This is probably one of those things that Americans are much better at than the Brits (they certainly have more practice at it), but valet parking always sends me into a panic.
On the face of it, arriving at a hotel and having someone offer to park your car for you is a pretty great idea. You can forget about driving round the block umpteen times to track down a parking space, or trying not to scrape against a nearby wall as you shoe-horn your car into the last space in the car park. Then, when it’s time to depart, you can just hover with your bags by the front door while your car is magically summoned for you.
In reality however, when I arrive at a hotel, I’ve usually been charging along a motorway or winding county lanes for several hours and my head is still somewhere on the M4. Someone dashing out of the front door and offering to take my car off me just completely throws me. What’s worse, is that the car is usually an utter tip.
It doesn’t start off that way – I’m not a total slob – but at some point along the journey I will have rummaged blindly through my handbag on the passenger seat to find something – a bottle of water, the hotel address – and the whole bag will have upended itself all over the front of the car. As my radio doesn’t work, I’ll have been sifting through dozens of CDs on route which are now scattered everywhere.
My suitcase will have exploded over the back seat as I will have inadvertently packed my cash card in it and have had to frantically rummage around while trying to pay for petrol. And any long car journey will trigger off a craving for sweets and junk food, so there’ll be McDonald’s wrappers and KitKats all over the CDs and the make-up which are scattered over the car.
I’m am therefore far too embarrassed to let a complete stranger to drive my car. And because my suitcase has emptied itself all over the back seat, I won’t be able to just leap out of my car with everything I need for my stay, neatly contained within one bag. I’ll have to shove everything back into at least three bags, one of which might even be a carrier bag with some shoes in it, plus try and refold that day’s newspapers into a more portable state.
You have to make sure you have everything with you before relinquishing your car, otherwise you’re stuck with coming down from your hotel room later on to fetch something and trying to work out where they’ve put your car.
Which is why I am now much more sensible about my arrival at any hotel which is posh enough to offer to park my car. A mile from my destination, I stop in a lay-by and spend at least 10 minutes getting my belongings and my car in a decent enough shape to be handed over (which includes hiding the really naff CDs). And then I can arrive like a proper VIP.