Miles Traveled: 228; Current Location: New York, NY

It took twenty-seven days, fifteen cities, and nineteen states, but it was New York City that finally brought me to tears.  There is an episode of Seinfeld entitled, “The Parking Spot,” in which George and another man quarrel over a street spot for hours, both refusing to let the other man have it.  I now know their pain.  And I no longer find any humor whatsoever in that episode.

Ever since I left Virginia, driving has seemed slightly more frustrating to me.  Maybe it’s just the routes that I’m taking, but the general consensus of the drivers that I’m riding alongside these days seems to be that we’re on a much more stringent mission that we used to be.  When I dreamt of riding in my car with my cowboy hat on, listening to the Eagles, and sipping on Diet Dr. Pepper, I didn’t envision rush hour traffic.  I didn’t envision tractor-trailers merging into my lane from both directions.  I didn’t envision the chaotic gridlock that forms upon exiting a tollbooth.  I didn’t envision driving around the Upper East Side for two and a half hours trying to park.  I didn’t envision New York.

Don’t get me wrong, I love New York.  There’s no city in the world that I’d rather visit, but I will never, ever, drive here again.  Ever.  At first though, I didn’t mind it.  As I was approaching the city, it started to feel like a game, and I was in it to win.  There was no sign of any kind indicating my entrance into New York, but I knew I was here.  I could tell by the chorus of honking and seemingly careless merging-practices that were unfolding around me.  This was it.

As soon as I became surrounded by the unflinching attitude of the drivers in this environment, I effortlessly stepped up my game.  My new motto was “be aggressive.” Be aggressive at all costs.  This persona worked for a while.  I thought to myself, “hey, I really have the hang of this,” and that feeling stayed with me as I drove through the city and navigated towards the Upper East Side.  I had been worried about driving in New York City, and my fears were totally unfounded.  Driving here is not a problem at all.  It’s the hope of ever actually stopping to get out of the car that you have to worry about.

I circled a radius of several blocks for quite some time to no avail.  At this point, I really had to go to the bathroom.  Like an absolute fool, I hadn’t stopped since Maryland which was now hours earlier.  When I saw a metered spot at 71st and Lexington, I took it.  The meters are only good for one hour, and several cars on the street already had tickets, so I knew that my car’s newfound home wouldn’t be a permanent option, but it seemed like a good temporary fix.  Surely, I figured, there’s somewhere to go to the bathroom near here.

Of course, I was hoping for a “somewhere” other than the gutter.  I wandered around for a while, looking for a suitable option, before stooping down to one of the oldest tricks in my book.  I walked into a restaurant, told them I was meeting someone, asked where the restroom was located, and then as I exited, pretended to be on my cell phone.  “Oh! 74th and Lexington.  Ok…See you in a minute…”  Never to look back again.

Now that one crisis was averted, I was ready to tackle another.  I had only some idea of where I had parked my car.  As I looked for it though, I passed a sign that read, “be calm and carry on,” and that, my friends, is just what I did.  Thirty minutes later, I found my car, and though I was tired, sweaty, and convinced that I had just trudged six miles uphill in the snow, I was determined to find a long term place to park.

If you’re wondering why I didn’t park in a garage, I have five words for you: “ten dollars per half hour.”  The street was the only option for me.  I got back into my trusty Civic, and carried on.  I would not let the streets of New York beat me.  This was about the time, however, when things started to get a little hairy.

My hyper-vigilant New York driving technique had long ago faded, and I became exhausted and careless.  I had morphed back into a country mouse trying to keep up with a pack of mice from the city, and my true colors were beginning to show.  I turned the wrong way down a one way street.  I could hear the echoed calls of “Masshole” floating my way, and I was completely panicked.

I started to back up.  People were staring at me.  I couldn’t do that.  Finally, I had the wherewithall to pull over to the side to assess my options.  I was illegally parked on a one-way street in Manhattan, facing the wrong direction, at a complete loss as to what my next step should be.  Eventually, the city mouse within me took over, and I realized that I would have to wait for traffic to subside in order to make a u-turn of some sort.  Have you ever waited for traffic to “subside” in Manhattan?  I was perilously faced the wrong way on a busy New York street for a very long six or seven minutes.

Eventually, I did find a place to park.  Eight blocks from where I was headed.  Although that might not seem very far, when you’re carting a huge suitcase, two purses, and a duffle bag, it does seem far.  Before I started my drive into the city, I told my mother that I was nervous about this leg of the trek.  She responded that I shouldn’t be worried.  Huh?!  My mom, who still reminds me to look both ways before crossing the street, told me not to be worried?  “Thanks mom,” I thought, “She’s right, it will be fine.”  Of course then she followed-up, “driving in New York is no problem at all, but don’t leave anything at all in your car.  They’ll break your windows for loose change.”

And there it was.  After this ordeal, however, the idea of taking everything out of my car and carting it eight blocks was completely out of the question.  So, if you’re in the market for 90210 tapes or Ugg boots from 2004, they’re yours for the taking at 78th and 1st.  First come first serve.  Please leave my yearbook though.

Due to the street restrictions, I’m scheduled to repark my car tomorrow morning at 9am, and it’s highly possible that I’ll be reparking it in Massachusetts, a day ahead of schedule.  Thank you for reading my blog!  And please, don’t try to park your car in Manhattan.

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