A Fantasy In Store (Part Two)

Sandra Noakley tammmmoak@gmail.com
to: Marcy

I’m sure glad you’re back in town Marcy.  Haven’t seen you in ages, and glad you feel up to getting out and about after losing Larry and all.  Let’s get together tomorrow.You remember that weirdo store on 24th and 9th I told you about several years back don’t you? The one that seemed to change overnight from one kind of store to another, and has no signs or anything out front or in back or anything about what kind of store it is? Our friends Mildred and Bradley still live here, so I decided to declare myself Nosey-Neighbor-in-Chief and see if I could make sense of what was really going on so I made the rounds yesterday in time to tell you what’s what. Well when I visited Mildred  she said she was too spooked to ever go back after what Bradley and I said, and also because she plain old didn’t like that dumpy dollar store she claimed she saw. Probably she was in a store on the wrong side of the street anyhow. That lady has no sense of adventure no how.

But Bradley humored me and said, “This is ridiculous. Let’s go together and settle this once and for all. Is this store the restaurant I saw or the kitchen specialty store you say you saw, or the dollar store, or something else?”  Ah, now I had a Watson to my Sherlock Holmes. Marcy, you won’t believe this. We get to the store, and like what I saw with my own eyes all those years ago, there was a nice flashy sign that said “Grand Opening” but no hints for what a new customer was in for. Chins up, we marched ourselves in there. It was a store for a chef’s dream alright, but now with a full restaurant on a second floor, Japanese or Korean or something like that. Second floor? There was only one floor last time, I mean, wasn’t there?  And you know Marcy how I just love Japanese and Korean food. 

I don’t know what the heck is going on here.  But this is about as much adventure as you’re gonna get in a town like this, so why don’t you and I go in there together tomorrow and just see?    Yours, Sandra

Marcy Madel mmmm4ad @gmail.com
to: Sandra

Dear Sandra,
You are a riot! What an imagination you have! That store went out of business since I last passed through when I saw you a couple of years ago. Serves ’em right for not advertising who they were, not even on their own establishment!  Love, Marcy


Sandra did see Marcy and had a lovely visit at a Japanese restaurant, and not one that comes into existence and then disappears. The visit, alas, did not include checking out the store, because ever since Larry died Marcy hadn’t felt up to doing anything that could be disquieting.  But before she left town to go back home, she figured it couldn’t hurt to just pass by and sneak a little peek at 24th and 9th. Yes, the store was dismantled, but she saw in its place a little museum, clearly identifying it as containing a display of Star Trek memorabilia, something her late husband would have simply reveled in. She parked and went in. As she lingered over some of the pieces for as close a look as possible, it was like having a bit of him back at her side one additional time.

(for Part One, see my previous post, January 6, 2022.)

To see my microblogging, go to: https://twitter.com/chaplainkkaplan

A Fantasy In Store For The Reader

Sandra decided to take her daily walk on a less-frequented route that included the corner of 24th and 9th so as to start the new year with a new sensation. Having lived in the same town for 36 years, new sensations there were getting harder to come by, except for the new recipes she was always trying out. She had heard that a gift shop there had closed up and so she thought she would see if someone else had taken it over. She found her way to the establishment, and saw a multi-colored lit-up “grand opening” sign, but could not tell what kind of store it had become. The crafts and picture books and such no longer flaunted themselves in the store window, but she could not see anything else displayed there in their stead so she figured it was no longer a gift shop. But what kind of store had it become? Nothing in her circuit around the front, sides, or back yielded a hint.

She looked at the sign again, and something about it seemed to invite her in, as if to say it didn’t matter what sort of store it was. She figured to herself, what the harm, it’s not like it’s gonna swallow me up. New sensation here I come! She entered and, lo and behold, it was filled with everything a chef could use. “What a find! What a coincidence,” she exalted to herself. Some time ago, she had appointed herself the neighborhood chef, and out came this shop to fortify her role.

The next day she told her neighbor Mildred all about it, but her response was only, “You mean that nondescript little excuse for a building on 24th and 9th? All they’ve got there is a dull dollar store. About the only thing you could get for your kitchen would be plastic forks, cups, and plates.” They looked at each other, disconcerted. How could they remember such different scenarios? Had the store changed overnight? They decided to ask another neighbor, Bradley. He said, “You guys are putting me on! A chef specialty store? A boring dollar store? That’s no store. It’s a little restaurant now that serves all kinds of soup with a choice of gourmet breads. Sure, they have enormous pots, and yes only plastic ware, but you can’t say by any stretch of the imagination that you weren’t in a restaurant.” The ladies poked each other and giggled, hoping he wouldn’t think they had gone bats after all and that of course, they were playing with him. He told them they must really be living in a rut and just had to get more new sensations in their lives.

