So I went downtown earlier this week to meet up with a friend and former coworker who I haven’t spoken to in years. We had a great time catching up at this bar La Cita, next door to Grand Central Market in DTLA.

I parked in the structure adjoining the Market. On my way up the ramp I glanced at the parking info sign, saw that the lot closed at ten, but kept going because it also seemed to indicate that cars would be able to leave after then. I got my ticket and parked. I went next door. I had a beer.

It’s now around 10:30, and I’m headed back to the garage. But the metal gates are down over the ramp. The door I exited from is locked. I figured there had to be another exit around the corner, otherwise why would that sign say that I could get my car out? I walked around the corner and down the block, and found the other exit.

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It too had its metal gate down. The door was locked. Slowly beginning to panic, I walked around the block again, back to the first gate, thinking about how I’d have to Lyft home, get up at like six the next morning, and Lyft back to pick up my car before the traffic hit. I got back to the first gate and noticed a smaller sign I hadn’t seen before, with an after-hours access number on it.

The number was disconnected. I tried twice.

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Now I’m really freaked out. Three people are talking on the sidewalk next to me, one of them walks over to the locked door and pops it open to let his two friends in. We lock eyes, he motions me over, and says to me if you pay your ticket — you do have your ticket, right? Good. If you pay your ticket at the machine, the gate will automatically open when you get there. No worries, have a great night.

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I don’t know who this dude is, but he seemed authoritative. I walked into the garage, I paid my ticket, I got in my car, I drove down the ramp, and I waited behind a SUV paying his ticket at the gate. He does, the arm goes up, he drives through, he pauses, the big metal gate rolls up, he drives out. Easy.

I figure I can just follow him out, that the gate will stay open for me. I pulled up to the arm, I put my ticket in, it lifts, I start driving forward, the big metal gate comes down quickly, I stop and say a bad word, the arm comes down behind me, blocking me into a space not much longer than my car, hemmed in on the left and right by high metal-lined curbs. I am now more stuck than I was before. I said at least one other bad word.

So I got out of my car and started looking around. I can’t see a switch for the door. I waved my hand in front of the sensor that I thought might trigger it. Nothing. I got back in my car and rolled it back a foot and forward a foot to try to get the sensor to go off. Again, nothing.

Now I’m thinking through the scene. I’m stuck blocking a lane of traffic in a parking garage in Downtown Los Angeles. It’s eleven at night and no one is here. I can’t get out of the garage on foot, I’ve been locked in. I am going to have to sleep in my car, parked on the exit ramp of a garage. This is not ideal.

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Suddenly, a wild Toyota appeared. This dude stopped behind me, asked if I need help, and jumped out of his car like he knew what he was doing. He walked over to the other exit lane and flipped the switch for its metal gate. Perfect, now my car is still stuck, but the other lane is free! He shrugged. He must have been followed by a security guard, who rode up on a little golf cart, gave us both you’re idiots looks, walked up to the gate, and flipped the switch right next to it that we both missed.

And that’s the story of how I didn’t get stuck anywhere and had a nice night.