Not only is it tough to find street parking in the city sometimes, often, okay frequently, but you rarely get the same spot. If you do, and it’s a good spot, then you’re having a super fantastic set of days and will be grinning from ear to ear for hours. For those of you who are a little more advanced in years, you know how hard it is to remember what you ate yesterday let alone where you parked the car. And parking the car in the city isn’t like going to the Wal-mart and parking the car and forgetting which aisle you finally decided on and how far down. No. Parking a car in the city involves knowing what street you parked it on, what side of the street, what block it’s on, and if you need to have a special pass to park it there or move it by a certain time in the morning so you don’t get a ticket. (And by ticket I mean $50. We’re not talking the twenty-five cent fine you get for parking at the penny meters in my hometown of Sycamore. Fifty bucks a pop.)
And, I must add, living in the city also affords us the “luxury” of having only one car (meaning it is so expensive to live here and so tough to find a parking space that we only can afford one car and the pain it takes to park it.) So we share. That means that whenever we take the car somewhere, not only must we remember what street we parked it on, what block, what side and about how many cars in from the intersection it is, we also have to remember to tell our spouse where we parked it. Which leads me to the main topic of this rant: street parking.
I have, quite possibly, the best husband in the world. (Many wives say it but I mean it, he really is awesome.) One night I was headed out to my knitting club with baby Ada in her car seat. I had fed her, bundled her up, packed her snugly in her car seat, and headed out to find the car. I called my wonderful husband and asked him where he parked the car since he had it last. He said he thought it was on Wellington, on our side of the street, half way or three quarters of the way down our block.
“You think that’s where it is or you know? It’s 2 degrees out and I have the baby with me.” I asked.
“I’m pretty sure.” He replies with a sense of uncertainty and hesitation.
“It better be.”
“Yeah, it is. I think.”
Still not convinced, I grab Ada in her car seat and my knitting basket (I’m working on a baby blanket for her that I hope to have done before she’s 20.) I also have my hat, gloves, winter coat, winter boots, house keys, car keys, purse and cell phone. We’re ready. We head out our front door, shimmy through the inner vestibule door, then the outer vestibule door, and into the freezing cold night air that steals my breath and threatens never to give it back.
Down the sidewalk we go making footprints in the newly fallen snow. Man this kid is heavy. She’s about ten pounds and the car seat is probably another five and my super mom upper arm muscles haven’t come in yet. We’re walking. Actually I’m walking and leaning my upper body to the right to counteract the weight of the car seat as it scrapes my thigh while she sleeps in her cozy Bundle Me. I’ve put my right glove in my pocket so I can hold the car keys and push the clicker so that if I get close to the car, the lights will flash. Most of you suburbanites just think those lights are for “security purposes” or to let you know the car is locked. Let me tell you. They are really handy when you are trying to figure out which Honda Civic is yours when it’s one of the most popular cars in the city and all of the cars are covered in snow. Oh, and for fun add in the fact that you don’t know where you, or your spouse in this case, parked the car.
So, yes, I’m walking down the street, pushing the button as I go. My hand is frozen. I get to the other end of our street and I didn’t see our car. I start back toward the house continuing to click the button. Nothing. I dig out my cell phone and call my fabulous husband at work.
Sternly I say, “Rick. Where is the car?”
“I told you it’s on Wellington.”
“Where exactly on Wellington?”
“Well, I can’t remember.”
“I’m freezing, carrying the baby in the car seat and this is not the time for you to not be sure about where you parked the car.”
“It could be across the street.”
“It could be? Or it is?”
“I think it is.”
Click. I hang up. I walk across the street as I try to take a deep breath. A kind elderly woman pushing a cart on wheels-- the kind you take to the grocery store when you live in the city and want to save your wrists from breaking if you were to lug it all back home—asks me if she can help me as I’m obviously frustrated. I thank her kindly and explain that my husband lost our car. She asks me if I’d like to put the car seat on her cart if we are going the same way. I explain that I am actually going the other way but thank her profusely as I dial my husband’s number again.
“Rick.” The anger in my voice is increasing. “Where is the @#%^% car?”
“I told you, it’s across the street.”
“No, it isn’t. I’ve been up and down our block two and a half times now. Where is the #$^^%@ car already?” I ask curtly, my frozen fingers throbbing as I grasp the cell phone and refrain from whipping it at the snowy sidewalk and throwing the tantrum of the century.
“It’s not on our block. Across the street meaning Clark.”
“Are you kidding me?”
“That’s what I said the first time. Across the street.”
“I thought you meant the North side of Wellington. Forget it.” Disheartened, and really, really, really mad at this point, I hang up on him again, re-cross our street and head toward Clark Street.
By now, my biceps are screaming, my fingers are entering the early stages of frost bite, and I have to wait for the light to change green to give me a walk signal. After what seems like hours, I get the little white man walk signal and awkwardly waddle across the street alternating the car seat from my left side to my right side and back again.
As if this wasn’t enough of a challenge, it is rush hour and a load of passengers have just gotten off the El and are coming toward me. While dodging the onslaught of commuters and their duffel bags, mongo purses, briefcases and puffy coats, I retrieve the keys from my pocket and continue pushing the unlock button. My hand feels like it might fall off at this point. I’m four cars in when finally the lights flicker from under the snow. Thank goodness! I’ve found it. Fumbling with my glove and my keys in my right hand, I make my final approach to the passenger side of the car. I swing the car seat around next to the back door and… where are my keys? I just had them. That’s how I knew this was my car. I check my pocket. Nope. The folds of Ada’s bundle me? No. The snow next to the car? No. My eyes are starting to well up and I feel an emotional breakdown coming on. I look up and glance to my right when an Asian woman approaches me and says “Are these your keys?” “Yes!” I reply and thank her profusely. I must have dropped them when my hand went numb from the cold.
Quickly, for fear of losing my entire limb instead of just my hand, I unlock the car, load Ada inside, start the engine, turn on the defrost and grab the snow scraper. Just then, my phone rings. It’s the two knitting ladies calling to check on me since I was supposed to be downtown to pick them up five minutes ago. “I caught a bit of a snag. I’ll pick up my husband, throw him in the river and be right there to get you guys.”
With a few quick sweeps of the snow brush, the car is clean and we’re on our way to get my husband from work. We pick him up and I’ve chosen the silent route. He looks me in the eyes and says “sorry”. We then proceed to get my knitting buddies from their office, arrive at knitting and fittingly send my husband away with the car since there is nowhere to park nearby my friend’s south loop apartment.
Moral of the story: Even the best husband in the world has his bad days, Winter in Chicago can be really, really, really cold, and foregoing a reserved parking spot may save you money but not your marriage, strike that, I mean sanity.