Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Unexpected Gift

I could not be fussy when I got back into town last night, after driving the five hundred miles from Cleveland. I took the first spot I found, a Tuesday-Friday 8:30-10 A.M. spot, which meant sitting in the car for an hour and a half this morning. It was not an entirely unpleasant interlude. I was outside a building with a beautiful old wooden door and a wrought-iron gate, daisies and vines, and a stone lion. I’d had a passenger on the trip, a twenty-year-old cellist who works in one of those fancy soap shops in SoHo. The car was still fragrant from his clothing.

Soon after eight-thirty, all the cars shifted to the other side of the street and double parked. A white Maxima backed in ahead of me. It was the first time I ever saw anyone parallel double park. The broom came at around nine, and there was the usual back-and-forthing, with the Maxima humping up onto the curb, to get in position. When we were all settled in, a legal spot unexpectedly opened up on the other side of the street, and the Maxima moved again. The spot in front of me was vacant for thirty seconds.

I could have taken the Eclair to the mechanic’s this morning instead of just sitting there. My left headlight blinked out on this trip. The other big event was that the odometer turned over to 65,000. When I pointed this out to my passenger, I could feel him doing the math: the car was as old as he was—didn’t I mean 165,000 miles? I explained that the car had less than 30,000 miles on it when I bought it. It had belonged to a woman who drove it only to Dunkin' Donuts on Saturday afternoons. Its next owner may have to explain that I used it only to chauffeur my cats to the beach and drive to Cleveland twice a year.

At 9:40, a black Jeep with New Jersey plates stopped across the street, and a man jumped out and looked around. Finally he came to me and said what sounded like “Veel o stop dat? Na veel in cruising?” I said no. (I was pretty sure he was asking if I was going to pull out.)

At ten to ten, the guy behind me, a healthy, public-spirited sort who drove a Subaru Forester with a Bowdoin decal, suggested that if he moved back and I moved back, there would be room for another car. I was willing to go along with that, although I didn’t want to have to watch as whoever parallel parked in front of me crushed my license plate. Two cars tried and couldn’t get in. Just as it was time to leave, Bowdoin said that maybe it wasn’t such a good idea. “You move up and I’ll move up.” He had been talking to a guy on the street who looked like a cook, probably because he was wearing white and clutching a thick bunch of greens. This guy now approached and said he’d seen it many times: a truck comes along, determined to fit in the space, and pushes the little car to make room. “It ruins your transmission,” he said. The greens he was holding turned out to be an aloe plant.

“Would you like an aloe plant?” Bowdoin asked. “I have some extras.” And he reached in a black tote bag and gave me an aloe. I could pot it in the car on Friday.

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