This mystery has never been accounted for, but whoever designed that store must have known that the most successful enterprise is where the customers feel they are always right and have encountered the place of their dreams. All I know is that four years later, when I visited the corner of 24th and 9th myself, it was a bookstore called Offbeat Books and it had several copies of the two books I had written myself, prominently displayed in the front window. And it also featured a teeny snack counter that included my favorite dessert: unfrosted chewy brownies, with less sugar and a greater quantity of bittersweet chocolate drops than their fellows in the bakery across town.

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For Part Two of this story, see my next post, January 17, 2022.

For my microblogging, see me at https://twitter.com/chaplainkkaplan

The Book Review I Did Not Do

I was thinking of reviewing The Samurai by Shusaku Endo, but decided that at this time of year, we all want to read something relaxing rather than taxing. It is true that the main character, a low-ranking samurai in the 1600s who knew nothing about Christianity until making a voyage to Mexico, grew to understand that at its essence is God’s caring and Presence at each person’s side. But most of the plot is about how each group in power, including the highest levels of Christian clergy and of Japanese government officials, betrayed and duped lower levels of people in power, including our poor samurai, who in the end was executed by his betrayer.

Despite all that, it was fascinating to see how a non-gentile like me, in the samurai’s case a Buddhist, reacted to such things as seeing an image of Jesus on the Cross, the insides of cathedrals, the behavior of missionaries, and so on during his tour of “Nueva España” (Mexico), Spain, and Rome.

But even centuries and thousands of miles away from the setting of The Samurai when Christmas time comes, I (and plenty of other Jews as well) become more aware of how different the main culture is that surrounds us as an ocean to an island. At bottom, there is always some degree of self-consciousness and anxiety. Some of that is expressed through a humorous mixing of the two cultures, for example by putting in Jewish references in Christmas songs, as in, “On the first day of Christmas my true love gave to me: Lox, bagels and cream cheese.”

And so both to give everyone a break from heavy-duty wrestling with weighty issues, I offer this whimsical discourse about Santa Claus, a fit activity for a Jew:

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We Jews have it easy when it comes to Christmas. We don’t have to agonize over how to break the news to the kiddies that Santa is just a symbol and not an actual person who despite his bulk slips down chimneys and makes judgments about their behavior before whipping out some gifts. And speaking of gifts, we don’t have to get frazzled and engage in the frenzy and expense of getting them all, and getting them all in time.

…Wait… While I nodded, nearly napping, there came a tapping, gently rapping at my front door. I bustle to the front to shoo them away. Was it going to be a raven? Nope. Hmm. Oh, come on now. A generously endowed man with a Santa suit on and the perfect white beard and all is waving to me through the glass. He calls out that he wants to come in and set me straight on a couple of matters, especially as I am a rabbi. I am alone today, so nothing doing. I tell him I’m sorry and no can do. And it’s unnerving that he knows my career history. I however will listen to him through the door, seeing him behind the glass like we are video-conferencing. He then comments that I just wrote in the preceding paragraph that Santa is just a symbol. I’m like how can he know what I had just written and which I have not yet released on this blog?

He goes on, “I know Jews especially are skeptical about me, but I am asking you to be open-minded.” “Mmkay”, I go. He declares,“I am here, and I am a Santa.”

A Santa?” I say to myself, grasping at that indefinite article for dear life. Good. Now I can say something nice and get him to move on without causing a ruckus or hurting his feelings. “That I get. There are many wonderful Santas doing so many kind things. And you all are so caring, too.”

This particular Santa then says, “And don’t you forget it. And you can set those Christian parents straight who not only don’t believe in Santa-ness but think they have to disabuse their kids of the notion as well. Tell them at least not to reveal their faithlessness to their young, for God’s sake.”

Being a rabbi I don’t know how much influence I’d have, but maybe my being in a minority might shame a few of them here and there. I figure I’d humor him and even give him some gifts to bring to the local food pantry. I tell him this and ask him to wait a minute. But as I hunt up the gifts and return to the door in a few moments to give them to him, I don’t see anyone there, just a red cap, a red suit evenly folded, and a belt with a big buckle all neatly placed on top of each other on my front porch bench.

