“I’ve got as much of a right to it as you do!” I found myself yelling as an old Mercedes, maroon with squared-off chrome fenders, like big teeth, refused to let me wedge the Eclair between it and the broom. I had found this spot on Sunday, in the rain, when I came in from Rockaway (where my sainted neighbor T. turned on the water in the bungalow; no leaks—hurray!). Penny Lane is a street, like many others, with a barbershop and a Chinese laundry and a history of violence. It’s not ideal, requiring a one-and-a-half-hour sit on Monday and Thursday mornings, part of it double-parked on the opposite side of the street. Double parking is not my favorite activity, but we alternate-side parkers cannot afford to be particular.
How it works is that you have to back up as far as possible to have a better chance to be the first car behind the broom when it appears. The Mercedes was lurking in the space at the fire hydrant when I arrived. I double-parked in front of him. When a metered spot opened behind the Mercedes, he backed up, I backed into the fire-hydrant spot, and the car double-parked in front of me backed into my spot.
Then, just when I thought I’d seen everything, what should appear but a moving van! It took up three cars’ worth of curb space. I had been telling myself there’d be room for everybody—usually there is room for everybody—but this threatened to ruin everything.
When the Broom appeared, abruptly, at a little before nine, I fired up the engine and got in line behind it. But the Mercedes was stuck to it as if by magnetic force. I’ve never seen a front fender up that close in my side-view mirror. That it was cold hard steel, sharp and angular, instead of newfangled plastic, made it especially menacing. It looked like it was going to take a bite out of the Éclair. And the hood ornament looked downright savage.
Even the moving van had to pull out when the broom came, and as the street sweeper waited behind it, I wore down the beast behind me, and he let me inch in. As the cars behind us threaded into line, someone honked to make sure I pulled up far enough to leave room for the cars behind me that wanted to be in front of me. We all watched the moving van parallel park. (Now, there’s a test of skill.) A red Isuzu Trooper had gotten in front of me, and the driver was worried because the back door of the van was inches from her hood, but the moving men used the side door of the van. Once they had parked, they activated some kind of hydraulic system that let out a big hiss of air and made the moving van sink, like the front steps of those buses that lower for the elderly.
Now I was right in front of the barbershop. It is not a pretty spot, containing such sad sights as this, although the barber does his best. Four bicycle messengers in various getups—one in a helmet, three in caps, all with clipboards and cell phones and backpacks—were waiting to be dispatched. “I can do your job, but you can’t do mine,” one of them said to another, and then, into his phone, “Talk to me, papo.” They reminded me of baseball players, or guys in a Spike Lee movie.
Just at ten o’clock, a light rain began to fall. As I left the car, I thought about apologizing to the Mercedes for being so aggressive, but I didn’t. All’s well that ends well. I had spent my time transferring notes from an old filled-up notebook to a new one—carrying over unfinished items from lists of things to do. One note said “Hollyhocks.” I have been meaning to plant hollyhocks along the side of the bungalow. Another said “Beer.” I got a beermaking kit, with hops and yeast and barley, for my birthday. Now that the water is on in Rockaway and the season has officially begun, these seem like excellent projects. So I started a new list: