All I cared about was the parking space. It was a night during the middle of my week and all I wanted to do was park my car, bring my pizza, or the “Fried Seafood Combination” from Potomac Fish House (I can’t remember which) into the house so that I could have my dinner and watch Army of the Dead with DC-native Dave Bautista. This was pre-pandemic. This was before I came to understand the business of relationships.
Parking in this neighborhood is first come, first serve. If you’re not on the block by 5:30 then you’re guaranteed that extra bit of cardio from that open space a football field away down by the hospital. So when I saw the space in front of the house next to that tenement on the corner, I took it. My Neon did not even tap the bright orange cones that were meant to reserve the space. The cone thing isn’t legal but as we all live in the same neighborhood, it’s a courtesy.
At that moment in time I was pretty angry, angry enough to wanted to hit something (and it takes a lot to bring me to that threshold. My father was dead. I’d watched him live out the final moments of his life. I had crash-landed back onto a home planet that seemed to deprive me of my super powers.
So when the guy in the red cap, whose face I couldn’t see, asked me if I could back my car up a little further to give him and his bright orange cones more room.
“You don’t own this block,” I told him flippantly.
“Please,” the man in the red cap said to me. I did as he asked, and walked the half-block to where I live.
Two years later, as I sit in the Neon, writing on my phone, the man in the red cap comes out of the house he owns with the stride of drum major. He gives me a nod as he crosses the street, looks for something in both of the cars parked behind the pair of apartment buildings next to mine. He zips back to his house, grabs his walking stick and a stack of pamphlets and then returns back down the walk to the street.
“Good Morning”, he says. For some reason I choose to confide in him.
“How do you feel about our ward’s new city councilwoman?
This is an unexpected distraction. His eyes say that he has a schedule to keep to. But the question appears to be worth his time.
“Why are you asking?”
“I just want to know who I’m up against,” I say.
“She just got the office,” he says. “Do you know something I don’t?”
“We should talk about it,” I say.
I introduce myself. He hands me a pamphlet with the words “Eternal Life is a Free Gift”. And then he goes for his morning walk. I soon learn that the man in the red cap with the salt and pepper hair and the drum major stride owns three buildings in this sector and has been here for a respectable term.
Standing in the future, my potentially toxic masculine moment, centered around a parking space, could have created problems for me, or at the very least, ended the road to a beautiful friendship. You never know strangers turn out to be once you get to know them.
I have another life outside of writing. I work as a brand advisor and mediator. Whether it’s a dispute between partners or a war between corporation, I am paid well to help folk from all walks of life to get along. I do not have a LinkedIn page for these services. I work by referral only.
So when I found myself invited to the offices of a stranger who had name recognition worldwide, I took it as a fortuitous blessing.
To Be Continued.