In my madness, rather than double park today, I left the block where I had an 8:30-10 spot and drove to a secret place where you have to move your car only once a week. Sadly, this tactic failed to produce a miracle, so I parked temporarily in a 9:30-11 spot, took a walk by the river, bought coffee on the street for 65 cents (all I had on me was 70 cents), and miscalculated how long it would take me to return to the car and get in position for a legal 10 o’clock spot. I got back at 9:20; the Broom had passed, and on the first block I cruised, there was nothing. As I turned the corner to the next block, I found myself touching the evil-eye worrybeads that hang from my rearview mirror. There is nothing like needing a parking spot to make me fall back on religion.
This block had filled up, too, but there was a space I thought I could fit into between a pickup truck and a Nissan Maxima. I hopped out to ask the driver of the pickup truck, east of a fire hydrant, if he would mind moving back a little. “I’m already at the yellow line,” he said. I checked and reported to him that he had two feet. Then I approached the Nissan, hoping it didn’t belong to that young woman whose license plate I accidentally crumpled last week. No, this was an older woman, on her cell phone, who fumbled to roll down her window—she had to turn the key in the ignition first; damn those automatic windows—and who was very agreeable.
However, as I am extremely careful, for the moment, not to bump the cars of my fellow-parkers, I got wedged halfway into the spot and couldn’t complete the maneuver. I left the car there, half in, half out, and ran ahead to the two cars in front of the Nissan and asked their drivers to please pull up a little. After what seemed like an eternity, all three cars complied, and I slipped into my spot. It was 9:23.
The rearview mirror offered the best view today: the familiar neighborhood storefronts, their signs reversed, receding into the distance: copy shop, TV repair, Chinese laundry, barbershop, parking lot with concertina wire. A black Mitsubishi Eclipse passed, went around the block and reappeared in the rearview, its driver entreating the person on the other side of the fire hydrant to give him an inch. I recognized the Eclipse owner as one of the waiters at the Greek diner on the corner. He was in that spot so snug that you couldn’t have dropped a slice of toast between the two cars.
There was a front-page article in today’s Times following up on the Mayor’s plan to rescind parking placards for employees of various city agencies (here). I was not surprised to see it, because I seem to recall that something was going to happen in March. I did not find much new in the article, except that some of the placards out there belong to ex-Mayors Koch, Dinkins, and Giuliani (it must be hard, once you’ve enjoyed full mayoral parking privileges, to go back to being an ordinary citizen). The biggest whiners are auxiliary police, who volunteer and don’t think it’s fair that they should have to pay to park if they are not getting paid to patrol. Plus, they have to buy their own doughnuts.
So far, the only sign of parking reform in my neighborhood is the appearance of pedestals for Muni Meters. The Muni Meters, which are electrified (they dug up the sidewalk to lay wire for them), have yet to be installed, but when they are, they will make street parking more expensive and more sophisticated. They will also make the old parking meters obsolete.
I wonder what will become of the old parking meters. Will they chop them off at street level and dump them in the ocean? Create an artificial reef? Or donate them to some country where the parking technology is a generation or two behind—say, Cuba? And what will happen to the people who collect the quarters from the parking meters? I have seen them on the street, mostly black guys, trundling buckets with special cylindrical spouts that clamp on to the meters to receive the quarters. Actually, it doesn't look like a bad job for someone who likes to be outside and not have anyone looking over his shoulder. Wouldn't hurt to have a fetish for small change. The Muni Meters will take coins, and issue little slips to lay on your dashboard. So perhaps we needn't worry yet about the decline of the parking meter revenue collector.