Sunday, January 17, 2010

The Challenge of Parking

The other day, as I was tramping gleefully toward our local Barnes and Noble in anticipation of another pleasant booktalk, I was stopped by a man with a thick Eastern European accent whom I expected to request directions from me. This is something that happens quite frequently in New York City. But what he wanted instead was my judgment about whether he could park in an empty space along West 66th Street. Now, I have to tell you that I consider myself very lucky to be in the enviable position of not having to worry a jot about driving any more, and I am particularly delighted to report that the agony of parking in the city has been driven entirely from my mind. But when something like this comes up and I begin recalling all the times that as a New York resident with an automobile in the 1970s I searched in vain for a parking place, I get just a bit nauseous. In this case, though, my bewilderment took precedence over my nausea. I mean how did I know whether he could park there or not? The signs, as expected, were utterly confusing. He seemed to be contemplating a space that could lead to an immediate tow or that would allow him to safely leave his car there for hours. I honestly could not tell. But there was something about this man and my own identification with the absurdity of his problem that made me want to search out a police officer or some knowledgeable person to help him. I thought of walking up a half a block to Broadway where I knew a police officer was often stationed, but I realized, of course, that he would never be able to leave his post for that long. So I did the next best thing and sidled up to the clerk in a nearby convenience store to help. His English was so rudimentary, however, I couldn't quite make out what he was trying to tell me, but I was pretty sure it wasn't going to assist my hapless parker. I emerged from the store with my palms upturned to indicate that I was at a loss. I just didn't know how to help. The Eastern European accepted this and said something colloquial like, "I guess I'll take my chances," and within 10 seconds had expertly parked his car in the available space. I waved at him as I hurried up the street, relieved that trying to find a parking place in New York City would never again preoccupy me. It made the rest of my short jaunt to my B&N that much sweeter.

1 comment:

  1. There aren't many big cities in the US where one can live easily without owning a car. Besides NYC, perhaps Portland, Seattle, San Francisco (depending on where you live and where you work), maybe Chicago and Boston. DC, if you don't mind relatively long walks (in terrible humidity). I think Manhattan may be the only one of these where not having a car is actually a benefit.
    Even though living in 'downtown' San Diego and having most of the entertainment and culture venues within walking distance, we still drive 3-4000 local miles a year that would be very difficult with the limited public transportation we have.