the photography, music and ramblings of Matt Lipstein

An Active Morning

Here's something you don't get all too often on Stupidfresh - a short story! What you'll read below is an email explaining the the true account of what happened to me on Tuesday morning of this week. Some explanation of the people and terms included:

• Amy & Jason - My sister and brother-in-law who live in Kensington, Brooklyn
• Amanda - My lovely wife
• Busey - the name of our car. Short for Gary Busey.
• Bella - our great and crazy dog
• Arecibo - our car service of choice


Dear Amy & Jason,

Thanks again for hooking me up this morning - I hope I didn't hold you up at all. I figure at the very least you deserve a detailed account of this morning's activity. Here is the whole saga if you would like some light, albeit long, reading:

As you know, Amanda misplaced her car key two weeks ago. She really can't be blamed - she was trying to get a bunch of holiday shopping bags out of the back of Busey, while maintaining her grip on the car key in her hand. The key itself was not on a keychain because of a trip to a parking garage earlier that day. Amanda was also attempting to hold onto a pair of gloves, her scarf, a bottle of some sparkling business and possibly a partridge in a pear tree. And it was snowing and sleeting. And it was nighttime. And she is pregnant - which I personally don't think had anything to with it but these are the facts.

In any event, the key is gone now and because Busey is technically at this point an Antique Car from the grand ol' year of 1990, locksmiths are unable to make a duplicate from a copy. So now we have only one key between us. It's been working out fine, but this situation will eventually drive us (no pun intended) to buy a new car. This is what we're planning to explain to a salesman in the dealership: "No, no, no. We love the car we have. We simply have only one key! So now my good man, show me to you most expensive automobile that comes with two or more keys. Never mind the price - mind the keys!"


This morning, Amanda was getting ready to leave for her daily commute to the Upper East side. I'm sure it must pain her to have to leave when it's still dark out as I sleep like a baby in our bed. I wonder if she ever considers smothering me. I digress. As she's leaving, Amanda remembers that the car is outside and needs to be moved by 9am for street cleaning rules. She gently wakes me and asks if I can deal with the car. In my dream-mind at this moment, however, I am actually riding a snake through the Sahara desert while being chased by Mel Torme and I'm surprised to have to consider such trivialities as "parking." I hastily agree in what I'm sure was nothing more than a drool soaked grunt, and Amanda makes her way into the day.

So I get up soon thereafter, shower-up, dress-down and bring Bella out for her morning constitutional. The minute we hit the fresh air downstairs it dawns on me that Amanda went to work with the only car key between us. Whoops! Damn Mel Torme keeping me from asking the important questions in life. Again.

As I walk down the block with the dog, I consider my options as I look at Busey - one of the last cars left on our block. It's about 8:20am and most people have high-tailed it out already. At this point, while trying to guess how expensive the ticket will be if I just leave the car in place, I notice signs hung on each tree with a big NO PARKING symbol emblazoned on each one. I hold my breath, tighten the dog leash and cross the street to get all the pertinent details.

According to the city of New York, not only is 9am when the street cleaning rules go into effect, but apparently on this particular day, on this specific side of the block where Busey happens to be parked, will in approximately 35 minutes from that moment magically transform itself into a tow-away zone. Apparently they were planning on doing tree-trimming on the South side of Union Street. While it's great news for neighborhood beautification, it's bad news for me.

Needless to say the panic immediately settled in. This new wrinkle meant I wasn't just dealing with the financial burden of a $65 street cleaning ticket. This was now going to be a good old fashioned NYC screw job. Complete with a car-tow, a trip to the impound lot inside the scenic Brooklyn Navy Yard, and penalties and fees in the area of $300. For the record - this is over twice the blue book trade-in value of our car.

Luckily, I've lived through a house-fire before (as has Jason times two), so I've had experience in how to handle myself in a crisis situation. I start booking it back to the apartment to return the dog. I got on my iHorn and called up Amy & Jason and confirmed that someone will be there to give me the spare key that resides in the cupboard drawer on a fetching Gumby keychain (bendable and posable!) As luck would have it both Gumby and Jason would be home for about 15 minutes longer. BOOM! Phase two of my plan goes immediately into effect. I dump the dog inside the apartment and phone up Arecibo to get a lift over to Kensington. Like clockwork the dispatcher explains the will be there in "five minutes." Love Arecibo. BAM! Lastly, I put pen to paper and write a quick note explaining my dire situation to would be tow-trucks . DONE!

I run downstairs, jog down the block, slide the note under the windshield wiper, and do a preemptive follow up call to Arecibo confirming that their driver is close. A check of my watch reveals it is now 8:33am. Twenty-seven minutes till tow-time.

