Sunday, May 23, 2010

Lions (Part 3 of 4) Parking Styles

          Lions stalk a parking space. We’ve seen the nature shows. They blend in to the traffic and charge in an instant. They are quiet and still and always closing in even though you may not see it happening. We’ve all seen them. You drive down the block and wonder if the double parked car is Parking, Standing, or just Stopping. They lurk somewhere around the middle of the block, engine usually off, eyes stealthily looking from windshield to mirrors. They know that someone will be moving off of this block in the next half hour and that spot will be theirs. Probably they live on this block, or have had a lot of luck on this block, or are on the lookout for an ex wife/husband on this block. They don’t have to move. Hey, they choose not to.
          Maybe they are not into wasting gas, want to pollute the air less, have a good issue of Maxim to look over. If you think a Lion is too ferocious a beast for this kind of relaxed activity, just try turning the corner on a block where someone is just pulling out. The Lion, having also just seen this, reverses down that block so fast. His gears whine, his back end recklessly fishtails and he even hits the horn that blares “I knew that space was opening up before you did. Now out of my way!” Before you know it he/she is so into your face just as you pull up to that space, the rear of his SUV looks like an angry beast. Ever see a Lion and a Shark racing full speed at each other? In New York you have.
          A man in my building is out in front in his car most nights of the week and, from the sidewalk, it looks like a lot more relaxed way to park. I have always known him to be friendly, laid back even, so I asked him one night when he was at it the million dollar question. What do you do if a space never opens up? I got a definite sense that my question was an unwanted distraction. I did notice his eyes flicked up to his rearview mirror a few times. Or maybe, he just doesn’t like to think of the possibility of failure, but then he did concede that he has had to park on Riverside from time to time. Then, with no wasted time, no discussion either, he started up his car and pulled a U-turn. He got his space on the other end of the block. In for the night.
          I’ve always envied the Lions. They’re not contributing to that extra 31% of traffic (in some neighborhoods) due to people looking for parking spaces. They don’t have to negotiate clueless pedestrians, garbage trucks that all act like the Mob owns the street their blocking, or other fast driving, suddenly veering drivers looking for parking spaces. They always seem to find a space or else they wouldn’t do it, right? The question is do they have to wait longer than the Sharks or even the Eagles. Maybe it’s not about the least time spent parking. It’s about the “quality time.” That neat excuse we dreamed up to excuse our work obsessed, family distressed way of life might actually explain that how you park is more important than how long.
          Lions have a clearly defined territory and any roaring you hear in the jungle is just a Lion letting you know where their territory is, because when they are hunting you don’t hear them at all. The Lion on my street seemed to have a fall back position, a second territory. Or was that just a way to discourage me from hunting in this one? Lions have been known to flash brake lights, and even flicker reverse lights when you enter their block. Coincidence or an urban roar to let you know whose territory you are in? It’s not as paranoid as you might think. After a long night waiting for a space to open up and then seeing someone else cruise down the block with Eagle-like timing, arriving in front of the only space that has opened up in the last hour could get the best of us thinking up a few harmless threats. Red lights mean danger. So do white ones in this case. Aggressive ways to claim possession naturally occur to the beasts of the jungle.
          Lions are proud creatures. More often than not their vehicles are impressive looking. Usually clean, often snazzy. That, more than any other reason, is probably why I don’t park like a Lion. I try to keep any car I park on the street a little threadbare. It seems to provoke fewer petty criminals and vandals. Turns out our Lion on the block likes our block because he thinks there’s less chance of people messing with his car and then you look at his late model car, and see him washing it on weekends and adding prosthetic bumpers and you see why he wants to preserve it.
          Do less traffic, less driving stress, a convincing roar, and those great looking automobiles make Lions king of the beasts?

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