Saturday, November 26, 2005

Do not park here

The garage on Ellsworth between 1st and 2nd Avenues in downtown San Mateo is not a safe place, especially at night. Maybe that's why nobody parks there, making it even less safe. I think it's called the Downtown Central Garage. To be unsafe in such a nice neighborhood shows terrible design. It's small but deserted, walled by concrete so noone can see or probably even hear if anything happens inside, and has a dead end in the basement level. It's also not staffed but you have to pay, and the pay machine forces you to stand with your back vulnerable.

The saga. My friend and I were driving separately and I was following her. We couldn't find parking in the garage by the movie theater, so I followed her out to find parking elsewhere. She turned into this garage, but for some reason, I just got the feeling I didn't want to park there. Bad vibes maybe? So I went to look for street parking. Yeah, I just peered in and it looked so enclosed with concrete.

After finishing having tea at the Hong Kong dessert place next to the theater, I went along with her to get her car first. A good thing because she probably had a much higher chance of being mugged otherwise. As we walked in the garage, there was a man coming up the driveway from the basement. Strangely enough, he turned up behind us on the ramp we were going up, and there is definitely no reason to do this, as the exit is the other direction which is where you would go if you had just parked your car downstairs. And if he needed to go to the first floor parking area, there was no reason for him to have been coming from downstairs. Even more so, by 9pm, there is no reason to park in a pay garage as there is plenty of street parking, so the only reason he could have had for coming from downstairs would be looking for people to mug.

I can "watch" our behinds with peripheral vision and watching our shadows in front of us. It's a good thing when the light is behind and the shadows clearly fall pretty far in front. So my thinking goes, as long as I can't see his shadow, he's just far enough behind us to have enough time to run out the other entrance. My friend actually didn't stop at the pay station because the guy was following us. So we did actually walk out the other entrance. The guy went through the glass doors by the pay station where the elevator is. Yeah, interesting path if he had just come from downstairs parking.

We returned a few minutes later to the pay station. Lo and behold, the guy comes out of the glass doors again, slithers around and watches us for a few seconds, walks a little too close passing behind us to the other side, loiters around a car nearby that he doesn't get into, walks a little further, turns around to face us and watches us from a slight distance, but too far to be normal if he were waiting to pay for parking, which he wasn't since he had just come from the dead-end basement parking level, and didn't stop to pay the first time he walked by the pay machine. My friend was getting a bit nervous and jittery as the pay machine wasn't working. And she was quite obviously watching him nervously. I was watching him sideways and thinking, "Okay, my friend is nervous but you can't take on the both of us, if even one. We're not idiots." My friend is deceptively strong too, and well, I have to rely on my brain to compensate for muscle. (However, in time of need, I do know kung fu like Zhang Ziyi....)

Finally, it's done, and we go through the glass doors, aware the guy is now walking back towards us. We don't wait for the elevator, and instead walk out the other side and back around to go down the ramp to the basement. This is a dead end, so I'm thinking, as soon as we set foot down there we have to move fast. My friend is not a fast person so this is making me a little nervous.

We didn't see the guy following us anymore, but as we drove out of the garage and around the block, I peered into the garage, and geez, this guy is standing in the middle of the deserted garage just staring out like watching us. Okay, there is no reason for a guy to be standing in the garage doing that. The only things normal to do in a garage are either pay for your parking or get your car and leave.

Given the need, I think I can fight off the guy. But I'd run and yell first before even getting into that situation. But even before that, I don't even park there.