Exhausted woman drivingBy Paul Reeves, CAPP

I can feel the red-hot verbs in the message before they ever push through the hand-held radio speaker. My eyes can’t hide the frustration I feel hearing the request for manager assistance at the hospital exit lane for the ninth time in three hours. Where is that short straw? I don’t even remember seeing straws, much less the back of my eyelids in the past two days. “Ten-four, en-route, one mike.”  I tell myself to “breathe with respect” despite my desire to spew fire from both nostrils to the entire exit plaza.

“Good evening, my name is Paul Reeves, I am the manager of this parking facility. I understand you’ve lost your ticket…”

“I just need to leave.” he interrupts, surprisingly calmly. But as I bend to look at him in the eye, I notice her holding her head with both hands, elbows dug into her knees, sitting still in the front passenger seat. His eyes and cheeks are red. My mind goes to priority alert one and my heart feels black as my eyes find the empty toddler car seat in the back of the sedan. The hospital bracelets are in a pile on the adjacent seat.

“Yes sir, right away.” I give  instructions to raise that gate while glaring into our parking ambassador’s eyes, conveying the highest urgency. That stupid wooden gate is holding back a flood of grief no person on the planet should experience. If it doesn’t go up in the next second, I may personally destroy it so this man and lady can drive away from their night of pain and misery.

The car leaves our sight. I tell our ambassador I’m sorry for not addressing how to handle these types of situations yet. She gives me a hug and we both cry for a few moments together.

This is hospital parking.

Paul Reeves, CAPP, is assistant director, fleet and business operations, with Emory University Transportation and Parking Services.