Friday, January 11, 2008


The Puerto Rican super always outmaneuvers me. I arrive before him and pull over to the Tuesday-Friday side of the street to sit at a meter.

When he arrives, he backs up into a space a few car lengths behind me, which will give him the advantage when the Broom comes. Fair enough. What he really wants, though, is the spot on the Monday/Thursday side right before the alternate-side spaces, a metered spot that you can sit in after 9 A.M. But there is a car already sitting in that spot. A man and his dog come and get in the car. The super pulls up to get in position, but the man and his dog don’t leave. So the super beats a retreat. It looks like the man and his dog are now competing with the super and me for these two spots: two spaces for three cars. I remain calm, however. There is still plenty of room farther down the street, and I keep reminding myself that if it doesn’t work out I will just put the car in the lot by the river for $15.

Now the guy with the dog, sitting in the most advantageous spot, starts up his car and turns into the parking lot. He and the dog, a big shorthaired brindled thing, lope out of the lot and leave. The Broom comes early: 8:45. I get right behind it, and the super, who has pulled up to the meter, gets herded down the street. This is not what he had in mind. In back of me is a car whose intentions are ambiguous. He honks at me. Is he, too, trying to get one of these spots? It turns out he’s just trying to turn into the parking lot and I have blocked him. Now he has to wait for traffic to clear so that he can go around me. The super is on the other side of the parking-lot driveway, where the BMW Z3 was parked on Monday. (Needless to say, there is no sign of James Bond today. I knew he was just a visitor in these parts.) I back up into the super’s former spot so that he can have mine, and he twice backs up into it, but he doesn’t like it—it’s a very vulnerable spot, with all those cars turning into the parking lot—and returns to the other side. The spot in front of me is free until 8:52—seven minutes.

The newcomer is a gray Audi A4. Its driver backs up until he taps me, then moves forward half an inch. I don’t complain. I will wait until he leaves and then back up a little. But that doesn’t mean I won’t get squeezed from behind, or that the next person to take the Audi’s spot won’t snuggle up even closer.

The Asian woman who started the cat fight passes on foot.

“Hi. They clean early? They pass early?” One of the waiters from the Greek diner on the corner has come to my car window. “Yeah,” I say. His name is Tony. I know because I bought a cup of coffee in the diner on my way to the car, and the waiter who dispensed the coffee would not deign to ring it up. “Take the money, Tony,” he told the junior waiter. “Take the money.”

“Hunh.” Tony jumps in his car, parked at a meter across the street, and delivers it to a free spot.

It’s garbage day, and the recycling truck pulls up next to a huge green heating-oil truck labelled B.L.T. Behind them, a taxi honks.

An S.U.V. cannot get clearance to pull into the parking lot. The sanitation guys are hustling in their green hooded sweatshirts, jogging alongside the truck to the next big heap of paper and cardboard.

Lots of people stop on their way up the street to have a word with the super. “Did you see the Chinese guy?” the super asks me when it’s all over. “He wouldn’t let me park there. He said he wasn’t going out. Then he did.”

“And then he pulled into the lot,” I say. “I didn’t get that.”

“Neither did I,” he says.

He goes off to have a key made for the mailman. I back up a little. My right headlight has seen enough combat.

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