The parking garage below Lincoln Center
By Caitlin Kelly
This post will make you extremely happy you don’t live anywhere near New York City.
I guarantee it.
Let’s stipulate from the outset — as lawyers say — that I generally enjoy amazing New York parking karma. In a city that has removed some 60,000 street parking spots in recent years for bike lanes and rental bikes and who knows why, I’m usually able to find a spot on the street, without a meter or any payment necessary, often, blessedly, right in front of the exact place I need to be.
To park, even on the street, can easily run $10.75 for two hours, and a parking garage (with its 18%+ tax) can pull $30 (at best) to $50+ from your pocket. That’s a fortune!
So, free parking is much prized.
Story One: scene, The Bronx, next to the Bronx Courthouse
Pouring rain. I’m late. I’m meeting someone to interview them for my then-job as a New York Daily News reporter. I’m also meeting a freelance photographer, a genial guy named Phil I’ve met before. So I’m frazzled.
I hate being late.
I see a parking spot!
I nose in and grab the spot…but oooohhhhhhh shit. It now appears I’ve unwittingly stolen a spot from someone who had been waiting for it. Part of me just doesn’t give a damn: I’m late, my damn News job is always in jeopardy, it’s pouring rain and I have no idea where else to park!
Then it gets ugly — she starts screaming at me. She’s an old lady. I am alone. I scream back, saying some…hmmmm…intemperate things. She shrieks for back-up and, like some really bad scene from West Side Story, windows in apartments all above us slam upward. Oh, shit.
Now she’s wielding a tire iron.
I call the cops. They arrive. I am shaking with fear. The cops, God bless them, are calm and kind. They listen to both of us.
She finally moves her car out of the way so I can escape.
Phil shows up with my interview subject. I burst into relieved tears. “Oh, the old lady with the tire iron,” Phil teases me kindly. “That’s Caitlin’s usual story.”
Interview subject and I head to the nearest bar — at 11:00 a.m. — and have a whisky.
Story Two: Ardsley, New York, a suburban town north of Manhattan
I’m rushing to a meeting with a tutoring agency, with the alluring possibility of earning some extra, needed income.
I’m driving on a very narrow, traffic-filled road and have to make a quick, sharp left-hand turn into a narrow alley that appears to have parking. I move to the very rear of the alley, literally facing a swamp.
This is not a town I know well at all.
There’s no indication this is not public parking — and that my car will be towed away.
I emerge from a terrific and successful meeting to find a tow truck and two men very aggressively — and with NO explanation why — attaching our car (leased, cannot get damaged!) to their effing truck.
I lose my shit. I’m screaming. I’m shouting.
They curse me, shout at me, keep pushing their attachments onto my car.
I push the driver — a burly guy in his 50s — to get away from my damn car, (yes) and he curses at me and tells me he’s calling the police.
He demands instant payment of $150 cash to get his truck and its claws off my car. We have an amused audience of a construction crew — and another old lady who called the tow company because it’s her laundromat and I’d used one of her spots.
I hadn’t even seen the laundromat itself (hidden behind construction) — let alone her small warning sign, posted ONLY on the construction hoarding right at the street edge of the alley as I turned quickly out of traffic and did not see it.
There were no other signs anywhere to indicate that my car would be towed.
Cops come, two cars, show zero interest in what happened.
Truck leaves with my cash.
I eat lunch at a local diner, trying not to have a heart attack.
I go to Village Hall and tell the story (including my shitty — albeit terrified and utterly confused — behavior) to two blessedly kindly clerks before crying my way home, exhausted.
And, no, it’s not really possible to live in a New York suburb without a car.