniak says:

    Man. That is like an episode of “Curb Your Enthusiasm.”

  3. Anonymous says:

    One day.
    For just one day.
    Park there.
    He deserves victory once.
    And Illinois misses you.