Friday, May 7, 2010


Too much adventure this morning. I arrived at my car, in a lovely Tuesday-Friday spot on K Street, between a Toyota and a Mercedes-Benz, at seven-thirty, and checked out the right front tire, which has had a slow leak. Well, the slow leak had speeded up since the last time I put air in the tires, and now the tire was flat as a potato pancake. I thought about it for a while: Was it absolutely necessary to spend this glorious May morning dealing with a flat tire? Or could I throw myself on the mercy of the street sweeper and let it wait a day? While I was thinking, the street sweeper came brushing and blinking down the street. He pulled up and idled behind me, and I cupped my hands at my mouth and shouted “Flat tire!” He nodded and went around.

I called AAA—might as well get it over with. Then I hauled the doughnut out of the trunk. The tow truck came in pretty short order, but got held up at the intersection while a garbage truck digested several dumpsters’ worth of trash from the hotel on the corner. The driver was a big guy with a big, close-shaved head. The car was parked close to the curb, and he asked me if I would “tip its nose out a little.” I complied. He took the flat off and was about to put the doughnut on when he noticed it didn’t have any air in it, either. I was afraid of that.

Now what? I did not want to be towed. My idea had been to put the doughnut on and leave the car right where it was until at least tomorrow. But I can’t go anywhere without air in that tire. The driver said he could tow the car to the garage that he works out of. “Let me make sure they fix tires,” he said. But when I found out where his garage was, I decided I would rather get towed to my own mechanics, nice guys who like my car and would take care of some other little matters while they were at it: like the air-conditioner, which isn’t working (as I discovered during last week’s heat wave); like the battery, which went dead over the winter (so far, it has held its charge); like the oil, which hasn’t been changed since last fall.

So the Éclair gets hoisted onto the bed of the tow truck, and I hoist myself up into the cab, and away we go. The driver seemed pretty mellow for a guy with a job that was potentially so frustrating. He had only been on the job for this company for two weeks, he said. It was a second job for him; he was retired. A few blocks later, I asked him what job he had retired from, and he said, “Corrections.” Right away, I asked him if he knew Tommy, but he said, “State, not Rikers.” He decided he was going to have to make an illegal left turn, but it was O.K. “If I get a ticket, it won’t stick,” he said. (Apparently he is very close to someone who is related to Ray Kelly, the Police Commissioner.) He then told me, in quick succession, a raft of stories about convicts he has known: serial murderers, child murderers, even cannibals—things I thought happened only in Greek mythology. I kept remembering, with relief, that he was the Corrections officer and not the convict.

When we got to the mechanics', I placed in his meaty hand a ten-dollar tip. He does not live in the city, and so he had no idea what I gave up when I left that parking spot. The Eclair will remain in the garage overnight.


erieblue said...

What was the cannibal story?

MJN/NYC said...

It was awful. He said a man came home, ate dinner, and asked his wife where the kids were. She said, "You just ate them." She's in the clink, he's in some kind of an institution and, understandably, refuses to eat. See? It's Medea meets Pelops.