My preferred parking block was cordoned off for a street fair or something last night, so I am back in the same hour-and-a-half Monday-Thursday spot that I exhausted last week. Not a break in sight for the alternate-side parker until November 1, All Saints Day. In front of me, as if to underscore the length of time I’ll be sitting here, is a black Infinity from Florida. Behind me, cars turn incessantly into the parking lot. At 9:20 there’s a pickup from the Chinese laundry. The Indians lost last night, so there is no glory to relive and who cares if the barber shaves another customer?
Still, it’s a beautiful fall day, sunny with a breeze. I’m tempted to smoke a joint, because I just found one in my bag while rooting around for a pen to address an envelope. I’ve never tried this out here before, for the simple reason that it sounds like a really stupid idea. Police pass. Definitely not a good idea. Still … I’m bored. I’ve already read the whole paper. I finally find a pen at the back of the glove compartment. Must make a note always to keep a pack of matches in the car. The lighter went missing after a sojourn at the mechanics. Constant pedestrian traffic: dog walkers, cell-phone talkers. I could grope under the seats . . . Poor Kenny Lofton.
I made this list a week ago Saturday night, when the Indians beat the Red Sox in extra innings, the Tribe’s finest moment since the attack of the Canadian soldiers. Where but on an American baseball diamond would you find such gorgeously adulterated names?
Papelbon vs. Betancourt (shouldn’t they be playing in the French Open?)
Asdrúbal Cabrera (named for an African king)
Ryan Gorko (what nationality is Gorko?)
Franklin Gutiérrez (pronounced by the sportscasters “Gooty-ear-ez”; a Latino Wasp?)
Grady Sizemore (deserves to have a Starbucks quantity named after him, the next size up from venti: “I’ll have a triple skim sizemore latte, please.”)
Eric Wedge (Would that he had driven one in.)
Now a waiter runs up to the car, all in black with a black apron. “I gotta small car,” he says. He wants me to move up, but not until he gets his car from the meter, so he can park behind me. He thinks there’s room between me and the entrance to the parking lot. “I don’t want to get trapped,” I say. “Don’t worry, I work right here,” he says, meaning at the Greek diner on the corner. He runs to the corner, gets in his car, pulls up behind me. I pull up, then get out to see if he has room: I don’t think so. So I approach the window of the black Infinity. A young Asian guy is in there, asleep. I tap on the window (How rude is that?) and wake him up (it’s getting close to ten, anyway). He starts his car, gives us a few inches; everybody fits.
“You wanna cup of coffee?” the waiter asks before he goes back to work.
“No, thanks,” I say. I just bought a takeout coffee in that very same diner, possibly from this very same waiter. Last week, I stopped in the Dunkin Donuts across the street—some people swear by Dunkin' Donuts—and was horrified to find that a small coffee cost $1.69 (plus tax). It’s enough to make you buy a doughnut out of sheer despair. A small coffee costs $1.25 at the Greek diner, and they’re nicer to you. It’s 75 cents at the cart on the street, and that guy is the nicest of all.
I ask the waiter if he happens to have a pack of matches. He pats his apron pockets and shakes his head, then he makes a Flick-your-Bic motion and says that he has to go get one from his friend. A while later he comes back and says, “Where’s you cigarette?” Now look what I’ve gotten myself into. He wants to light my cigarette. I flop my hand around in my bag and say, “I can’t find them. Can I just bring you this?” He says yes and hands me the lighter.
The stoop next to the barbershop seems to be a favorite loitering spot. It is occupied at this moment by a man wearing a T-shirt with an Omega-Alpha insignia, which seems to me backwards. I roll up my window on that side. Just before ten, the Asian opens the back of his Infinity, pulls out a textbook and a notebook, and crams them into a backpack. A student of alternate-side parking.
Before I return the lighter to my waiter friend in the diner and ask if I can use the rest room (“For you, anytime,” he says), I check out his small car: a silver-gray Toyota Echo from New Jersey, with a Black Ice deodorizer hanging from the rearview mirror and a Persian cat stretched out on the ledge of the back window (stuffed).