In the 90s, when I was a graduate student, my father was away for the summer and left me his car. I was living on 100th Street between West End Avenue and Riverside Drive with two teammates from my ultimate frisbee team. A long time ago, it must have been the year we went to Nationals.
Having a car up there meant a lot of parallel parking because alternate side parking meant you couldn’t stay in a spot for more than a couple days.
One afternoon I was meeting a friend near Union Square. Today I would take the subway, but having the car and not yet seeing it as a pain, I drove downtown.
I was late. It started drizzling. Finding parking around Union Square is hard, but I saw a spot near where I was going. The spot was my car length plus a few inches.
Hurrying and hoping not to get rained on, I didn’t think much of what I was doing, but I backed into the spot in one motion, no nudging. I just went right into the spot.
As I got out of the car, a guy on the sidewalk said to me, “Nice parking.”
It made my day.
He didn’t have to stop. He didn’t have to say anything. But he did.
I’ve told the story many times, feeling as if I were repaying him in some cosmic sense.
This evening I walked back from a friend’s event in the Lower East Side to my home in Greenwich Village. Less than a block from my home, I saw a car do a fast U-turn from the other side of the street, taking advantage of an empty spot to do the full turn. That is, he couldn’t have made the U-turn without the extra street width the empty spot gave him. I suspected he was going to take that spot and thought that if he was, it would be a sweet move to swing around like that just when there was a break in traffic.
Indeed, his U-turn carried him into position to reverse back into the spot. In the time he shifted into reverse, a bus pulled up from behind. Cars coming from the other direction squeezed everyone. Despite the traffic, he backed into the spot. It was plenty big, but nonetheless he did it in one pass.
As he got out of his car, I said, “Nice parking.”
He smiled. No, he beamed. He thanked me. He was in a hurry, but I added, “Years ago someone said it to me and it made my day.”
At last, I repaid the city the good feeling it gave me.
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