Within about two minutes a rusty green Chevy pulls up and honks. I hop in and explain my predicament and my need for speed. As we take off down 7th avenue I realize I've seen and smelled the interior of this car before. This is the same car and driver that took Amanda and I to Laguardia right before the holidays! Here's the bad news - on that trip he made the WORST driving decisions I've seen in years. I mean - who takes the route through the Atlantic Center and Pathmark to avoid Flatbush traffic on a Monday afternoon? That trip took us to Ashland of all places and ultimately into a construction zone. Needless to say I was less than pumped to get this guy again with so much on the line, but at this point he was my only option. Under a half-hour until a possible Busey towing!

As much as I hate being "that guy", I started becoming the New Yorker I hate. I started yelling directions, asking him to speed up, instructing him to not get behind that OldsmoBuick making a left. I simply couldn't take the chance of leaving these decisions to this driver with the poor track record which I'm intimately familiar with. Making it in record time though morning traffic we arrive at the house, and I run inside to get the key.

I come in and hear voices in the main room and find a table full of drawings - Tallulah is pouting with her arms crossed, and Jason is continuing a discussion along the lines of "Well Tallulah if you wanted to draw unicorns you should have told me in advance." I'm probably not even close on the exact quote because at that moment I was distracted by a shiny glimmer making it's way into my peripheral vision. There on the sideboard was the spare car key! It was shining like a beacon of hope in all it's glory ! I decided not to referee whatever art-war was beginning at the kitchen table and instead kiss T-bird on the head, take a quick hug from Jason and run out the backdoor - key in hand.

Thankfully the driver was still there. I hop in the back again and resume the role of A-hole Brooklyn boy once again. 8:52am is no time to go soft! We weave our way back towards the car with aplomb. Knowing Union Street would be backed up worse than a nursing-home that has run out of FiberOne, I instruct my guy to let me out on the corner of 8th Avenue and Union street. I pay him and prepare to make the last mile of this journey on foot.

As I start down Union toward the car I can see two people congregating around Busey, which incidentally is now the last car left on that side of the block. Even from a distance I can make out the unmistakable silhouette of the NYPD issued fur-lined Winter hat. SHIT WAS ON! I hadn't come this far and gone through so much to watch it all slip away from me before my eyes!

I break into a sprint, begin shaking Gumby above my head and start involuntarily yelling "HEY! STOP! I'VE GOT THE KEY! I'VE GOT THE KEY!" Yes - I was now officially one of those people you "see" from time to time in Brooklyn. As I approach the meter maid, the other person who must have been just a random neighbor intelligently backs away from what is sure to be a *tender* moment. I glance at my watch.


Below is the conversation between myself and the Meter-maid, who at this point is already punching information into her ticket making machine:

Me (in a slight wheeze from running down the block): "Didn't you read the huge note I left under the wiper???"
Meter-Maid: "Yeah - it says please don't tow me. I'm not towing you I'm writing you a street cleaning ticket."
Me (volume escalating): "If you read the content of the note and had any compassion at all you would hold off on giving me a ticket!"
Meter-Maid: "What does the whole note say?"
Me, reading the contents of said note, word for word, in an even louder and more anxious tone: " 'PLEASE don't tow me. The key is lost and I am going to get the spare. I'll be back by 9:20am. Thanks - Matt 917-555-5555.' SEE? I EVEN LEFT MY PHONE NUMBER! YOU COULD HAVE CALLED ME!"

She looks at me dead in the face with sad eyes and said: "Fine - I'll cancel the ticket. But you don't have to be mean about it." She just let these words hang in the air for dramatic effect and started walking away.

The fleeting moment of joy of avoiding the ticket was immediately replaced by shame for getting so enraged. I really didn't even consciously choose to be mean. I think I was too keyed up (no pun intended) from going non-stop for a half-hour towards the task of getting the spare key and avoiding a ticket or a tow to realize the transformation was complete. I really was the New York A-hole.

I hopped in the hooptie and revved the engine. Pulling out into traffic I saw the meter-maid working her way uphill towards the spot where my mad-dash began. I rolled down the passenger side window (no small feat due to the manual crank I had to lean over and reach) and pulled up towards the sidewalk. She looked over at me and I called "Hey. I'm sorry for being mean to you." And just to make sure this gesture wouldn't be misinterpreted as sarcasm I finished with a sincere "Sorry about that."

She looked back at me, considered my comment, and flashed me a toothy smile that let me know on this New York morning all was forgiven. I drove up the hill, made the left at the light and felt better about the whole morning. The only thing left to do now was start my day.

2 Responses to “An Active Morning”

  1. # Anonymous Anonymous

    Loved this episode. You must have a great life. Will you be in OKC at the end of Feb. for Marle's shindig? Shaun and I fell in love with Amanda 5 years ago. We are Nancy's first cousins, Marle's baby brother's kidos. You sound like your sense of humor is intact. Kim Abshere  

  2. # Blogger Matt

    We'll be there! Very excited to meet you all.  

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