Jean drove up to the ticket booth. “That will be eight dollars,” the lady running the booth said with a smile.
“Do you have change for a twenty?” Jean asked, after fishing her wallet out of her purse.
“Of course,” the lady said. “There you go. Put the ticket in the front window on the driver’s side, please. It will be good for one year.”
“That’s quite a deal,” Jean said. The lady just smiled.
Jean found a parking spot near the stairs and went up to see the dinosaur exhibit. It was amazing that there was a museum like this in the middle of nowhere.
The guidebook said to plan on spending a lot of time here due to the maze, but Jean planned on skipping that. She was presenting a paper at the archeology conference two hundred miles away, and the conference was tomorrow. She just couldn’t resist a chance to see more dinosaurs on her way there, because dinosaurs were amazing.
After an hour or two, Jean went back out to the parking garage. It was time to leave. She backed out of the parking space and followed the arrows. Well, she tried to follow the arrows anyways. It quickly became confusing. At one point, the arrows pointing towards the exit were right next to a wrong way do not enter sign.
And then the underground road widened out into a large parking lot again. But, this was larger than the other levels of the parking garage. The roof was higher, and the lights were brighter, and there was music coming from the right. Was that a fair?
Jean parked and got out to ask for directions. She stopped at the ticket booth at the entrance to the fair. “Pardon me,” she said. “How do I get out of the parking garage?”
The ticket seller squinted. “Are you new here?” he asked.
“Yes, I came to visit the museum, but now I’d like to leave,” Jean said.
The old man chuckled. “Yep, you’re new. I bet this is your first day here.”
“Unfortunately, it’s my only day here. I need to be somewhere else by this evening,” Jean said.
“Oh, you can’t leave that quickly,” the man said.
“I just don’t have time to stay,” Jean said.
“That’s what they all think. But you really can’t go. I’m not even sure there’s a way out. I’ve been here twenty years, and I never found it. Most people end up settling down here, and getting a nice job from the company. It’s not such a bad life, you know,” the old man said. “Are you married yet? I bet I could find you someone.”
Jean panicked for a moment and then narrowed her eyes. “That doesn’t make any sense. You’d have all starved to death by now.”
The old man laughed. “You got me. I can’t fool you. If you’re in a hurry, you can buy a map to the parking garage, but I think it’s cheating. A smart girl like you could probably figure her own way out in a week or two.”
Jean didn’t want to admit how relieved she was that there was a map. “I’d like the map, please,” she said.
“Sure, that’ll be ten dollars,” the old man said.
“Are you serious? That costs more than the year-long parking pass,” she said.
“Well, it’s your choice. You could stay and enjoy the fair for a bit. I really like the bumper cars, myself. There’s cotton candy, too. Then you could stay in the nice travel lodge two floors up and buy dinner at the café next door. Tomorrow, you can wake up all ready to spend the morning trying to figure out the maze…”
Jean sighed. “Here you go, ten dollars,” she said.
“Here’s your map. I hope to see you here again sometime,” the old man said.
“Don’t count on it,” Jean said, as she started to unfold the map. Wow. This was more complicated than she’d guessed. It was going to take a while.
A few hours later, she was finally driving out of a concealed exit miles away from the museum. That detour had taken much longer than planned. It had been worth it to see the dinosaurs, but all that mental work figuring out the map was exhausting. It was a good thing she wasn’t presenting her paper until after lunch. She was going to sleep in tomorrow. And stop at the museum again on the way home.