Dear reader: Can you tell me what happened to him, or who he was, or where he might have gone?

Inclusive Language: Worth The Bother?

I have lived long enough for the English language to evolve—that is, I am plenty old. When I was little, we said “prescription” instead of “script”, referred to a female actor as an“actress”, and of course understood that“mankind” and the general use of “he” indicated both men and women. “God” of course was always “He” and its variants “Him” and “His”. (When I started writing sermons, I used “You” a lot and such expressions as “The Eternal One” to dodge the gender issue.) “Ms.” did not yet exist nor the singular use of “their” in modern times as in, “Each individual must provide their phone numbers to their fearless leader .” And we only had “firemen” not “fire fighters”.

Most of these changes have to do with what people call “inclusive language”. I remember when “he or she” in a sentence sounded so strange to me. Now it just sounds awkward, even though I use it at times because I am sympathetic to the idea behind it. Of course I perform linguistic acrobatics to avoid such awkward phrasing whenever possible, such as switching to the plural, or the second person, or using vocabulary we already have at hand, such as “humankind”.

Perhaps you think a lot of this is much fuss about nothing; that it is all petty and superficial. If so, thank God you speak English. Is it so hard to give at least a nod to inclusive language by avoiding certain vocabulary and throwing in an extra “ he or she” once in a while? Now don’t go around whining. You have it made compared to a speaker of a language like Spanish. Once I explain why, you will count your blessings as to how easy it is to display how open-minded and nondiscriminatory you are.

Get ready, because here comes a Spanish lesson: Suppose you want to refer to a total of 5 people in a room and not indicate their gender. In English, we would do that by saying “everyone”. No can do in Spanish. You have to choose to refer to all five people as female, if they in fact all are, with the word “todas”, or if all male “todos”, or if a mix, then again the masculine pronoun “todos”. And even if four were females and one were male it would still be the masculine pronoun “todos”. Yes, I know, that is so sexist. What to do? Some Spanish-speaking feminists have suggested a gender-neutral word “todes”.

A similar problem happens with a heap of words that refer to people, such as “friend”, “musician”, “teacher”, and so on. In English these can be male, female, or even non-binary. Not so in Spanish; there is a forced choice: In Spanish, “amiga” necessarily indicates a friend who is female, and “amigo” one who is male. So what will it be, “amig-” with a gender-neutral “e” sound at the end? (technically, because of sound rules, the spelling would be “amigue”.) So here’s the issue: A Spanish speaker who would aspire to changes like this would have to constantly speak differently, having to remember to change so many words, that it would be almost like learning a new language.

  ¡Dios mío! Spanish speakers have it tough. Maybe the solution for them is to have a manageable set of words that symbolically represent the ideal of non-sexist language, so they can go on speaking normally. If such a speaker is reading this, I would love to hear your opinion of how to bring your language up-to-date. Meanwhile the minimal sacrifice of effort to make English evolve for the good cause of making everyone—todes, todas, and todos– welcome and included is well worth it

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For smaller bites of my observations, go to https://twitter.com/chaplainkkaplan

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By the way, on December 8th, this article from an online journal came out about a controversy over a gender neutral pronoun in French: https://theconversation.com/no-need-to-iel-why-france-is-so-angry-about-a-gender-neutral-pronoun-173304

Evil Accounted For In Four Paragraphs

Evolution has very low standards. No matter how deceitful and cruel a living thing is, if it survives it thrives. That is, if it does a better job than all the other try-outs that its alternate mutations have attempted. In other words, whatever or whoever is strongest, most adaptable and most intelligent gets the lion’s share in propagating its kind. Shorthand for that is “survival of the fittest”. If even for instance plants practice deceit with camouflaged designs and various odors to attract certain insects and repel others, then why should all of us goody goodies out there be surprised that deceitful and cruel humans get to rule countries, amass piles of money, humiliate others, become famous, and overall have the best of everything?

Even forgetting all that, why have we suffered through so many mediocre or downright mean teachers, preachers, camp counselors, campy receptionists, and of course that insufferable uncle or hypercritical cousin? And the news? Let’s not go there.

