The white dog’s face was poking out of the Lexus S.U.V. when I arrived at my fabulous parking spot this morning, at seven-thirty on the dot. The owner was early, having learned her lesson on Tuesday. The dog is a toy poodle, of the color that I think is called apricot. The street cleaner came at 7:39, and afterward the poodle-and-Lexus owner was nice enough to pull up a little so that my rear end cleared the corner with ample space. I forgot the baking soda again, but when I went back with it later (I am hoping it will have the same effect on mildew in a closed car that it supposedly has on odors in refrigerators), two motorcycles had parked behind me, forming a buffer between me and any turning semis.
Yesterday I woke to a written parking problem in the form of a note from my sibling Dee. She had blasted out of the house at dawn on Wednesday to move her car and now, on Thursday, the morning after her show at Le Poisson Rouge (and it was an excellent show: she looked very happy to be onstage with such excellent musicians as Matt Sweeney and Andrew W.K.), she wrote, “I am on the east side of [Nevermind] Avenue between [Blank] and [Dash] Streets. When do I have to move?” It was like a trick question on the written portion of a parking exam. At first, I thought I knew exactly where she was: on the Monday-Thursday side of the street, in a 9:30-11 spot, meaning she could sleep till nine and sit in her car for an hour and a half, or she could get out there a little earlier and try to score an 8:30-10 spot, squandering only a half hour.
I found Dee’s faith in my parking acumen moving—so moving that I was soon assailed by doubts. The cross streets that Dee had mentioned are near a sort of alternate-side fault line: I can never remember where 9:30-11 A.M. leaves off and 11:30-1 P.M. takes over. It was early, so I walked over there, and a lucky thing, too, because I was wrong on both counts. First of all, I had the east side of the street mixed up with the west side of the street (the old geographical dyslexia kicking in again): Dee was on the Tuesday-Friday side. And she was south of the fault, on an 11:30-1 P.M block. She had found the best possible parking spot for someone who deserved to sleep in on a Thursday morning. I resisted the urge to wake her up to tell her so.
There is always something new to learn in the world of parking. Yesterday someone left on my desk a slim paperback called “Tired of Parking Tickets,” the self-described “essential street-by-street guide to parking in Manhattan.” I opened it with some trepidation: Would it reveal the locations of all my precious spots? K’s street? The Sanctuary? Those heavenly precincts where, if you are retired and have nothing better to do than sit in your car for three hours in the middle of a weekday afternoon, you can park unmolested for an entire week, or even three, depending on suspensions for legal and religious holidays?
I must say that the guide contains an admirably concise and educational (if ungrammatical) definition of alternate side parking: “Alternate Side is when the North and West sides of the block has ‘No Parking’ in effect Mondays and Thursdays, and the South and East side of the block is in effect Tuesdays and Fridays.” How can this have escaped my notice? It turns out that I should have known just from the word “east” in Dee’s note that her spot was good till Friday.
Basically, the guide is a miniature street atlas with each block color-coded according to the parking rules in effect. At first glance, it is incredibly confusing. Some maps have as many as nineteen different colors: grids of purple and red and black and yellow and both pea and grass green ... If I were going to use such a book—that is, if such a book were going to truly be useful to me as a serious parker who was not color-blind—I would look for blocks where alternate-side parking has the shortest waiting times. I looked at the map of my neighborhood and was relieved to see that, according to this publication, none of my favorite half-hour spots exist. Whew! Either whoever compiled the guide lives near me and has an interest in obfuscation, or it's just too complicated and would require a grid of thirty-eight colors. Either way, I can link to the Web site for Tired of Parking Tickets, without worrying about creating competition in the field.