No Parking

Small towns are generally nicer than cities.  Smaller cities tend to be less abrasive than their larger cousins.  Some same-size cities have better manners than others.  Like the, stick shopping carts into handicapped spots in supermarket parking lots, the chutzpah, the overweening arrogance and gall many people have about how and where they abandon their vehicles, just keeps me in open-mouthed amazement.  And not a little irritation.

The daughter lives in one of two wheelchair accessible units, at the end of a row of townhouses.  Her line is the furthest of five, from the street.  In front of the row are reserved parking spaces for each of the units, then there are four spaces with visitor parking signs, then, right beside the wheelchair ramp are two more parking spaces.  These are clearly marked for the two handicapped units.  The unit numbers are displayed and wheelchair signs are mounted under them.

The daughter doesn’t have a car, so her spot sits vacant much of the time.  However, when I come over to take her to a doctor’s appointment, it is amazing how many times I find another vehicle parked in “my” spot.  The instant karma of this is that she has been trained and authorized by the city as the parking warden for her complex.  She can, and does, hand out tickets to illegally, unsafely parked cars.  Ontario has a system whereby, you can’t renew your driver’s licence or your car’s plates, unless all outstanding fines have been paid.  You can fuss and fume and claim that you won’t, as a couple have, but when the rubber meets the road, the only choice you have is between the rubber of your tires and the rubber of your runners.

The fine for any other spot in the complex is only thirty dollars and, despite the bitching, most people just pay it.  The fine for parking in either of the two wheelchair spots, without a permit like ours, is $350.  There is a sport-ute which usually parks next to her spot.  I went to pick her up the other day and (thought) I saw it.  Parked next to it, in her (my) spot was a car with a couple of people in it.  If there is a driver in a stopped car, it is not “parked”.  I stopped my car broadside behind it and went over to give the driver s**t.  Can’t you read the no-parking sign?  I glanced up and pointed to it and realized he was parked in the other handicapped spot, waiting for his disabled uncle to come out.  Right idea, just the wrong place.  I went in and informed the daughter, who came out with her ticket book.  Sadly, the interloper in her spot had a handicapped windshield tag, so he or she escaped the $350 fine.

The street I live on is populated entirely with semi-detached houses.  The unit I own is the first where one style changes to another.  All the way down the hill the driveways are on the outside of the units and adjacent buildings share double driveways.  At my building starts attached garages with common double driveways in the center.  So what, you say.  So, the space at the curb between my driveway and the one next door is half what all the other spaces are.  The city has a bylaw that prohibits parking any portion of your vehicle less than five feet from the edge of a driveway.  This allows for line of sight and a safe turn radius, backing out.  If five feet is taken, both from the neighbor’s side and mine, you can’t legally park a bicycle.

It irritates the s**t out of me to go out and find the ass end of someone’s car hanging over the end of my drive.  Little Toyotas are bad enough, but full-sized vans are a real pain.  Oh, I Can back across the neighbor’s side, if he doesn’t have both his cars on it.  Then I just swing it back around 180 degrees and slide it backwards, between Mr. Thoughtless and the guy across the street, who legally leaves his van at the curb.

I got a damaged “No Parking” sign from the daughter’s complex.  I just hack-sawed off the bent bottom and drove it into the grass on the boulevard.  We might get a street sweeper up our street once a year.  The NEXT morning, one went through, and the driver stopped and removed my sign.  The parking authority had told me that they would not put up a sign for me.  When I called to question and complain, they informed me that I wasn’t even allowed to put up one myself.  They couldn’t give anyone a ticket for parking in a no-parking zone because the sign was not legal.  Fine, then give them a ticket for parking less than five feet from my blocked driveway.

Drip, Drip, Drip!  Chinese water torture again!  I have a card with the 24/7 telephone number of parking by-law enforcement, but I’ve never used it.  I may start soon.  I’m just never ready for some peoples’ inconsiderate arrogance.  We were about to leave one day.  I opened the inner door just in time to see some guy abandoning his car.  I asked him nicely (maybe that was the problem) not to park there.  “It’s OK.  I’ll be leaving in 20 minutes.”  My mouth just couldn’t catch up to my mind.  Bu-Bu-Bu….No!  It’s Not Okay!  We have to leave now!  Then he ran four double houses down the street to visit his friend.  If that’s where you’re going, park in front of his house and block his driveway.  He’s not going anywhere while you’re there, and if someone does want to get out, you’re right there to move your car.

Perhaps the paintball gun really is a good idea.  I pulled a slashed-P, no-parking graphic off the internet, and printed a couple of copies, for the next time.  The next time came yesterday.  A house up the street was having a yard sale.  The owner brought his full-sized van down and blocked me in, so that potential customers could get to his place.  I slapped the sign on his windshield and managed to get out around him, not safely, with the extra traffic he was generating, and definitely not easily.  We returned about four hours later to find the sign in the middle of the lawn.  I marvelled at the uncaring ego and picked the sign up.  I’m cheap.  I’ll use it again.  When I got it inside, I noticed that it had a couple of pencil holes pushed into it.  I know they were pencil holes because, down at the bottom, he had scrawled, “Why Not?”

