I’m not a hardened criminal or anything but I’ve always had a heathy disrespect for the law. Not felony law but for anything that can result it a traffic or parking violation. I double park to get a coffee in Tribeca with my hazard lights on. I refuse to pay the $360 for a non-resident beach parking sticker to surf in Montauk because I figured out I’d have to get pinched three times before I start losing money on the deal. Recently I’ve taken to switching in and out of the HOV lane on the Long Island Expressway with no regard for the legal entry or exit points. It’s not that I think that the rules don’t apply to me, I just don’t fully agree about when.
For most of my life I was an amateur offender but then I discovered my mother-in-law, an Australian, was quite infamous for transporting a variety of perishable goods through several international jurisdictions . Her crowning achievement was successfully passing a 10 kilo christmas pudding through customs at JFK in her carry on. Would I call her a mentor…possibly. An inspiration… most certainly. But a while back I came face to face with my biggest challenge yet.
Thing 1 and Thing 2 were attending a summer camp at a school in Chelsea and I’d been using the car as a makeshift school bus for most of the summer. It’s only a 20 minute loop from our apartment, if I’m up to attempting the “triple park” on 10th Ave or the “partial-back wheel-fire-hydrate-overlap” around the corner on 25th. Both these maneuvers have a lower probability of success than the “roommate switch scenario” in episode 97 of Sienfeld. It all depends on how quickly I can dispatch Thing 2 at the drop off point. Thirty seconds here or there can be the difference b/t a leisurely coffee in the neighborhood before work or $500 in fines and a trip to the impound lot on pier 76.
On this particular morning Thing 2 was having separation anxiety and was sticking to me like a velcro strip on a cashmere sweater. After finally decoupling with the promise of a fluffy toy at some non-specific time in the future, I started sprinting down the stairs two at a time and managed to twist my ankle five steps from the bottom. Without realizing it, I must have blurted out my default expletive “M#$ther F@cker”, because uncharacteristically, the security guard at the front desk asked to see my parent ID laminate. We’re supposed to wear them at all times but unfortunately I’d chosen to ignore that rule too (and NO the karmic irony is not lost on me).
I finally got out of the TSA-lite interrogation, hobbled out to the street and rounded the corner. To my dismay I saw a monster vehicle, like something out of Road Warrior, backing up to my car and making that loud backing up beeping sound. It was an NYPD heavy duty towing rig, suitable for discarding anything from a mini to to a dump truck in seconds.
Everything started moving in slow motion, like the command ship docking with the Lunar module in Apollo 13, I could no longer fill the pain in my ankle. I circled around the back of the car and could see I was in the officer’s blind spot. Like a modern day McGiver, I quickly hit the remote ignition button and unlocked the doors simultaneously. I quickly slipped into the driver’s seat and threw the car in reverse as the tow truck was still backing up. When I had enough clearance, I cut the wheel sharply to the left and hit the gas. As I passed by the officer, i noticed she had headphones on and was jamming out to some apparently upbeat tune and not really looking where she was going. Maybe she was just waiting to feel the contact of my car before looking back. She glanced over and actually smiled at me as I cruised by. I returned with a nervous wave and disappeared into the morning traffic on 11th avenue, not knowing (or caring) if the officer was going to keep back up all the way to the East River. All my senses were buzzing and I felt utterly alive. I had the rush of the chronic gambler.
Back in the hood, sipping on a creamy latte at my “go to” beanery, I sat in solitude, bathing in silent smugness as I watched my emergency flashers reflect off a bright red “Loading Zone” sign.