We hide from this truth about evil by saying that in the long run, goodness will win. Nice thought, but not necessarily true. I think the ultimate outcome in the war between good and evil is a toss-up myself as far as humans are concerned. That is, for humans at least, both being good and being evil can lead to enduring and stable societies. You know what, I just explained why evil exists and why good things can happen to bad people as well as why bad things can happen to good people, all without interfering with the principle of survival of the fittest.

At least until now.

Since the first hominids roamed the forests up to the current time, evil persons have been just as functional for the propagation of human life as good folks. But with threats to our survival due to pollution, weapons and all the rest of it, evolution in the end will have to raise its standards after all and require more loving of thy neighbor as thyself for our species to continue. “Ah, Bartleby! Ah, humanity!” it’s either shape up or ship out.

Spiritual Abundance In A Two-Dimensional World

In Spring of 2020, my first consideration of Zoom for religious services seemed at best to trivialize spiritual experience and at worst be irreverent and disrespectful. What, retreat to a two-dimensional world? I wished the Zoom platform had called itself something else when my father-in-law found it downright humorous to talk of a “Zoom service”. Admittedly it sounds plain silly. A name like “Transcending Boundaries” would have lent our meeting a more dignified air. And oh the problems in the beginning when we were all so untutored. Background noises, echoes, confusion about how to join the meeting and about muting and unmuting and doomed attempts to join in unison singing or responsive readings made navigating the service a rocky proposition. It was a wonder that we could retain the seriousness of the occasion despite all of those disruptions. I think it was possible due to the psychological consequences of the quarantine and the drive to be connected with others in the community no matter what it took. Without the technology, religion would have failed to comfort us when we needed it most. Yet, we bemoaned our exile from three-dimensional space to the two-dimensional world of time.

It’s now a year-and-a-half later and the online services continue, with an additional service in person being offered at an earlier hour. I am sharing how this endeavor on Zoom has evolved in case others who are leading or attending such services want to compare their experience with my own particular transplantation from concrete place to cyber space. Since unison singing or speaking was out, I had to think of other ways people could participate. I have increased the ratio of Torah study to prayer, making the former take up about half of the time instead of just a fourth or so. Two people lead the discussion, and about half of those attending make at least one comment or ask one question about the Torah portion of the week, which I think is pretty impressive. Even more impressive is some people prepare by reading up on the portion beforehand. Another option I offer is for a volunteer to recite a prayer by themselves or sing a solo. Instead of a sermon, I offer one or two brief selected passages from Jewish sources such as the famous scholar Abraham Joshua Heschel and poets like Ruth F. Brin, or“alternate” readings of well-known prayers. A nifty book that has quotes of just the right length on many topics and is neither too academic nor too sappy, is Jewish Spirituality edited by Rabbi Bernard S. Raskin.

What about the “oneg” (refreshment period after services)? Literal nourishment is out (until Zoom figures out how to beam over some food), but spiritual nourishment and community-building is in. The service itself lasts for one hour, with the social period lasting for up to 45 minutes.

But the most significant change is in the people. Namely more of them to be exact, including brand-new attendees who have heard of us through word-of-mouth: People who are house-bound, people who do not live near a synagogue, and those who rather pray less and study more, and of course those uncomfortable with appearing in person due to the virus. We only add people through word-of-mouth, thus I give no particulars here.

Adversity does indeed foster creativity, as my ancestors found out thousands of years ago when they could no longer pray and offer sacrifices in one central location, but had to adjust to being in other countries and to substituting words for bullocks and sheep. Now, in our current challenge to norms, we are discovering how to transcend all geographical locations and be co-present in time. As Rabbi Heschel has said, “the Sabbath is a sanctuary in time. The Sabbaths are our great cathedrals.”

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For an article on this subject in The Wall Street Journal, see here: https://www.wsj.com/articles/church-pandemic-covid-online-11636728162

Elderhood….Say What?

According to the criteria of the United States government, this Saturday I will become an old lady. When I wrote the word “elderhood” in my emailed party invitation (sorry, not to you, precious reader, but to a few lucky locals), I got that wavy red underline challenging me to dismiss that illegitimate word. WordPress too, I might add, flashed its red warning as I edited this essay. So off to Google I went, which gave an admittedly scant 247,000 search results for elderhood. Compare that with “childhood,” which yields over seven billion, amounting to almost one search result per person in the world.

Naturally I pondered such an imbalance which is so lopsided that it threatens a word’s right to exist. What is this, linguistic ageism? I would say that the transition from middle age to elderhood is just as significant and extensive as the transition from childhood to middle age.