The next ones I print will include the message; It’s illegal, and include the by-law number.  It’s unsafe, which is why it’s illegal.  It’s inconsiderate, and, I have that 24/7 number.  I think I’m going to start using it.  Anti-asshole lessons being given.  Park here to register.

I Didn’t Come to New York City

Today, I’d like to take you for a trip with my Mom and Dad which I didn’t even go on.  Actually, it’s a couple of trips, but who’s counting?  Dad received a small disability pension from the government.  It wasn’t much, but it made the difference between being stuck in a small town, and affording to take the occasional road trip.

One summer, he and Mom decided that they would drive west to Yellowstone Park.  They drove out through the States, then went north and returned by the Trans-Canada Highway.  I moved a hundred miles away from home for employment.  My brother moved here for a while.  He even tried the big city of Toronto, but he was a small-town boy at heart.  He moved back to Hicksville, (not the one where Billy Joel was born and raised) got a job and a wife.  Dad asked them if they would like to come along.

My brother likes driving.  He currently has a job delivering for an auto-parts/hardware store.  He puts in about a hundred kilometers a day.  His part-time weekend gig is driving limousines.  At the time of this tale, he would volunteer to drive from the base of the Bruce Peninsula, all the way to St. Paul, Minnesota, to pick up parts needed urgently at his firm.  A day out, stay the night in a motel, and the next day back.  He made that run at least three times.  He also would drive 2 hours to Toronto, pick up freight at the airport, and drive 2 hours home.  He has probably driven every mile of I-75, from the top of Michigan, to Miami.  Not all in the same day, although I went with him twice and shared the driving.  We got on at Detroit, and 24 hours later, we were just east of Tampa.  He’s put on a lot of miles, and been a lot of places, but culturally, he’s never left home.

The two couples pulled in to some little roadside diner, somewhere near Yellowstone, for lunch.  My brother, being the culinary daredevil he is, ordered a hamburger.  He knows about fish and chips.  Our town had a “chip wagon”, which served French fries.  With his hamburger, he asked for an order of chips.  He bitched for months about the waitress, who went behind the counter and poured an opened foil bag of chips onto his plate, beside the burger.  That’s not what I f*#^in’ wanted, but I ate the *#@% things.

The next year, by themselves, Mom and Dad drove out to British Columbia.  In B.C., the province licences pulp and paper companies to cut trees.  In return, they must provide and maintain camping sites.  They do this by cutting a swath of trees down and leveling a road, in a loop.  Every hundred yards or so, they hack out a square spot, and level it.  Water and washrooms can be a mile away.  Not exactly cheek by jowl with the nearest neighbor, but, at least the college kids don’t keep you awake with rap music all night.

Dad backed the little camper-trailer into position, parked the car and got the trailer unfolded and set up.  Dad is the grasshopper to Mom’s ant, in this Aesop’s pairing.  He does no more than he absolutely has to and wants to wander and socialize.  Mom was hauling out the cooler, the camp stove, the food and drink, the dishes and the cooking utensils.  She turned around, and he was missing.  Where’s he gone to now, and when will he be back?  He returned about a half an hour later.  Apparently he had walked back to the nearest campsite, to talk to the folks there.  As they drove in, he had noticed that they had Ontario plates.  The color scheme was the same as B.C. plates, but with a different arrangement of letters and numbers.  The conversation went something like this.

Where you from?


Yeah.  I noticed that by the plates.  Where in Ontario?

Southern Ontario.  (This guy wasn’t giving anything away.)

There’s a lot of Southern Ontario, where exactly?

A town called Wiarton, at the bottom of the Bruce Peninsula.

Now Dad’s excited.  I’m from Wiarton.  Well, says the guy, I’m actually from a little village called Red Bay, a few miles west.  Dad says, yeah, I know the place, me too.  Well actually I was born at home, in a cabin, a couple of miles out.  Dad says, yeah, me too!  Back then, it was unusual for women to go all the way to town to have a baby at the hospital.  Everybody had relatives or neighbors or a local midwife.

It turned out that the two men had been born in glorified logging cabins, on the same, still unpaved county road, about a half a mile, and two years apart.  Dad was the older of the two.  They knew each other’s relatives and friends, but had never met.  I find the coincidence of meeting, three thousand miles from home, and almost seventy years later, just awe-inspiring, all because of Dad’s eagle eye.  Then again, we have my son’s story about seeing a flipped coin wind up on edge.  The song says, I didn’t come to New York City, to meet a guy from my home town, but Dad was always pleased to have run into a neighbor that far from home.