A dreaded sign on the opposite side of the street this morning: “No Parking Thursday.” There is a construction project here that will be going on for years. It is a drag to come out in the morning expecting only a few moments’ anxiety and a mere half-hour wait in your cushy spot and instead have to embark on a full-scale hunting expedition.
Fortunately, my side of the street is exempt. But I discover that my beautiful spot by the fire hydrant has a disadvantage: now I’m the one the SUV is hovering in back of, and here comes the street sweeper.
False alarm. The street sweeper turned at the light. Time to strategize: I had been planning on backing up into the hydrant space when the street sweeper came, to minimize the gap between the sweeper and me after it has passed. Stupid SUV.
Another shock this morning: a Washington D.C. car is parked in front of me. I feel surrounded by predators.
It is a black Honda, and it looks as if there’s no one in it. Can it possibly be the same one I triumphed over on the Day of Remembrance for Gerald Ford? I make a note of the license plate.
It’s cold this morning: a couple of cars are idling with their heaters on. The sun glints through long, stringy clouds—Barbra Streisand clouds—low on the horizon.
7:40: He came, the street sweeper came. The SUV behind me may have been waiting for me to pull out ahead of him, but I refused and kept inching back, and finally, under pressure from the street sweeper, he drove away. The Washington D.C. car did not move. There was no one in it. I’ll have to see if there’s a permit on his dashboard or if he gets a ticket. I had to back way up on the other side of the street, along the construction barriers, to give the street sweeper room to get around the scofflaw from Washington D.C., but it worked out, because a merciful taxi at the head of the through traffic hung back and gave me plenty of room, so I could head into my spot with no problem.
I leave the engine on and treat myself to a blast of heat.
A red Volvo wagon tries to horn in, but it ain’t happening. The hovering SUV returns, hanging in back of me, huge and gray, like a shark. I don’t know what make of car it is, but the symbol on its hood is a vertical oval orbited by a horizontal oval, both contained inside a circle.
Oops, carbon monoxide poisoning! I can’t sit here with the heat on and the windows closed. I crack the window and cut the engine.
Two white terriers go by on leashes.
Across the street at the construction project a big sheet of copper is being hauled up on a pulley. Or is it brass? Anyway, it’s shiny and custom cut, like a letter from the Hebrew alphabet (a nun?). The scaffolding is covered with black netting and webbed with rigging, as at a circus. There’s also a cyclone fence, so no one can steal the equipment at night. The rope is lowered again and two men, one in a stocking cap, the other in a hooded sweatshirt, clamp another strip of brass (or copper—which one is it that turns green?) onto a big hook and it gets hauled up.
It’s 7:54, and the SUV has departed. Another car is behind me at the hydrant, and a woman is unpacking things from its trunk.
A long strip of copper, as for a gutter, twirls on its way up. Puffs of steam come from the men’s mouths. One on the ground yells something up to one on the roof.
“What did you say?” comes a call from on high.
“Keep the rope!”
I parked so close to the curb and the bars protecting the street tree that I can barely squeeze out of the driver’s side door. I hope I haven’t ruined my new winter coat. Washington D.C. has no permit on his dashboard, and hasn’t gotten a ticket, either. Hunh. The Teflon Honda.
“Excuse me.” The construction worker jumps, theatrically. He’s not used to having women accost him back here behind the barricades. He’s an older man, his face covered in white stubble. “Is that brass or copper?”
“Copper,” he says.
“Thanks. I couldn’t remember which one changed color.”
I’ve already turned to go when he adds something. “It gets darker.”
What I actually heard was “Cahpuh. It gets dahkuh.”
Later, on my way home from the grocery store (I bought cherries—very expensive this time of year; I think they're from Chile; I will eat them one at a time, thinking "Fifty cents"—something called Broccoli Slaw, death-defying spinach, and mortadella, otherwise known as Italian bologna), I realize that with all the distractions (squeezing out, learning the difference between brass and copper, spying on the car from Washington D.C.), I forgot to lean in from the street and lock the driver's-side door.