“The only mountain that I would still like to climb: I’d like to break 85.”

Tonight my textual ramblings will have nothing to do with my parking garage employment, nor with Portland, Maine and its waterfront.  Tonight my words are reserved for Peter Falk.

Peter Falk died last night.  I’ve never been one to care much about the activities or lives of celebrities, let alone be emotionally affected by their passings.  Celebrities are strangers, and lots of strangers die every day.  But Falk and his most famed character, Lieutenant Columbo, hold a complicated place in my heart.

Large chunks of my childhood were spent curled up under a ratty comforter on my grandparent’s brown and orange plaid couch, falling asleep to the sounds of Falk’s raspy voice pestering know-it-all criminals with his famous line, “Just one more thing…”.  My grandfather seemed to unknowingly emulate the character of Columbo – he had the wrinkled tan raincoat, the raspy voice, and was constantly surrounded by a cloud of cigar smoke.  I began to marry the two men in my mind: Peter Falk merged with my grandfather, and the tendency to combine memories of the two grew after my grandfather passed.

In the years since losing my grandfather (13 of them in total), I resurrected his memory by tuning into my favorite bumbling detective and perhaps placing too much emotional stock in the non-existant sleuth.  I have no video or audio recordings of my grandfather to enjoy, so I would project his memory onto Columbo and enjoy the man my grandfather so greatly resembled.

Thus, Peter Falk became somewhat of a distant replacement for my grandfather, and upon hearing of his death, I was devastated.  Peter Falk was my pretend grandfather.  He served as the far-away stand-in that was, in my mind, the closest living being to my grandfather.  In an undoubtedly bizarre way, the death of Peter Falk resurrects the anguish felt when my grandfather died.

While I acknowledge that Falk felt typecast because of his longterm role as Lieutenant Columbo, I would have liked to share with him the impact the show has had on my life, and the memories it has helped me hold onto in the past decade.  It may have seemed like a meaningless role to Peter Falk, but the existence of Columbo has always meant the world to me.

Goodbye, Peter Falk.  Goodbye, Columbo.  Goodbye, Grandpa.

It begins.

Nothing particularly thrilling has occurred on this, my first official shift as booth attendant at a waterfront parking garage in Portland, Maine’s downtown district.  Various customers, overly eager and chatty, have made attempts to draw a smile or laugh from me – all successful.  I hate to disappoint would-be comedians.  Despite having to feign amusement at joking customers, this job is pretty fantastic.  It pays just about the same as (or more than) any job I’ve ever held, and comes with a refreshingly low level of responsibility.  People park, they pay me, they leave.  My relationships with customers are fleeting and uncomplicated.  The job also comes with some pretty luxurious bonuses, which I have laid out in bulleted form:

Perks of Working in a Parking Garage

  • Free Cable Television.  It may not seem like much of a workplace bonus to others, but I was elated upon arriving at work to find Jurassic Park streaming across the screen of our 19-inch, dome-front, Orion television set.  Afterwards, I listened to Dennis Farina recount terrifying mysteries of the unsolved variety (he’s no Robert Stack, but the stories and reenactments are still passable), and now I find myself enjoying some crime programs on A&E.  I haven’t had cable television since moving out of my parent’s place seven years ago, and I certainly don’t intend to miss a chance to catch-up on the mass media drivel I’ve so dearly missed.
  • Free WiFi.  It works better than the connection that I’m paying for at my apartment.  Seriously.  (How does wireless internet science manage to prevail in this giant concrete structure but can’t manage to span the three stories in my apartment building?)
  • Nary a Coworker in Sight.  No annoying work habits to put up with, boring small talk to make, or awkward social situations to deal with because I work alone!  Aside from the occasional visit from the maintenance man, touting the new LED lights he’s been installing, I am all on my own.
  • Chairs.  This job would be awful without my cushy, spinny, fake-leathery desk chair.
  • WATCHING DRUNK OLD PEOPLE MAKE OUT.  THIS IS HAPPENING RIGHT THIS SECOND!  Is this a perk?  Absolutely not!  But it is occurring right this moment to the left of my booth.  I hope they don’t fall down the cement stairs on the walk to their car.  Also, I hope they fall asleep in said car before attempting to drive anywhere.  I think she tends bar near here…yeesh.  And while observations of AARP-member make-out sessions may not be highlights of this new employment venture of mine, they certainly fall under the umbrella of the next workplace perk…
  • Ideal Vantage Point for People Watching.  Sandwiched between the Casco Bay Lines Ferry Terminal and tourist-laden Commercial Street, I am afforded the best opportunities to behold every type of being lurking on Portland’s waterfront.  For company, I have dock cats and a homeless man who lives in a sleeping bag on the sidewalk outside of the garage.
I think this new job should work out just fine, assuming I can correctly mete out change in whole dollar sums and muster the courage to charge drivers hefty fines for losing their parking tickets.  I hope to monitor the goings-on here by the bay and report on my findings in this blog.  Given my experience in the port city, I have to imagine that in due time I will have a plethora of unique characters and stories to expound on.