I live in a neighborhood with trees, gardens and parks. I can’t buy a cup of coffee or a loaf of bread without running into someone I know. Sometimes it’s a bit like Mayberry here in the –119. It takes the candor of a kindergartener to snap me out of my mirth.
“That guy did a really bad job parking.” My six-year-old neighbor announces this at full volume, as we unload the car we have pulled in neatly in front of the white one she’s pointing to. I bite my lip to contain hysterical laughter. I know she didn’t hear our conversation because the windows were closed; the observation is completely true and completely hers—said without malice, simply observed and noted. This is life in the city.
“Yeah, you’re kind of right,” I tell her. “But it’s not nice to say it. I am sure that driver did the best he could.” (My ass! His whole front end is sticking out into the street at such a sharp angle that parallel parking in front of him was a minor challenge.) It must be a visitor, someone who shuttles between driveways and parking lots. Or maybe a Roman? The park job was laughable enough that the sidewalk hopscotch brigade was gossiping. You know you’re a crappy parallel parker when 5 and 6 years olds laugh at you. From the mouths of babes…
We have no garage, so on-street parking is a way of life, a daily routine as unremarkable as toast and coffee. I don’t feel we grouse about parking like others do. We only drag chairs and trash cans into the street to guard parking spaces when we’ve shoveled out a spot in heavy snow. Otherwise we quietly jockey for a space on the block like everyone else. Or so I thought.
I was startled the first time I heard Robin, age 3, grumbling as he parked his Matchbox cars and vans. “Well, I guess this is the best I can do,” he muttered to no one as he swiped a red convertible up alongside a curb in the 2D city of his play rug. Then the black conversion van with the flames painted on its sides chimed in. “See if we can get closer.” It continued this way until supper, each car circling and complaining about the spot they finally procured.
Robin throws bizarre fits sometimes, tantrums for the most unlikely and unfixable things. After we dragged him to a couple open houses one weekend, he became fixated on having a garage. I don’t even remember if either of the homes we walked through had one. But his cry was undeniable. “Mommy, I want a garage! I want a garage! I want a garage RIGHT now! We neeeeeeed a garage!” He repeated it in hysterics as if he were asking for a cookie or something from a gift shop.
Who is this child? And is he baiting us for a move to the burbs?
In the meantime, if you drive over to visit us, consider yourself warned. Mayberry may have had parking lots. But this is the city. If you park poorly on our block, the kiddos will call you on it.