The VigilanceVoice

Saturday-- May 18, 2002—Ground Zero Plus 249

Parking Terrorism--NYC Style
Cliff McKenzie
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 graduation.

Union Theological Seminary

       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 parking spots.

       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 inches.
        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 madder."
       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 opposing bumpers.
       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 hydrant.  
      "There," I said, "I bet you can get into that one."
      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 though there was room for a fire truck, and it appeared we were marginally on the line of being "ticketlessly safe."
       "Whaddya think?"
       "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 Humane Society. 

       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 at first.

G0 TO:  May 17--Birthing Your Spiritual Vigilance

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