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Lightly Roasted/Kathy Eliscu

I know we’re past the holidays, but I’m desperately clinging to crucial spiritual lessons – love, kindness, and gratitude – during my annual January New York City visit with my sister.

“You’ll have to move your car at 11 tomorrow morning,” she reminds me. “Eleven, or you’ll get towed.”

I recall the twice-weekly game of musical cars, aka street cleaning.

“Got it,” I nod. “Eleven.”

“You double park on the opposite side of the street and sit there until it’s done,” she says.

“But what if …”

“If you have to leave your car, put a sign in the window with your phone number,” she says.

“In case someone thinks I’m cute?” I say.

Eleven o’clock,” she says. “Eleven.”

I spend a sleepless night, worried I won’t hear the six phone alarms I’ve set, and wondering if I can make it through an hour and a half tomorrow morning without a bathroom.

At 10:30 a.m., I throw on yesterday’s clothes (part of my plan), choke down my morning pills with a teaspoon of water (part of my plan), and wait for the magic hour. At 10:45, my sister bursts into the room (not part of my plan.)

“Go. Now!” she says.

“It’s not 11. The plan was 11,” I say, frantic.

“But sometimes you can get a real spot on the other side if you go out early.”

Hoping for a post-Christmas miracle, and realizing I probably don’t need to use the bathroom for the eighth time in five minutes, I head out.

I see a spot. Not a double-park spot, but a real, actual spot that is somehow, magically empty.

I maneuver into it, carefully backing in, when I hear a gentle toot from nearby. A smiling man in a double-parked car waves me over, shaking his head. I put my car in park and get out to see what the fuss is about.

“No, no! Hydration,” he points.

I look. Way, way, back – cleverly hidden behind several mammoth, discarded Christmas trees – is a fire hydrant.

Great. Now I have to re-double-park and also think about hydration, for now I’m thirsty and, of course, that brings up the whole bathroom thing. But mind over matter.

I back up, wave to the nice man, and see a double-park spot directly behind him. One car length. Perfect. Just behind him is an older woman in her car, eyes straight ahead, which is what my Brooklyn daughter has taught me is the correct way to communicate in New York City. I start trying to get into this double-park situation, edging back and forth, inch by inch. I haven’t seen this much movement since my Richard Simmons dance video. Stone-Stare Woman has several feet behind her.

I get out of my car.

Knock-knock on Stone-Stare’s window. Nothing. Knock-knock. (Who’s there? A fellow human being …) She finally rolls the window down an inch. I’m wondering which of those big ol’ Christmas trees lining the sidewalk might have been hers, as she gathered about the living room in a warm family moment of gratitude just weeks earlier.

“Um, could you move back just a little so I can get in?” I ask.

“No.”

Just, no?

That warm “New York, New York” theme is playing through my head.

“You can move back up after. I just need a couple of feet for a minute,” I say, forcing my warmest smile.

“I’m not moving. Get him to move,” she barks, pointing ahead.

Gosh, this post-holiday visit is going well. I am so feeling that spirit.

There’s essentially no room for the guy ahead of me to move. Maybe two inches.

I’m not only feeling frustrated, but also hurt that my fellow woman wouldn’t help a Mainer out for a minute. Apparently I’m not in Kansas – or Maine – anymore.

But miracles do happen. The sweet guy ahead of me, shirt labeled “Handyman,” plus a 30-something fellow “Doorman” and a college-age guy they call “Scuba” are, in moments, moving the car in front those few inches and guiding me, molecule by molecule, into the parking spot. Three Wise (and good) Men indeed.

My faith in humans restored, I thank them profusely, and say a silent prayer, confident I can wait out the next hour sans bathroom, until the street cleaning passes and we all look for new parking spots.

I take in the gratitude for good people around me when I am stuck in life, rising above any petty animosity toward another. I wait – holding on to that sense of serenity I’ll need for an hour hence when it’s time to move again …

To race the old bitty to a prime spot.