Tuesday, May 01, 2007

The Wrong Side

Sartre said Hell is other people, but to a New Yorker, Hell is forever trying to explain alternate side of the street parking to someone from Columbus, Ohio. Even in this mortal sphere, my crystalline and succinct understanding of this archetypally New Yorkish body of law occasionally clouds.

On Thursday mornings, the north side of my block must be clear of cars from 8 to 11; on Fridays, cars must clear the south side during the same hours. For those three-hour periods, cars are permitted to double-park across the street. Well, they’re not exactly permitted, but our innately gracious and kind traffic cops have been winking at the practice for years.

Last Thursday, I waited until 10:55 a.m. instead of 10:50 to move my car, double-parked on the Friday side, back to the Thursday side, where it would not require moving for a whole week – unless, of course, I wanted to actually drive somewhere, which is almost never a smart thing to do unless you’re going out of town. At 10:50 (or 10:51 or 52, depending on how far up or down my car is), there are plenty of Thursday spots to choose from. But on this morning, that five minute window of time was enough for the Thursday side to fill up entirely. I had to move on in search of a parking place good for a week. No worries, though. If you’re early enough, you can always find something pretty close to home.

In the arrogance that comes from seeing lots of free curb space, I didn’t notice that none of the numerous open spaces was long enough to accommodate my car – which isn’t particularly big, so don’t get the wrong idea. Meanwhile, the streets were filling up. I made two increasingly desperate circuits of the surrounding blocks and found nothing that would free me from the awful fate of having to move the car again on Friday. Finally, at the top of the block two over from mine, I found a spot big enough for me and quickly pulled in, spending a minute or two extra to make sure I was close enough to the curb – in New York, you can never be too rich, too thin or too close to the curb.

Relieved, I locked that car and headed home. A block and a half on, I began wondering about the side I’d parked on: Thursday or Friday, Friday or Thursday? I was over a block away from the car anyway, so what difference did it make? I could check again tonight when I walked the dog.

That’s when I knew I’d parked on the Friday side, the if-you’re-parked- there-at 8:01 a.m.-you’ve-got-a-parking-ticket side. For the first time in my memory, as least so far as I can remember, alternate-side regulations had confused me.

I grow old, I grow old, but I swear it’ll never happen again. That’s for out-of-towners.