Tuesday, July 16, 2013

Waiting for the Street Sweepers

On Sunday night I was fortunate to find a parking space on 107th Street, yards from leafy Riverside Drive and down the block from Broadway and West End Avenue. The space -- so close to where I'd be staying for the night -- was a surprise, and free.( Isn't this what we mean by gratuitous?) The only condition, so far as I could discern, was that my comfortably wedged-in vehicle had to be moved from this sanguine-spurring spot between the hours of 9:30 and 11 a.m. Monday, to permit and facilitate the cleaning of that northern side of this east-west street. (Manhattan's street grid is eminently logical.) Being neurotic (now, we like to call it OCD; for a decade or so it was anal-retentive), I checked the sign about parking permission at least three and four times and surveyed other cars to confirm further the legitimacy of this piece of vehicular real estate. A car in back of mine seemed to have one of those anti-theft attached to the steering wheel. So Nineties, I thought. Things looked safe and secure, but I'm not naive. Gotham is surely not free of all crime, nor is your hometown. I was very tired, so awoke as late as I could Monday. Blaring sunshine and body clock had votes on this matter. I purchased a Times and read part of the lead story on the Zimmerman acquittal and realized the demonstration I had encountered Sunday evening on First Avenue might have been the same one that converged later onto Times Square, as pictured. I was hungry. A bagel shop on Broadway looked appealing. I went in. Long lines. Slow progress. It was already 9:10. I pictured my car being ticketed and towed. I left. I went up the street to the Manchester Diner. I started to order a bagel but grew more nervous about that concept we call time. Just give me a corn muffin, please. And a tea. Breakfast tea. With cream. no sugar. I walked to my car. still there. Everything fine. But already people were moving cars to the opposite side of the street. A few may have been sitting double-parked in their vehicles. The promised furnace heat was only simmering at this hour. Picture a stream of cars lining up double-parked on the non-street-sweeper side of 107th Street. Perhaps influenced by the Times story and current events, I mused to myself about law. We pay attention to  -- or ignore -- laws as they suit us, do we not? There is obviously a social compact here. I am fairly certain double-parking in New York City is illegal. Imagine if your car was curbside and had to get out but was blocked by a double-parked car. But I did not see such cars ticketed. (Maybe they are, all the time. I don't know. I suspect these folks -- some perhaps paid to do so -- jockeying the cars are ready to move them.) And does the city want hundreds or even thousands of cars driving around during the street-cleaning times? What purpose would that serve? I dutifully moved my car to the opposite side, near but not blocking a driveway. I rolled my windows down. I ate my corn muffin, crumbs falling all over me. Who made this corn muffin? Where? When? How many were made? I drank my morning tea, as is my wont at home. Sitting here, you hardly hear the traffic in back, on Broadway, or anywhere else. Hardly any cars come down 107th. I perform my Times fetish ritual of reading all the articles on the front page, if nothing else. I browse through some of the Sports section. A disembodied hose is watering the plants at the base of a tree to my left. I do not want to get sprayed and close my window. The watering over, I reopen my window. I put the paper down and close my eyes. Starlings. Sparrows. No sirens. The road in front, which is the Riverside Drive before Riverside Drive, is quiet. Am I in the country? Where did all the sound go to? A hint of a breeze. Be mindful of breathing. And breathing out. As suggested by Thich Nhat Hanh. Offer myself and the world the hint of a smile. Try to smile. Try to hear your breathing. Feel it. Be it. Open your eyes. Turn the car on. Close the windows. Put on the AC. Turn right and follow Riverside Drive all the up to the Cross-Bronx. A brand-new vista offering the GWB and the Palisades. A brand-new road. Just for me.

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