My friend Anne and I were coming out of the movies, along with a throng of regulars and vacationers in the resort town where she lives.
We'd arrived too early, and then gone across the road for coffee and to glance at the tent sale, and, well, we forgot where we'd parked the car.
And the car was any car.
In fact, all cars are any car these days. They look like a cross between an economy box of tissue and a Rolls Royce. They're all gray or black, and I couldn't remember which mine was; and I knew it either had Massachusetts or New York plates. Or New Jersey.
So I pushed the unlock button. Obligingly, a car just to the right of my hip flashed its lights welcomingly. Anne pulled open the passenger door. She screamed. "There's a white sweater in there!" she cried. "Someone put a white sweater in our car!"
It would never have occurred to Anne that someone had not robbed us in reverse.
Not until I felt someone tap me on the shoulder.
Michael Jordan might have leapt higher on a good day.
"That's my sweater," said the woman, an iron-haired Yankee in shorts that she could pull off but which would have made me look like Eddie Albert.
"But I pushed the button and the car opened," I said in an itsy-bitsy voice. "And your sweater was in it."
"That," she said, "is because it is my car."
Against all odds, we had depressed our remote unlocker buttons at exactly the same moment. In response, Anne and I drew ourselves up proudly. and ran.
"Of course that wasn't the car!" Anne explained, exasperated. "Remember, we were in the first row when we first came, but no one was here, and then when we came back from getting coffee, we parked in the third row, facing away from the theater?"
I remembered nothing of the kind; but Anne was already leading the way toward a large and nondescript auto of questionable provenance, charcoal in color. I made a mental note hereafter to rent only red convertibles. "This is it, of course," my friend said, confidently throwing the door open.
There was nothing on the seat even the large straw bag that I had left behind. But the man who strode up, quickly and purposefully, and said in a booming voice, "What are you doing in my car?" evidently didn't mind how empty it was.
And again, although I wanted to stop and explain how similar cars look these days, and how it was an honest mistake that anyone could have made, Anne was already off and running toward the next nondescript car.
So instead I ran after her, through what now sounded like a large corn popper, as everyone who'd been in the theater hit their remote door openers, shouting, "Stop, Anne! Stop opening doors!"
But she wouldn't stop. She was so sure she could locate our car that she threw open the doors, crying, "Ah-hah!" and then, "Oh, no!" at least three more times.
The parking lot gradually emptied of theater patrons except for those who were interested in the post-movie entertainment: Anne and me running around and around an ordinary parking lot looking for one car.
Embarrassed, Anne had finally resorted to peeping into windows, jumping up with a little squeal when the car's rightful owner arrived.
And eventually, only our car and the employees' remained.
When we hit the button, half-terrified, the doors did indeed open, and panic subsiding, we settled into our bucket seats and took a deep breath.
"Can you imagine that?" Anne asked. "Do you think it's even possible that someone could MOVE A CAR?"