Doin’ the Street-Cleaner Dance

Getting the kids ready for school each morning–breakfast eaten, bags packed, dressed, socks located and on, teeth brushed (you remembered today right Scott?) coats on and out the door, wait for the elevator (only the down button Kevin), everybody  in, everybody out  and then out the door–can feel like a bit of an undertaking. On Friday’s though, as we make our way outside, I am often consumed with that smug little feeling of having arrived before the bus, until we walk out the door and I see the East 86 party is about to begin.

When we first arrived in NYC, I’d see people hanging out in their cars, having a coffee, eating a bagel and reading the newspaper. All of these things seemed New Yorkish enough, so I didn’t really consider why people would be in their cars at 8:00 in the morning. Then one morning, Kevin’s bus was late and it happened….

Here’s how it goes: people in their cars doing their Friday-morning thing, read the paper, check rear-view mirror, sip coffee, bite bagel, check the rear-view mirror, repeat, repeat, repeat, until…wait for it, waaaait for it…PEOPLE START YOUR ENGINES! Traffic officer arrives and checks whether there are any no-shows to the party. Then comes the whirring sound and it’s time…the officer passes by in her car and then you pull your car forward at just the right angle, at that precise moment, just far enough so the street cleaner can pass by. Don’t make her honk you down if you haven’t given her enough space because it looks like it could get ugly. Once the street cleaner passes by, then the real jockeying begins. People begin their backup ritual, pretty much at the same time, feeling only slightly aware that they are blocking morning traffic. Back up, back up, hit the curb, that’s close enough, pull forward, a little bit more, wait for the car in front of you to settle, back up again, inch forward slightly until it feels just right. And that’s what I call DOIN’ THE STREET-CLEANER DANCE!

On our side of the street the dance takes place on Tuesday and Friday mornings from 8 to 8:30, and the other side of the street has its parties on Monday and Thursday from 7:30 to 8:00. The cost of a ticket on the days you are late to the party is $115. How do I know you ask? Many of you who know Vikas and his history of tickets have already said his name out loud. Suffice to say, there is more than one way to remember the parking restrictions than to read the signs posted every few blocks.

For whatever reason, the Street-Cleaner Dance makes me smile every time. Maybe it means that the novelty of New York has not yet worn off, perhaps this scene will stay a fond first impression, or it could be because us driveway types cannot imagine such manuevers.  What I know for sure is that the dance is one of those unique New York moments that you just don’t see in a movie.

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