Saturday-- May 18, 2002—Ground
Zero Plus 249
Parking Terrorism--NYC Style
Editor, New York City Combat Correspondent News
GROUND ZERO, New York City,
May 18--Yesterday was filled with joyous Vigilance and bitter
Terrorism. This jam-packed city brings both emotions out of
you in a New York Minute...usually about the length of horn beeping behind
you when you are stuck in traffic.
Friday (May 17), was a day of
Vigilance because our family witnessed our older daughter's graduation
from Union Theological Seminary. The campus was rich with the
greenery of Spring unfolding into Summer, and accented by the flowing of
passionate ruby-red gowns of graduates who had spent the past three years
buried in the ecclesiastical studies of religion and spirituality--many of
whom were on their way to becoming ordained in various religions they
represented, and some of whom had already been ordained prior to
Union Theological Seminary is a
quiet respite in the middle of a bustling city of more than 8 million
human bodies, all shuffling either by foot or car or cab up and down the
streets, en route to work or play, and some who just wander from corner to
corner, picking through the garbage cans or standing with an empty cup and
vacant, pleading eyes asking for handouts.
Situated next to Columbia University
on 120th Street and Broadway, exactly 113 streets from our apartment on
7th Street in the East Village, the seminary is within a couple of blocks
of the Hudson River, relatively close to Ulysses S. Grant's famous tomb
situated on a knoll overlooking the Hudson. The former U.S.
President and Civil War General declared in his will to be buried there
for he loved the view of the Hudson and the beauty of Riverside Drive that
wends its way up the western shoreline of Manhattan.
Parking isn't bad in this area.
Usually, you can find a spot within a block or two of the seminary.
I dropped the family off--our daughter, my wife, my sister visiting from
Las Vegas, and our two grandchildren. Then I embarked on the
"parking spot" hunt, prowling slowly up and down the streets looking for
that precious space in which I might wedge our Sable.
I found a spot near a fire hydrant
and pushed the front bumper of the car up to within an inch of the car
ahead, and then got out to check and see if I was in the "ticket zone."
At $55-$100 a ticket, you become economically driven to find a "legal"
parking spot, and, when garage parking competes with ticket prices, you
opt for the chance of a parking ticket. The place I
parked was marginal. I was relatively close to the hydrant, but on a
corner. I took a risk and shut down the engine, put my red
Club on the steering wheel to ward off car thieves, and locked up.
Then I headed to the graduation ceremony, hoping upon my return the car
would be ticket-less.
Taking one's car around Manhattan is an act
of Terror. Not only do you face fighting bumper-to-bumper traffic,
and cars blaring their horns when you're stopped at red lights, and people
yelling and cursing at you for no just reason because they are frustrated
sitting in traffic and need to ventilate, but you face your own blood
boiling in retaliation to those Bumper Terrorists behind you, jamming
their horns and yelling without cause. It is a true test of one's
tolerance, especially when you know that where ever your destination is
awaits a "hunt-and-find" search for a parking spot. Sometimes
such a hunt can take up to an hour or more in densely populated areas.
Our younger daughter, who is a federal law
enforcement agent, was coming up from her headquarters. She
chose to drive her private vehicle, a jeep, rather than her work car which
carries a NYPD police plaque allowing her to park in illegal spots during
official business. She usually has little problems finding a
spot because she can deposit her official car in any available spot.
But her private car doesn't allow such latitude, and as with the rest of
us "civilians," she must buck the same parking headwinds as we. She
chose to bring her car so she could help transport people arriving by
subway to Carmine's, a famous Italian restaurant where they serve food
"family style" in large platters that everyone takes portions from.
After the ceremony we split up into
two cars. My wife and I rode with my daughter in her Jeep
while the others piled into the Sable and headed down about twenty blocks
to Carmines. The lower you go in Manhattan, the harder
the parking. It took her about twenty to thirty minutes to
find a spot. She dropped us off so we could put our names in for a
table for nine. I never worry about her walking on the streets since
she carried one to two 9mm Glocks.
We had a great meal and celebration of our
daughter's completion of a life-long dream. We stuffed our
faces with delicious pastas and fried zucchini, and topped it off with a
delicious dessert. The waiters surrounded our daughter and sang
"Congratulations To You," and then we departed.
I rode with my 9mm Glock daughter. It
was raining so we took my son-in-law's mother uptown to get her car she had
parked at her other son's house. Gert is a college professor
who teaches at an all women's Catholic College and daily fights the traffic
from Stanton Island to her school which is situated above Manhattan.
Traffic was grueling. The rain
made it dangerous because cars weaved in an out, jockeying for position to
jump lights and rush and stop. My daughter was tired because
she had been on surveillance the night before until 4.a.m., and her nerves
were stripped raw. She drives all over New York's boroughs hunting
for "bad guys," and driving to her is all work and no play.
We deposited Gert and then headed down to
the East Village along the West Side Highway, jammed with cars blazing
bright red brake lights as the parade of vehicles came to a stop, then
moved in a herd as quick as possible, then came to another stop.
My daughter kept slapping her face to keep herself awake, and I told her
the story of my ER Terror experience (see yesterday's story - go to
directory below) to keep
her alert. Finally, we crawled into the East Village, and like
hunters approaching our game's lair, began to stalk the streets for
You have two choices when hunting for a
parking spot. One, you can drive very fast up and down the side
streets waiting for a pair of brake lights to signal someone leaving, or,
you can poke along as slow as possible hoping the same will happen.
Though tired, my daughter chose the former tactic.
