Thursday, March 27, 2008


I passed the Broom on the way to my car this morning, idling a block away from where I was parked, the driver resting behind the wheel. The car with the flap in the back, driven by the bicyclist, was still in front of me, the bike chained to the pole. Today I could see that the flap is more like a big ribbed plastic floormat, and it is not there accidentally: a heavy-duty cord runs through a hole on either side and both mat and cords are held in place by the trunk lid. I think it must be illegal to obscure your license plate like that.

Across the street, on that treacherous Tuesday-Friday side, were the dreaded signs—“No Parking Thursday,” “No Parking Friday”—as well as orange cones and blue police barricades. Directly across from us, a truck was standing where we’d all had the luxury of diagonal parking for a moment on Monday, its driver loitering on the sidewalk, waiting for something.

The Broom was flashing in my side-view mirror at 7:30 on the dot. The guy behind me, in a black pickup truck, rode up over the curb in reverse and parked on the sidewalk to get out of the way. I think that was my doing, because I backed up as soon as he backed up: I always like to get a little behind my spot, if possible, to increase my chances of getting back into it. (It turned out that the pickup truck was blocked by a dumpster behind it in the street.) I pulled over to the other side and backed up as close as I dared to a car whose owner, a trim white-haired woman, watched me warily from behind her wheel. The car ahead of me pulled over to the opposite corner, and the car ahead of him turned the corner onto the avenue, against one-way traffic. The truck driver stood on his tailgate, surveying the scene. He seemed amused, and after the Broom, our prima ballerina, had made its exit, and all of us cars in the corps de ballet had found our spots again—and the pigeons had swooped back and forth across the street—he came over to ask the guy in the pickup if we did this all the time.

Yesterday the Times had an editorial about congestion pricing in response to a recent announcement by the MTA (the folks who run the subway system) that they would not be making good on their promised improvements after all, despite the recent rise in the cost of a subway ride (not the flat two-dollar ride but the unlimited cards and the multiple-ride cards). The Times thinks income from congestion pricing is the answer. The plan has a lot of sticking points, though, and for the second time now the Mayor is pressing the State Legislature to approve it in time to meet a deadline (April 7th) for federal aid. It also has to be approved by the City Council. Meanwhile, the Muni Meters come marching on. There are still no actual meters affixed to the pedestals on my street. I am trying to memorize the position of the old parking meters to see what kind of scar is left when they get ripped out.

I was dying to ask the guy ahead of me what that flap on the back of his car was for, but at eight o’clock, when it was time to go, he remained seated in his car, with some paperwork spread out on his steering wheel. His car is his office, and he commutes to it by bike. Maybe the flap has something to do with the bike. Maybe he puts the bike in the trunk, but it doesn’t fit completely, so the mat absorbs the shock of it and protects the car’s finish. But why not just buy a bike rack? Perhaps it is against his religion.

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