Applause for Parking
When there’s a Tiger’s game, there is no parking in my neighborhood. Period. With the exception of miracles. Like today, when there was one, solitary space right in front of my door. I was admittedly excited. This wasn’t supposed to happen. I was supposed to park seven blocks away and have to move my car when the game let out at 11.
I started out a little rough. I might have cranked the wheel somewhat overzealously. Cutting in a little too deep, and all with some guy across the street staring at me. I was embarrassed, so I had to keep going. I waited for that nudge to let me know I fucked it all and hit the curb with my back tire. I leaned forward hoping not to scrape my bumper on the car ahead. But nothing came. No bumps or scrapes. I pulled forward slightly to even out the space, and looked around to make sure everything was in its right place.
That was when I noticed him. The man staring was now closer, and his jaw was hanging. Thumbs up, jumping, applauding occasionally. This is how all good parallel parking jobs should end. He couldn’t believe his eyes. I turned off the car and started getting my things together, and this guy was still laughing on the curb.
In my sheepish bravado I cracked the door and said, “That’s how it’s done.”
“Oh my god man!! I was watchin you and I thought you wadn’t gonna make it! But you kept goin’ and man! Like you’s on a thread man! You just popped it in there!” He stepped off the curb, and at this point I realized that this wasn’t a Tigers fan who was leaving early. This was one of my homeless neighbors.
“How long you been drivin’ man!?”
“Umm… A long time.”
“Oh man, I wish I had a camera! That should have been on T.V.!”
“Hah, yeah. Well. Maybe not that impressive. I didn’t think I’d make it.”
“Hey man, listen…” the invariable words came. “Do you have anything you could spare? Change? Even if you have Canadian change.”
I don’t think I look Canadian, or at least I hope I don’t. But I figured I’d grab a handful of my meter change, maybe an hours worth, and help him with whatever.
“Thanks man. I’m just hungry. Is there anything else you could spare?” He stepped a little closer to my car, and perhaps my body language changed to become more guarded. He assured me, “I’m not trying to get too close man, I’m not like that. I’m just hungry.” He assured me.
There’s always the follow up, and I always wonder how much courage or destitution it takes to start asking strangers for money, and then how much more desperation it must take, after they have given you money, to ask, immediately, for more. Is a tolerance built up over time where it simply becomes second nature? Does this man meet so much rejection a day that it doesn’t matter to him to ask again? Perhaps he finds that the follow up is even more successful, that it preys and weighs a little more heavily on a conscience that knows there is more-where-that-came-from.
“That’s all I have for change man, I don’t carry much of it.” A lie, followed by a truth.
“That’s okay man,” he sulked as I grabbed my bag and prepared to leave him and disappear into my many walls, leaving him with his none.
“Is that food!” His face aglow.
“Oh, um. Yeah. (I actually forgot I had brought that home). Here.” It was embarrassing and sad that I had forgotten I had a meal sitting on my passenger seat while this man had no idea where his next one was coming from, which was ironically coming from my passenger seat.
“Have a good one. Be safe.”
We both left the street. Ascending the steps to my door I couldn’t help but wonder if he’d know how to use the chopsticks that were lying across the food in the container, or if he’d just use his hands.
_ Kevin Kaminski 2012