Tuesday, April 19, 2011

The art of parking in New York

Greetings from New York. Katie and I are here for a seder, to see friends and relatives, to do a little of this and that, and to see a show. (True confessions: two shows, "Anything Goes" and "How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying," starring Daniel Radcliffe, aka Harry Potter.)

We are staying in a different neighborhood, 16th between 7th and 8th, at the apartment of our cousin, Serena, who is out of town. First order of business when we arrived Sunday was to park the car...not in a garage, as Diane, a self-acknowledged parking wimp, does.

The need to find a good spot is a gene that I inherited from my father. It's a sport, a challenge, a connection with my father, and, of course, a money-saving way of doing business. I figured that if I parked on the street during our whole four-and-a-half-day stay, I'd save the amount of at least one theater ticket.

My parking karma was on when we arrived and I pulled into a spot on 16th between 7th and 8th, right near the apartment. It wasn't a perfect spot, because it was on the side where street cleaning takes place between 8:30 and 10 a.m. Monday, Wednesday and Friday. You have to sit in your car, move it out when the street cleaner comes through, and then continue sitting there until 10 anyway so you don't get a ticket. Or you have to move it to a whole other spot.

Uptown, street cleaning takes place for just half an hour. But in the spirit of the neighborhood, I got up a little before 8, picked up a New York Times and a muffin, took my book just in case I ran out of reading, and got in the car.

The street theater was entertaining enough that I barely finished the paper. There were only a few cars on my side of the street, which was apparently vacated by people who don't want to sit there so long. Around 9, cars began pulling up on the other side of the narrow street, double parking apparently to camp out until 10 so they could get one of the empty spots.

A police car pulled up in front of me, and the officer got out. I stuck my head out and asked if I was OK. "It says no standing," he said. "That means no standing."

I said someone had told me this is how it is done, and then I asked him if all the double-parked cars were waiting for spots, and he said yes, he figured they were. "They're illegal too," he said. "I guess that's how it's done in this neighborhood."

He turned his attention elsewhere and began stopping trucks and asking the drivers where they were headed. I'm not sure what he was looking for, but he continued in this vein until a truck pulled up in front of him and stopped. He got out of his car, walked up to the truck and spoke to the driver, then walked back and got into his car. At this point the truck driver got out and walked back to the officer, speaking in an agitated manner, as they say.

The officer told him to get back in the truck. The gist of the conversation was that the truck driver, who was smoking a cigarette, had told the officer he stopped because he thought he was having a heart attack.

"You said you're having a heart attack, so I called an ambulance. Now get back in your vehicle," the officer said.

Soon a fire engine pulled up behind me, lights flashing. Four firefighters got out and spoke to the officer, who said, "Guy said he's having a heart attack but he's smoking a cigarette. He's full of shit. Obviously just wanted to avoid the ticket."

The firefighters talked to the truck driver and came back smiling and shaking their heads. Then an ambulance came. (New York City tax dollars were clearly being used to their best advantage here.) The truck driver appeared again, shouting at the officer that he had no sense of how to deal with the public. Exit fire engine and ambulance, sans patient. Exit truck driver, with ticket.
Exit me, with a whole day of free parking.

Later in the afternoon, we had to move the car to drive to the seder at my cousin Betsy's apartment in Queens. Katie had to listen to me rant. "I earned this spot!" I said. I hated to give it up.

But when we returned about 10 at night, lo and behold, we found another spot. And it wasn't just any spot. Because of Passover, alternate side of the street parking was suspended for today, meaning that it didn't matter which side you parked on, because you didn't have to move for street cleaning.

Turns out the spot is good until Friday. We're leaving Thursday morning.

This is such a thrill I cannot even tell you.


barry said...

Love this story. You sound like George Costanza ...

Jonny said...

Hey Ronni -- This is what happens to you when you become an ex-New Yawkah...you forget that on Passover Pharoh's army of white-hatted ticketers "pass over" the Diaspora's chariots (and those of their neighbors) regardless of where they stopped during the holy week.

And by the by Bubeleh, "muffin" don't sound too unleavened to me, so maybe you got more than Pharoh's army to worry about for the ride home...ergo don't dally as you cross over any bodies of water, we've had some nasty floods these days!


PJ said...

I love happy parking stories. Hope your Passover is sweet!

Ronni Gordon said...

Hey Jonny,

Passover didn't begin until Monday at sundown, so the morning muffin was fine! Also unfortunately Pharoh's ticketers only pass over for one day, Tuesday. I found that out because I'm enough of a New Yawker that I remembered to dial 311 to get the info!!!

donna said...

Need I remind you of the time when we were driving out of the city on one of the main streets and you just had to have a Starbucks coffee for the ride? There were no parking places, so you just stopped the car in the middle of the street and went into the store. Deb and I, who were left in the car were mortified and had to listen to all the cat calls and complaints from cars who had to go around us. You said that you were allowed 'cuz you're a New Yorker! The force is still with you!

Ronni Gordon said...

Geez Donna,

You and Jonny should form a group for those misinformed about New York parking rules. I wasn't in the middle of the street. It's called double parking and it's done all the time!

Nelle said...

I simply love the city and always hoped to live there despite the parking headaches. Real estate has boomed and I could never afford anywhere I would be willing to live in now. I love the theatre and the smell of the city. Glad you enjoyed your trip.