A Triumph…There Are All Kinds

2 March 2018

Improbable conquests: climbing Everest; the four-minute mile; the six-minute Louvre; eating 72 hot dogs in 10 minutes (Nathan’s Hot Dog Eating contest record); landing a quadruple toe loop and: finding four parking spaces in Manhattan on a Saturday night. I’m not built for high altitude, speed, spinning or distending my stomach, so the fifth challenge was the only one I’d try.

This past Saturday Roberta and I opted to take a car into mid-town, because we had three places to go…in different parts of the city. The subway was out of the question…the #1 (the nearest train) wasn’t running…track work over the weekend. Taxis were a possibility, but who can find even one on a Saturday night? (We’d need four.)

And so with misgivings we drove, first to the meatpacking district (lower westside) to an art gallery to see a friend’s paintings. Parking there is measured in fractions of a percent, since bikes and buses are taking up more street space. But, despite my pessimism, a spot appeared. Roberta, the genie of parking karma, claimed some of hers was rubbing off on me.

After the gallery, we drove across town for a 6:30 movie, allowing 20 minutes to drive and a half hour to try and park. What do you mean try and park, she jabbed from the passenger side. Think like a pessimist and you’ll never find spaces…like that one over there, she pointed and shrieked. We’re in a traffic jam…it can’t be a space, I said. Somebody would’ve taken it. But I scooted over and backed in. Take the space first and then check for No Parking signs later. We analyzed, check and rechecked…it was good.

Then perversity intervened. We walked four blocks to the theater, slid a credit card into the ticket machine to find the 6:30 was sold out. There were two tickets left for the 9:45. We were going for Szechuan after the movie…across town. A change was needed…so we’d eat now and come back for the 9:45. We walked back to the car and, nonchalant as bush pilots, gave up the parking space. Who does such a thing? Better to find a restaurant nearby than to give up the space. Plans needn’t be set in cement.

Back in the car we crossed town to the restaurant, which is surrounded by a cityscape of high-rise apartments, where parking spaces are as rare as red diamonds. But it was our night. A third space on a Saturday night materialized…a jewel in asphalt. We were innocents in the city that night with the hubris of golfers expecting par. Kung Pao chicken never tasted as good.

Then it was back to the movie on the eastside, going for a fourth space on Saturday night. Comeuppance was likely at hand. Traffic was heavier. It was high tide…restaurants and clubs overflowed. An ambulance ten cars back of us wailed desperately trying to get through. Then, miraculously, a space popped up…no hydrant, no driveway, no church entrance. It was like planting a flag atop Everest. I pulled up to back in. The car in back pulled up, so I couldn’t. The ambulance still wailed, now five cars in back of us, then four, three, two. The car in back finally gave in, backed up and with inches to spare went around us. We backed in just before the ambulance squeezed past. A fourth space on Saturday night.

It was quarter to twelve when the movie let out. We could have run to the car and tried for a fifth space before midnight, but that would only have been to gild the lily, not because we had another stop planned for the night. But we did drive uptown with smug smiles of satisfaction.