Friday March 4, 2011
Having a car in New York City is a blessing and a curse. There’s something called “alternate side street parking".
For those of you not familiar with urban street etiquette let me explain. Different streets in NY have red and white parking signs with a which tell you when the street cleaning machine will drive by to clean the street, so you can’t park there. On my street the street cleaning machine comes on Tuesdays between 9:00am -10:30am and Fridays between 9:00 -10:30am. So if it’s Friday, and your car is parked in a “Friday street cleaning” area, Friday at 8:45am you move your car to one side of the street so that the street cleaning machine can clean the street where the cars were parked. Then, at around 10:00am, or after the street cleaner truck drives by, you move back into a parking space. Some folks leave their cars double parked and come back and move them, and others,(like me) just sit in the car and wait the whole process out.
When I was living up on 85th street, it was actually kinda cool. A car meditation if you like. You got to know your neighbors by their cars and people helped one another. One car would wait and let the other get into a parking spot, drivers would watch one another’s cars and get coffee for each other... community! Peace and harmony on the streets of the Upper west side.
Then, I moved to Brooklyn. Now, I love Brooklyn. Parts of Brooklyn reminds me of Sesame Street. The lovely Brownstones tree lined streets and the lack of high rise buildings is wonderful. People seem to be a little more relaxed and open to smile and say hello to one another on the street.
That’s until they get into their cars.
This morning, I’m sitting in my car doing some writing, and all of a sudden the car is being pummeled by a round bespeckeled woman with wild crazy hair. Her small hands are formed into white fists pounding on the hood of my car as she screams “DAMN IT! DAMN IT! DAMN IT!!” at the top of her lungs. I make sure my car door is locked and she sees me sitting in the car. She doesn’t even get embarrassed or anything. “I need to get into my car and your are blocking me. I gotta be somewhere by 10:00am.” Mind you it’s 8:45am.
She starts to go to open her car. So I roll down the window (half way) and say,” Are you going to apologize?” She looks at me and snorts, “Well, you are blocking my car!” I raise my eyebrows take a breath and say, “ You realize that you were punching the hood of my car. I’m a nice person, but some people would not be so nice to witness someone punching the hood of their car. I will move it when you apologize.” She pauses then curtly replies, “ I’m sorry. " I move my truck and she moves her bumbll bee yellow Smart car out and drives down the street. I always see that bumble bee yellow smart car. It always parks in a way that takes up way more space than it needs to take so that other cars can’t park near it. It always annoys me.
I go back to my writing and look up and see Crazy Hair Lady walking in the middle of the street towards the front of my car again. I know crazy people can be strong so I keep one eye on her and one on my Club to make sure I can reach it if the Shit goes down and I gotta take my earrings off and put on some Vaseline.
She comes to the window and I open the window enough so that she can’t reach in and scratch my eyes out, “ I got mad. I didn't see a phone number written in the windshield.” I said , “Huh?” She said, “People leave their numbers so you can call if you need to get out.” I say, “Well, I’m in the car so I can move it if anyone needs to get out. And I did not see you looking for any numbers when you were playing the fighter on the hood of the car. “ “Okay.” She said. She turned around and walked back down the middle of the street.
I recently moved and it’s been stressful. Money is tight and we have very little furniture 2 weeks of things falling down and not knowing where anything is starts to wear you down. Seeing this woman at her stressed out worst made me think of all the times I have been at my stressed out worst in the past few weeks.
I know that the stress in my personal life has made me emotionally exhausted. But stress will always be there. It’s so easy to be our best when we are in the calm moments. But what about staying calm when we are in the midst of fear, exhaustion and rage?
It’s really easy it is to be reactive, it’s even fun. To be able to tell the story of the crazy driver or whatever random stranger freaks out on you to your friends or at a party is a way to bond and share. Especially to make yourself the hero and to have the clever comeback or witty response to someone who has wronged you feels empowering.
This morning when Crazy Hair Lady was pounding on the hood of my car, I could have jumped out and started screaming at her too. But today, I was simply too tired to fight. I just looked at her. Observed her actions and spoke only when I was ready. Plus, I was too damn tired to fight.
Being too tired to fight, did not mean I did not speak up for myself. I am a firm believer that everything happens for the best. Crazy Hair Lady was my mirror. She showed me that part of myself who lets fear take over and has to freak out. Now, I don’t blame all Brooklyn drivers for the actions of just one.
But I have to say, when it comes to alternate side street parking... It’s a little crazy in Brooklyn.