Tuesday, February 19, 2008

Raging Broom

I left one thing out of my calculations for parking on Washington’s Birthday (observed): the Broom. The Broom comes early to this place. Last Friday, it appeared just as I was approaching my car, but not enough people were in their automobiles yet for the sweeper to get the job done—it was a shade past 7:30—so he circled around and came back about ten minutes later. This morning he was there when I arrived—again, at a shade past 7:30—idling at the corner, lights flashing, a mad bull pawing at the ground before it enters the ring. There was a garbage truck across the street, and a truck in front of me, and the owner of the car in back of me had not yet appeared, but as people arrived and got in their cars and the garbage truck left, the Broom went into action, nudging up behind each vehicle and beeping till that vehicle moved; it got harder for the cars to move, because through traffic was trying to thread its way between the alternate-side parkers, both those who had moved temporarily across the street and were hoping to be able to reverse into the excellent spots they had just left (ahem) and those who were not moving because there was no place left on the opposite side for them and they did not like the prospect of getting herded down the street and off the block by the Broom. Lots of honking. The Broom, deranged, made even the truck move, though it was poised to make a delivery. I ended up one car length farther west than I had been, leaving a big juicy spot in front of me, which the truck backed up into, ruining my dazzling view but keeping the sun out of my eyes.

The truck was from Secure Door and Hardware (“Your Doorway to Excellence”). The driver wore a plaid flannel shirt over a gray hooded sweatshirt, baggy jeans, a blue stocking cap, and orange work gloves. He had a beer belly and a limp. His truck wore Truck King mudflaps. It had wood paneling inside and notched strips along the walls with canvas belts to hold the armored doors in place. The truck driver and a man from the building unloaded small wooden frames and long metal strips, one big steel frame that took both of them to maneuver, and two heavy-looking doors that the building worker carried on his back, plus hardware. They were careful not to bump into my car or rest anything on my hood. Meanwhile, a truck from a food-service-equipment company out of Paterson was making a delivery to the hotel across the street. “Our Passion Sets Us Apart,” it said.

A silver-gray Honda from New Jersey pulled up and asked the truck driver if he would be leaving soon. “Five or ten minutes,” the truck driver said. So the Honda from New Jersey waited in a No Parking zone up ahead until the truck left, and then backed up into this perfect spot. I lowered my visor against the sun and watched the silhouette of the Jersey driver as he fussed endlessly, backing up, pulling forward, backing up again. He opened his door, opened his trunk, got out his briefcase, got back in his car, opened the door again and got out and got back in. I studied the pattern in his brake lights: a dot matrix of truncated triangles. He flashed them one more time as he locked the car, slapped down his side-view mirror, and left, with two minutes remaining before eight o’clock.

The day I leave with two minutes remaining, a cop will come by and I’ll get a ticket, so I stayed at my post. I turned on the battery to roll up the window, and the car radio was on, tuned to 1010 WINS: “It’s 37 degrees at eight o’clock on Tuesday, February 19th.” There is not another alternate-side-suspended day until Holy Thursday, more than a month away.

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