On the 400 block of Church Street I spied a large note slipped under the wiper blade of a parked SUV. It read: “Why keep parking here, taking space from those who live here?”
The vehicle’s driver had preemptively replied with their own handwritten rebuttal taped inside the windshield: “My manager says I can park anywhere on the street. Please feel free to call her (Valerie) at…” followed by the local phone number of a national video store chain.
Though I live nowhere near the 400 block of West Spain, have no issue with where this vehicle parks and clearly no business injecting myself into this roadside squabble, I have to admit to deranged opportunism that publicly displayed phone numbers arouse in me. It’s likely the vestiges of having been a teenage crank caller – the skill set I developed serial dialing random numbers later found me a telemarketer through college and presently a newspaperman with a predilection for unnecessary phone interviews. This aural voyeurism is really just an acute form of curiosity, I’ve since rationalized, and a mindset I’ve found quite useful in my trade.
“Curiosity killed the cat,” you chide.
“Ah, but a cat has nine lives and I intend to use them all in the name of truth,” I wittily rejoin.
“That’s not truth-seeking, that’s animal abuse,” you reply, admirably stretching the metaphor past the cat’s pajamas (trumped, I retort by rolling up and smoking your paper tiger).
After a dozen rings, alas, someone answered the telephone.
“Hello, [insert name of major video store chain recently sued in a class action lawsuit here].
“This is Daedalus Howell,” I said, then paused for effect. “I write the Nomaville column for the…”
“Hold please,” the voice chirped. Ostensibly in show business, video store employees are apparently inured to celebrity.
A few minutes later someone was on the line again. I asked for Valerie and was startled to find I was speaking with her. “Damn, she’s good,” I thought, “I had the advantage of surprise and she took it from me like collecting late fees on the ‘Cremaster Cycle.’” I nerved up and inquired about the parking ballyhoo. Valerie sighed.
“Any employee of any store here is not allowed to park out in the parking lot. So we have to find other locations. We’re taxpayers, we can park on the street if we want to,” Valerie said, ruing the neighborhood parking politburo.
“I couldn’t tell you her name, but I know which house she lives in,” Valerie said, which, in real life, did not sound as sinister as it does in print. After a beat, her thoughts turned back to letters her parking-challenged employees receive.
“You know, it doesn’t work. You don’t have to put a sign in your car that says ‘My manager says…’ You’re an American citizen, you can park on the street, you pay taxes.’”
Inspired by Valerie’s taxpayer angle, I decided that I too could and should park anywhere in an act of solidarity. Ironically, when I tried parking on the 400 block of West Spain there weren’t any spaces. Instead I parked on the Plaza and noshed at my field office, the Sunflower Café. A few hours later, I wandered back into the waning evening light in time to witness a member of Sonoma’s parking enforcement leaving a note on my windshield. $25. Can I expense that?
Originally published in the Sonoma Valley Sun.