Thursday, October 28, 2010

Playing with Fire (Hydrants)

Orange cones have been proliferating in my neighborhood lately, thanks to the film industry. Last Saturday, I drove back from Rockaway (in relative silence—got the muffler fixed, for $275) and found a spot on the Monday-Thursday side of K Street, just far enough (I fervently hoped) from a fire hydrant. Orange cones were all down the other side of the street, along with signs announcing a movie shoot (through November 11th!). Returning to the car for my half-hour sit on Monday and then again today (Thursday), I was worried that the cones might have multiplied and crossed the street . . . but I was lucky. No cones and no hideous orange parking tickets.

Ahead of me, in front of the fire hydrant, on this sultry pre-Halloween morning, was a motorcycle under a shroud. It looked as if someone had just picked it up and moved it there, perhaps because it was in the way of a legal spot. I’ve noticed more motorcycles getting tickets lately, but in this case there was no place to tuck a ticket—a cop would have to use a safety pin. The opposite side of the street was a mess of semis and fork-lifts and trucks delivering hydraulic elevator platforms. At 7:50, a little red Geo pulled up in front of me, no doubt hoping to insinuate itself between me and the fire hydrant. But the Broom hadn’t come yet, and he gave up and left. Two motorcycles zipped down the street and squeezed in between cars farther down the street. It was 7:55, and still the Broom had not come.

A black BMW with a fancy silver license-plate holder double-parked alongside the fire hydrant, and a black guy got out. Tall, suave, and Obama-esque, he worked the line of cars behind me to get everyone to back up and make room for him between me and the hydrant. When he got to me, I said that I didn’t mind moving but that the sweeper hadn’t come yet, and if it did, we were going to create one unholy mess, mixing it up with the trucks and the fork-lifts, leaving room for the Broom and thru traffic. He looked at his watch—it was about three minutes to eight—and shrugged. Well, O.K. Maybe the Broom couldn’t get by all those film-industry trucks and orange cones on the next block. I backed up. Then it turned out that the tall, suave black guy couldn’t parallel park to save his life. A super from a nearby building helped direct him, and I kept backing up to give him more inches.

At eight o’clock, there was still no sign of the Broom. We fortunate few started getting out of our cars and locking up. Then I saw it, up the street: the idling Broom, its lights flashing, trying to intimidate a car into moving. I exchanged looks with the man who had gotten out of the S.U.V. behind me. All the alternate-side parkers were now pretending they had nothing to do with any of these vehicles. “If he’s late, it’s nothing to do with us, right?” I said to the S.U.V. owner as the Broom swept disconsolately down the middle of the street. “Right,” he said. “HE should get a ticket.”

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