Alternate-side parking has rarely been a problem in my neighborhood in Rockaway (which is not to say that parking isn’t a giant problem in other neighborhoods in Rockaway, and, along with potholes and street markings and parallel vs. diagonal and DFDs—people who are Down for the Day, as opposed to residents—a source of passionate contention in the Wave, the peninsula’s local weekly). On my street the rules are in effect Mondays and Tuesdays from 11:30 A.M. to 1 P.M. This means that on Sunday night I park on one side of the street, and on Monday night I move the car to the other side of the street. Simple. And there’s never any need to sit in the car (even if one’s schedule permitted) and take a keen interest in street cleaners. The only trouble is that I can never remember which side of the street I’m supposed to be parking on.
I suffer from a form of directional dyslexia, which means that I have trouble distinguishing between left and right, east and west, north and south, prone and supine. I’d have trouble with up and down, too, if it weren’t for gravity, and just wait till I get to port and starboard. If it’s Monday and my car is on the left, or east, side of the street, is that O.K.? Yes, even though the sign says Tuesday. It’s counterintuitive: One can’t help but be drawn to the side of the street with that day of the week written on it (remember days-of-the-week underpants?), yet that is exactly the wrong side to park on. Sometimes it’s easier to just go around the block, where there is a street of new houses, with parking pads, and the city has not yet gotten around to posting alternate-side-parking rules, so anything goes.
During my recent trip to Amsterdam, I had a long-term plan for parking, which may help lodge in my memory the correct alternate-side formula. I departed on a Wednesday and returned on a Monday, so before I departed (I hesitate to use the word “left” in this context) I had to move my car from its Tuesday spot, on the right, or west, side of the street, to a spot on my side of the street, the left, or east, side, which would be good through Monday. In this case, the left side of the street was the right side of the street, as in the correct or proper side of the street. It was on my calendar, immediately on my return, to move the car and pay the Visa bill. If it hadn’t been on the calendar, I might have forgotten, because these rules are almost too simple, and, after all, the entire Atlantic Ocean and almost a week in Amsterdam had interceded between me and my parking spot and Visa bill. Now I can visualize my car on my side of the street when I got home that Monday (thanks to my neighbor C., who picked me up at the airport in her black Mustang convertible with the top down—che dolce vita!). Unfortunately, I can also visualize the gelatinous glob that someone lobbed on my windshield and that smeared when I turned the windshield wipers on and then, in its stickiness, attracted dirt and grit. (Next stop: car wash.)
I don’t like to brag, but I think I may also have mastered prone and supine. It’s kind of a long way round, but supine begins with the letter “S,” and so does snake and so does sinuous, both words that I can readily associate with the spine and its S shape and the fact that when you lie on your back on the mat to do your Pilates exercises your spine should form a gentle "S.” Also, supine has "up" in it, as in “face up.” As for prone, it has an “o” in it, as in "face down." Besides, it’s the only alternative.