Faster was better because it kept her mind sharp.
The East Village is laden with restaurants,
bars, night clubs, off Broadway theaters and the home to more than 30,000
New York University students. A great wave of "uptown" people
travel down to the East Village to enjoy its relaxed, eclectic nature,
thus jamming the streets with parked cars separated usually by only a few
We hunted for nearly an hour, back
and forth, up and down and around. Cars behind us laid on
their horns. Voices yelled. The percolation of
Terror grew. My daughter's anger mushroomed proportionally.
"I hate this city," she snapped.
"I hate people honking at me. I hate it Nothing makes me
We talked about the madness of driving for
hours around your apartment looking for a spot to park. "You ought
to write about the Terrorism of parking, Dad," she said. "Only those
who know how frustrating it can be will appreciate it," she said, leaning
forward, her thick eyebrows crunched together as she scanned the street
ahead for signs of a space large enough to wedge the Jeep between two
Behind us a car honked its horn.
I could see my daughter's lip curl in anger. I thought of some
harried driver behind us unaware that the vehicle he was blaring at
contained a "trained killer," armed and ready to attack.
Fortunately, I knew my daughter was well trained in restraint, a
professional at what she did, but then we all have breaking points.
I reminded myself not to blare my horn at anyone--who knew what the person
ahead was carrying in their vehicle--what kind of weapon or how close they
were to erupting.
"Do you ever get so pissed you act
violently against those who beep at you?" I threw out the
question to keep her mind off the incessant honks, the spurs under saddle
that make her knuckles white as she gripped the wheel, whipping up and
down in search for that precious space that mean she could go home and
sleep, relax for a few hours before climbing back in her car and bucking
the endless New York City traffic madness.
"No, I can't afford to get mad," she said.
"But the other day when we were heading back from a surveillance job, I
saw a woman kicking a tiny Mexican Chihuahua. I whipped over to
the side of the street, jumped out and read the woman the riot act.
'How would like someone to kick you,' I yelled at her. 'Huh, how
would you like that?'"
"What did she do?"
"She started to apologize. She said
the dog was making her mad. She said she wouldn't do it again."
"Did you flash your badge at her?"
"Of course. I wanted her to
know she can't just walk around and kick her dog. That makes me
madder than people beeping at me. All day long people honk
their horns. It gets to you after a while."
"Did you think about arresting her?"
"Sure, but I couldn't. My boss would
be mad if I wasted my time arresting a dog kicker. He'd figure
I lost my priorities. But I scared her. That was good.
I felt better. People who are cruel to animals are the worst kind,"
she said. "Really bad people."
If there is a God, He or She must like
people like my younger daughter who protect small, innocent animals. Suddenly, a ray of
light appeared in the gloom of the rainy, frustrating Friday night.
Just in front of her apartment appeared a tiny space just before a fire
"There," I said, "I bet you can get into that
She whipped the Jeep against the curb and studied
the spot. Then she ground the gears quickly into reverse
before the car behind us tried to shovel itself into the spot, creating a
confrontation I wouldn't want to see. She backed the Jeep up
snugly against the front bumper of the other car. It seemed as
was room for a fire truck, and it appeared we were marginally on the line
of being "ticketlessly safe."
"It's good," she said. "I don't
care if I get a ticket. I'm so tired."
I stood behind the Jeep and guided her back
another foot to add insurance we were far enough away, and then she locked
up all the belongings in the Jeep and we strolled to the local deli where
she needed to get some tuna for her cat, Ruben, a tough, biting,
scratching 18-pound male, almost feral feline she had acquired from the
Ruben was a monster cat, with a reputation for
biting and scratching. He had been a kitten in South Harlem and
learned to fend for himself, trusting no one. My daughter
chose him over more servile cats because few wanted him or his aggressive,
attack nature. She had started giving him albacore tuna, a treat he relished, and an
inducement from her to quiet the "beast within." She had to
lock him in the bathroom when strangers came to visit for he was famous
for attacking their legs. Once he drove her sister into the bathroom
and kept her locked in while he howled at the door, eager to sink his
fangs into her calves or ankles.
"At least Ruben doesn't honk at me,"
she said, trying to add some humor in a long night of parking Terror.
I left her and walked home in the
rain. Down Second Avenue streamed an endless column of cars, trucks
and cabs. Some beeped their horns, others prowled as we had
for a parking spot. It was just after 11 p.m. The
sidewalks were crowded with people, coming and going.
I thought about September 11th. It
was a day of Terror for all. But then there were people like my
daughter who every day got in her car and hunted down the "bad guy,"
following him throughout the streets of New York, getting honked at as she
dodged traffic to keep the suspect in undercover sight, armed to the hilt
with weapons in case the "bad guy" tried to resist arrest or chose to
engage the task force in a gun battle.
For some, like my daughter, the Terror never ended. While
it wasn't equal to planes smashing into the World Trade Center,
each honk accumulated into one giant honk. If one took
all the honks and put them in a pile, perhaps they would be
as high as the World Trade Center, and their volume equal to
the roar of the buildings collapsing.
Terrorism was insidious, I thought.
It grew under one's skin in lots of different ways, needling
and aggravating one's sense of calm and serenity, frustrating
one's sense of order and duty.
I decided then I would
never honk at another car. I knew it would require the maximum
tools of Vigilance--Courage, Conviction and Right Inaction.
Yes, I would never honk at another car again.
Unless, that is, I was honked
TO: May 17--Birthing Your Spiritual Vigilance
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