Friday, April 23, 2010

Showdown on K Street

Yesterday morning, when I went to my car, which is parked in a beautiful spot almost opposite where I was parked last week (in the space just past the fire hydrant, where the motorcycles were), three double-parked cars were lurking, each of their drivers hoping to swoop in and grab a spot after the street-sweeper went by. One of the cars, with New Jersey plates, was forced to relinquish its perch when a garbage truck double-parked behind him on the other side of the street, and thru traffic could not slalom past. Mr. New Jersey gave in and drove around the block, but just as he reappeared, a car on the Tuesday/Friday side of the street left a legal spot, and New Jersey was able to appropriate it instantly. He got out of his car, looked at the sign, looked at the car … he couldn’t quite believe his luck.

Another serious lurker with Jersey plates remained, though it did not look good for interlopers. The street sweeper came, and I pulled over, holding up a cab that very much wanted me to move (but did not honk). A Ford pickup truck in front of me had to pull quite a ways down the street to let the street sweeper get by (the car in front of him did not move; I later noticed a placard on its dashboard). I was able to reverse into my spot with an economy of motion borne of having that cab breathing down my neck. Before the pickup could get back up the street, Ms. New Jersey made a play for his space. She had a spotter on the sidewalk, but even with direction she could not parallel park to save her life, and her situation was complicated by the existence of a set of low cast-concrete pillars protecting a street tree. She crunched her fender as I looked on, then pulled out and tried again, and again, and again. It was painful to watch.

Meanwhile, the pickup truck had backed up and was double-parked next to me, riding herd on the interloper. He squeezed out of his door and spoke to the woman. She had finally gotten into the spot when, with equal difficulty, she pulled back out and drove away, and the driver of the pickup truck reclaimed his space.

“What did you say to her?” I asked him when we were free to go about our business.

“I said, ‘You don’t do that, take someone’s spot when they’ve been waiting a half hour,’" he said. “She said she didn’t know anything.” She may not have mastered the art of parallel parking, but she has learned one of the unwritten rules of the road.

Meanwhile, in Rockaway, things were much more serene.

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