Stalls – April ’88
Where Parking is Grand
Parking meters are like the weather; everybody complains about it, but nobod y does anything. There are ex ceptions, of course. In Seattle nobody complains about the weather, and in New York people d o something about the meters.
I learned about this from my kid brother, Larry. He k nows . He majored in parking meters in college. (Well, ok, he majored in architecture, but his senior reports and projects all involved parking meters , and he’s got the collection to prove it .) Larry has a loft in SoHo these days, on Grand Street, where he designs jewelry , gets involved in entirely too much litigation and generally watches the scene.
One of the scenes he’s watched is a large influx of Koreans and Chinese into his neighborhood , particularly the latter. These are mostly folks who will, with great interest , read in the news paper how well mainland China man ages Taiwan, just so long as they d on’t have to be there, thank you . Little I taly is, in fact, yield ing to Chinatown, and very real red rawing of neigh borhood lines is taking place. Grand Street is one of t h ose lines.
The Chinese have, since the begin ning of time, been k nown as a hard work ing merchant class, and the new imm igrants are no exception. They can be seen daily expediting local com merce in t heir d iesel Isuzu and Volvo trucks. The Chinese also have a repu tation for putting two and two together. Mix sulpher and saltpeter and you have gunpowder ; mix parking meters and truck deliveries and you have parking tickets.
The first thing the Chinese learned was t hat the New York parking enforcement bureau was not available on a wholesale basis, though undoubtedly portions of it could be purchased retail. (My own view is that parking violations bureaus should be stock-issuing branches of government, so that Carl Ichan can raid them and fix them the way he fixed Texaco, but I’m not sure that New York is read y to hear my view.) Nobody in New York ever pays retail , least of all the Chinese, so t hat was out.
The next thing the Chinese learned was that parking meter posts are not particularly well set into the cement. That is to say, accidents can happen . And Isuzu and Volvo trucks not only have extremely rest ricted rear vision , but have surprisingly rugged bu mpers as well. And one cannot be ticketed for n ot feeding a meter that isn ‘t there,just as one cann ot complain of d rought on a rainy d ay. The Chinese are not, after all, complainers.
Grand Street is now virtually bereft of parking meters. The enforcement bureau has ceded the territory , and no longer paper s windshields. As a pedes trian you m ust watch your step, lest you trip in the holes left by the uprooted meter posts. (Undoubtedly the Chinese have not heard of the expression “backing and filling”, as they only d o the backing.) Occasionally you can see a recent victim lying in he gutter, like a fish belly side u p . It seems that the maintenance department is remuner ated on a per-meter-fixed basis, so the supply is regularly restocked despite the fact that nobody uses them (other than for target practice) and no tickets are written. Ah, New York .
This Cool Hand Luke approach to meter management could never occur in Seattle, of course. A typical block of our “Grand Street: would have a sixty foot bus zone, a thirty foot passenger load only zone, a thirty foot truck zone on each side of the street, at least one fire hyd rant zone, a police department only zone and one parking meter at which you may alight from 9 to 3 on weekdays, assuming a workman hasn’t put a hood over it. By the time you find t he parking meter you’ve forgotten what you came d own for in the first place, and there’s already a car in the way anyhow. Seattle’s meters , both of them, are safe for the time being, but that’s a story for another day.
Why Some German Cars Don’t Sell
By now we are all familiar with Porsche ‘s problems . World wide sales have dropped from about 50,000 to something in the 30’s in two short years, proving , I guess, that cars are not worth more than houses. Though Porsche still hasn’t got the message, or so I ‘m told.
But V W’s most infamous su bdivi sion is faring even m ore poorly in the U .S. Sales of t he new 80/ 90 model are supposed to be 28,000 this year, but in the first two months after introd uction dealers managed to move only 1400 of the cars off the lots.
I recently overheard some parents discussing their new born. “I hope she d oesn’t have an Audi ,” the father said . To which the mother replied , “I hope she d oesn’t, either. I’ve never found Audi’s very attractive. Nobody in my family has one.” Following which, the baby’s shirt was pulled back down.
It has been said that Audi dealers are revolting, but it was news to me that parents would n’t wish the marque on a one-week-o ld. Perhaps changing the 4000’s name to 80/ 90 is not enough. Perhaps the car should be sold under the “lnnie” label.
This article was originally published in the April 1988 edition of Zundfolge