Having a car in NYC means dealing with alternate side of the street parking. Oh, yeah … In my neighborhood we do the alt side dance and, if you find the groove, it’s actually not too annoying. It simply is part of my schedule for the day, three days a week. Just for reference, I haven’t had to deal with alternate side on a regular basis since 1978 and in New Jersey, once the street sweeper passes, you can tuck the car into a spot and go on your merry way. NOT the dealio here in the Big Apple. If you’re choosing to move the car when the sweeper does its thing, you have to stay in your car until the 90 minutes are up. Just try to leave your car unattended and a representative of the parking police will show up ticket pad a-blazin’.
Not being tethered to a 9-5 job means I can go out and look for a space any time I want. And I’ve done that; gone out late in the afternoon and circled the blocks until something opened up. But there was a part of me that wanted the parking thing to be more “structured” if possible. So over time, and with careful experimentation, I’ve found it’s actually less stressful to get up, out and into the dance with the alt side parking subculture during the sweeping hours. Essentially it comes down to virtually moving my car from one side of the street to the other after the sweeper passes and enjoying a dedicated block of time to sit in my “alternate office” reading or writing. And the bonus is that the parking project is finished and out of my mind by 10:30a on Mondays and Tuesdays and 12:30p on Thursdays leaving the rest of the day free for work and whatever else is on deck.
On some days, it’s really interesting just to be out there, rain AND shine, watching the neighborhood come alive. What an adventure this life is!
It might sound tedious or unusual to the outsider but trust me; lots of us are out there. It really is a subculture. And, until I sell the car, alt side is simply a fact of city life. Plus, on most days something really cool captures my attention, becoming an inspirational gift riff or writing seed on which to ruminate during the day.
One of my favorite alt side gift riffs showed up recently while parked on the corner of 73rd and Columbus. The super of a nearby building is a really nice Irish man whose brogue sounds like a song. I had the pleasure of chatting with him last year when I was still commuting to work. I’d parked outside the building near some construction cones at around 4:30 and he was concerned that I’d be in the way the next day when the crew came back. Still being relatively new in the city, I was moved by his genuine concern for me. I assured him that I’d be out of the space by 6:45am (holy crap, I used to be out and about at THAT hour?!?!) and he laughed and said, in his beautiful accent, the construction crew would definitely NOT be there at that ungodly hour. Anyway, on this day he was hosing the sidewalk and, occasionally, the hands of an adorable little boy while chatting with the boy’s dad. The day was already warm and I was watching the little boy having fun getting wet in the heat but not really paying attention to the conversation of the adults. And then this caught my attention:
SUPER: Oh, it’ll be ok. Nice things will happen.
MAN: Yeah, I know.
SUPER: (nodding toward the boy) You know, like birthdays, anniversaries ….
MAN: Maybe I’ll win the lottery.
SUPER: mmm … lottery … yeah
And then my ears went dead and the judge in my head took over. The Super was trying to make him see that, whatever it was that might be bringing him down (and I’m guessing it was some kind of money issue), there were nice things all around him to focus on at the moment. And his response was about winning the lottery? The lottery … nicer than his anniversary or his son’s birthday?!?!?! What the living heck?!?! What’s wrong with people?!?!
And then the moment became an opportunity to ruminate on aspects of money as a source of happiness and the concept of “winning the lottery.”
There’s really nothing wrong with any of us. However, why do so many of us equate security, happiness and “niceness” with money? Would winning the lottery really make life richer, better, happier or nicer? Does having lots of money make us better people? What would I do or be if I won the lottery … I always joke that ONE million would be more than enough, I don’t need 50 million. Of course I rarely buy tickets so NO millions will ever come my way via the lottery train.
These thoughts evoked one of dad’s teaching moments.
I was in high school at the time, my brother was still in the single digits and, although it wasn’t dinnertime, all 4 of us were home at the same time and in the kitchen. I don’t exactly remember what the catalyst was for his demonstration but I’m thinking it was the result of an argument about spending money wisely (mom wasn’t always on the same page as dad in that department). He was “vexed” (as he would say on occasion), pulled a $20 bill out of his wallet, held it up for my brother and me to see and said, “Do you see this? It’s a twenty-dollar bill. And it’s made of paper.” And THEN he tore it up! Our eyes popped out of our heads. What the HECK was he doing? Was that even legal? That was TWENTY DOLLARS!?!?! And then he pointedly said, “It’s made of paper and, y ou see, it means NOTHING. Having money means nothing. Who you are when you earn it, how you earn it and how careful you are with it is what means something.”
Character and integrity; having clear goals and staying true to one’s spirit no matter how much money you make is what I took away from that teaching moment. I suppose winning the lottery would be “nice” on some levels. I do get it. I have bills to pay just like everyone else and would always like to have a little more change in my pocket. Especially since I’m living in NYC and am asked to pay city taxes each year. But, does having all that money really change our intrinsic natures making us nicer people or enhancing our connections with others? Would hitting the lottery provide true, abiding happiness? For as long as a new tattoo, I guess.
So, as I continue to process, it seems to me that the man on 73rd street sees happiness in the event of winning the elusive lottery. The Super sees happiness all around, including squirting the little guy and making him laugh, and wins the lottery at every turn.
So in this materialistic world, where’s the balance? Where can I take ground?
Money? No issues at the moment. I’m fortunate and very grateful, every day, to have a pension and medical benefits as a result of my years in education. And all my work in previous years has brought me to a new fun freelance career that continues to blossom slowly and steadily. Bills are paid; health is good. Peace in the present.
The heart? That’s the place for grounding. Continuing the work to open up the little cave in my heart and dust out the cobwebs. Money not required … it’s all about continuing to transcend walls that have been built and opening up new connections; standing in awe of the present moment rather than looking back at the past or worrying about the future. THAT’S why I’m so fortunate to be on this adventure in a new home, to dance the parking ballet, liberated from a “regular” job. THAT’S why I hear the conversations I hear; see the sights I see. Such a blessing to continue to evolve and I’m grateful every single day.
In my soul I believe there are brilliant *lottery moments* all around us that renew our happiness and spark our hearts. Sometimes they’re as small and fleeting as sharing a smile with the parking police on alt side parking days or fireflies coming to life in the park. Sometimes they’re as deeply profound as providing comfort for a friend/loved one/stranger in times of sadness and need. All we need to do is keep looking up and out with a sense of wonder; with eyes that really see and ears that really hear; touching with intelligent, compassionate hearts.
How cool would it be to wake up each day to find the little golden moments and really see each of them as joyously as “winning the lottery?”
We can, you know.
Another gift from the ‘hood to ponder ….
Wishing you millions of lottery moments every day.