Convertible Parking

Parking lot with diagonal cars parked keeping distance
Parking lot with diagonal cars parked keeping distance one of another in a clear day

This story first appeared in a 2001 edition of Dan’s Papers

I have gotten into the habit, on Sunday mornings, of depositing my weekly paycheck into the bank. The bank is not open on that day, of course. But what I figure is that if I get up early enough, I can drive down from my house on Three Mile Harbor Road, hang a right onto Newtown Lane, and park right in front of my bank, which is the North Fork Bank.

There’s an ATM machine just 10 feet across the sidewalk from the street. I walk over, stick in my card, stick in the envelope with the deposit information in it. Done.

The key, of course, is the parking. Nine times out of 10 early Sunday morning it is not a problem. My trip can include a coffee and donut at Dreesen’s. Maybe a little conversation sitting on the bench out front.

Last Sunday morning, however, was not one of those days. Turning up Newtown Lane, I saw that every parking spot was taken. I would have to take to the parking lots. But then, I saw a taillight. White and red. A car was about to pull out.

I drove up the street, put on my right blinker, and I pulled just in front of where this car was. I looked in my rear view mirror. There was a man at the wheel. Our eyes locked. There was no mistaking what this was all about.

The man did not pull out of his parking space right away, however. He had adjustments to make. He put on his seatbelt. He messed with something on his dashboard. So far, so good. But then, he did nothing.

I had a good look at the car. It was white. Immaculate. Extremely expensive looking. Foreign. As for the man, he was middle aged, white haired, jowly. And wearing a tennis shirt. He was continuing to do absolutely nothing. What was this all about? Was he waiting for somebody?

Here on Newtown Lane, there was little doubt, to me, to him and to everybody else, that I had put myself into a vulnerable position. People could get around me to the left. But it wasn’t easy. Good driving manners dictate that if someone is waiting to take your space, you move out in a reasonable amount of time. If there are other circumstances, you make some kind of signal to the person with the turn signal on I’m not leaving soon. This man was doing nothing.

I was about to leave, however, when the man did something odd. Apparently, there is a button on his dashboard he can press. He had pressed it. Behind him, the rear window of his car, as if on a hinge, folded up, then the trunk lid raised, only backward, then the front of the top, where it meets the windshield, lifted back, and the entire top retreated from over his head, hovered for a moment above his trunk and then disappeared into the trunk. The trunk now closed.

He is about to leave, is what went through my mind. And then I thought, this is a very expensive car to be able to do that. I have seen BMWs that do that. I looked at the grill. It was, I think, a Saab. It was a Saab doing that. A very expensive Saab.

The next thing that happened is that the man got out of the car. There was a trash can on the sidewalk just down from his car. He walked toward it, a heavyset men in tennis shirt, shorts and sneakers. Then he threw something in. Then he slowly walked back to his car.

I shifted into first. I’d had enough of this. And I was about to move off when the man’s turn blinker went on. He was pulling out.

I had left him plenty of room to pull out. That was not an issue. And so he did, his top down, his wheels rolling, a Master of the Universe on his way to who knows where.

I wrestled my car from first to reverse. Now with the space open, I would back in. But as I started back, I saw that someone had already pulled in to take the space. Another man in white tennis clothes. But in a Mercedes convertible. He’d snuck in behind me while I hesitated.

We all know the phrase, “all’s fair in love and parking.’ There was nothing I could do. And so I put my car into drive, moved about 10 feet forward and found myself stopped behind somebody in a Volvo who had stopped for no reason whatsoever in the middle of the street. I know there is a crosswalk. There was nobody in the crosswalk. This person had just stopped. Absolutely no reason for it. And so, I waited. And finally, he or she started up and proceeded.

I have been thinking about this. We seem to be increasingly populated by people who are used to doing whatever they want, whenever they want, and however they want.

I think Southampton College should offer courses in driving etiquette and manners.

On the other hand, since there is really only one Master of the Universe and there seems to be so many out here vying for the title, perhaps we ought to just let them kill each other off until we’re down to just one.

Then there will be lots of peaceful roads and lots of parking everywhere and things should be fine.

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