My back still out, I drove into the city today because I had errands that simply had to get done–food and medicine to fetch for Grace, that sort of thing. I suppose I could have used one of the new-fangled services to get the items delivered but the New Englander in me finds it hard to spend money on things I can do myself, and the truth is that I haven’t worked while I’ve been feeling poorly so for the billionth time in my life I don’t have money to spare.
Into lower Manhattan I ventured, where, grimacing in pain, I knocked all the errands off my list while cursing all the myriad unmasked mothertruckers, not to mention the usual bastion of crap drivers and bikers that (I’m sorry, biker friends) were making it absurdly difficult not to hit them. I hate driving in Manhattan on any day but Sunday even when my spine is not in spasm.
Anyhoot–or so said the owl-I parked on Lower Broadway and though had thought I’d left plenty of time on the meter, found myself sprinting back to my car bad back and all because I’d underestimated how Covid restrictions would add time to my errands. I returned to my car two minutes late to find a NYPD officer already scanning my car for a ticket. All is fair in love and war, but–no doubt because she was anticipating my fury–the woman began to rail about how she had to write out the ticket even though I’d returned to my car already. “I can’t do anything once it’s scanned,” she said in one of the most common scam lines of all time.
I blew up, I admit it. I’d accepted the reality of the ticket but not of having her go off on me. My lower back was pounding, I’d completely defeated the purpose of doing my errands myself by incurring a $65 ticket, and now this bird was lecturing me on top of it. “Just give me the damn ticket and spare me the shit, ” I said, and then she really began yelling at me about how she was just doing her job, which, honestly, she was–a job that no doubt is incredibly stressful in this brave new world.
Centered, om-shanthi intuitive Lisa could recognize this, but stressed-out, injured, broke Lisa did not give a fuck about her backstory though I could sense it was rough. So I said, “Your job does not entail lecturing me, so just fuck off. I’ll pay the ticket but I’m not paying to listen to a NYPD meter maid pig.” At that, she waved me off and began walking away, not writing the ticket, not anything. I stood for a second watching her, confused, before driving off, my heart pounding in my throat. Then I ran through our exchange and felt sick. A meter officer is not high on the NYPD totem pole, and I could feel she hated her job more than I could ever hate my own circumstances. There’s nothing worse than knowing you’re the bigger asshole in an exchange. So I double-parked and went back to find her.
“I’m not talking to you, you were disrespectful,” she said. “I was,” I said. “Feel free to give me the ticket. I am just coming back to say sorry. I am having a bad day but it is no excuse for how I spoke to you.” “Go away,” she said. “I will,” I said. “But please know I know you deserve an apology.” Right there between Spring and Prince, with all kinds of New Yorkers streaming around us, we both burst into tears.
“It’s ok. You were having a bad day,” she managed and waved me off again. Knowing that was the best either of us could summon in that moment, I nodded and climbed back in my car before I could get another ticket.
Between Trump holding the nation hostage and this last gasp of Mars Retrograde, always roughest when coming and going, life is unusually stressful even for 2020. None of us are our best selves and none of us have an excuse to treat each other like garbage. As I write this, I’m icing my back, and have declared 4pm whiskey o’clock. Wherever that woman is, I hope she can do the same soon.
Watching 70s horror on Criterion with Grace, drinking ginger tea, wearing a velvet robe, smiling. Because today one neighbor in my building lent me a wonderful book, another installed a new paper towel dispenser in my kitchen, and I helped a third fetch groceries. Which is to say: I feel bathed in care. There have been so many terrible things about 2020, but one wonderful thing is that for the first time in my 27 years as a New Yorker, I have let down my guard and connected to people who live in close proximity to me. Trust me: This is a major shift for this proud domestic isolationist. What happened was this: when the pandemic got real, the annoying millennials in my building left and ones I hadn’t known were lovely stayed and more lovely people moved in, and at first we all acted like a team out of necessity and now we’re just friends with our own text message thread even. I’m sure I’ll be the scary cat lady again at some point when they’re loud and I’m sleeping but for now I have traded the luxury of NYC anonymity for something warmer and cozier, and I am safer and a little more happily seen as a result. This seems like a metaphor for something not bad, it really does. And in a year of so much pain and so much loss and so many cold hearts, all mitzvahs deserve mention and anything not bad must be embraced. That got simpler, anyway.