There are other words I could use to mark my new state, such as senior/ senior citizen, (ugh, that’s the worst) crone, entering old age, mature, ancient, the golden years, et cetera. Never mind the triply damned status of those among us who are female, old and never-married who get the words “spinster” and “old maid.” I hate all these terms, because they are either disparaging, falsely respectful, or euphemistic as if aging is something that needs to be downplayed or colored on the rose side. “The golden years”? Oh please!

There is one other term, “third age”, which I would take as a runner-up to “elderhood.” It is not negative, and for those familiar with the term, connotes a time of increased emotional well-being despite some cognitive decline. But for those who are not familiar with it, I think it is a puzzling expression. “Elderhood” is self-explanatory and has that nice corresponding suffix in its sister word, “childhood.”

I hereby in this post promulgate “elderhood,” for its positive associations such as in the phrase, “the elders of the city”. This word, as far as I can tell, frankly and accurately refers to my age status with a touch of dignity, puts it on a psychological par with“childhood”, and echoes none of the neurotic avoidance of of aging as a touchy taboo topic, which –Heaven help us– hints at our Final Days.

Well! Through this post I have just increased the search results for “elderhood” by one. So I’ve done my part today for celebrating the coming of old age

A Genie’s Regrets

Unlike the first time Mitch asked the genie for three wishes, he was itching to be real smart about it by not bungling this opportunity with wishes that would cause other problems. (He had wished for more money, and then all those long-lost creditors started to show up.) “I don’t ordinarily give mortals second chances,” she said upon popping into his life again, “but I am curious to see how your second try goes now that you have some experience. So go on, tell me your first wish.” Mitch said, “Rid the world of all kinds of mosquitoes.” His second and third wishes were left unsaid, because after the first one was granted, poof!– he along with his entire species no longer existed in this newly altered ecosystem. “Second chances?” the genie glumly thought to herself. “Rotten idea. No more humans to trick.”

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Originally I had submitted this tiny story to sites that specialize in such itsy bitsy fiction, but they did not appreciate the suspense, the foreshadowing (“itching to be…”) the climax, and the denouement, all in this micro-story. Those sites shall remain nameless. What’s more, one editorial reviewer asked me if Mitch was a mosquito. Thus we have two morals here, one for the story itself, and one for writers who receive rejection letters.

Update: October 6, 2021

A friend brought my attention to another genie story, much longer and undoubtedly much better. It is creative, and best of all does not have a lame ending. The link for that is here: https://www.tor.com/2014/09/10/as-good-as-new-charlie-jane-anders/ Tor.com is a science fiction/fantasy newsletter and publisher. Charlie Jane Anders has authored many novels and garnered many awards.

The Stock Market Demystified

“Steve,” I said over breakfast one fine morn to my husband, who is a professional investor and financial advisor, “it always has bothered me when you say things like, ‘the market punishes the maximum number of investors’. It’s not like ‘the market’ is a godlet that does things to people. It’s not a living organism.” (Even though it is true that most people lose money in the stock market by buying high and selling low.) Steve and I parried this back and forth for a bit and then he suggested I write a guest column about it in his newsletter, which I did. And now I decided to share it here in modified form to warn unwary and novice investors, which is practically everyone these days: But the “market” cannot be a personified glob from above that takes action on its victims. Let’s first take a casino as a simpler example of what I want to convey: it’s not “the casino” as some mystical entity that causes people to lose as much money as possible, even though that is the goal of one. It is not a charity. There are humans who design a casino such that the most people will go to the most lucrative (for the house) tables. These humans put in whatever lighting, carpeting, colors, attractive staff, free tokens, other types of gambling nearby and of course free food that will conspire to get those customers to go to those most favored tables and to spend the most time there and in the casino in general. This is all calculated in advance, down I am sure, to the style and fabric of the chairs, that will influence the customers’ behavior.

Now let’s take the stock market. It began a certain way, centuries ago, as a way for wealthy and knowledgeable business persons to make mutually beneficial investments and it has evolved today to include anyone at all who wishes to participate. Especially now, I think, by accident or design, various features of the market and of brokerages result in enticing the vast majority of investors to do the wrong thing, with a game-like atmosphere being one of the most recent characteristics. Advertisements imply that with everything going “so well” this is a great time to win big. (Now is about the worst time to buy stocks like Apple, Facebook, etc.) Brokerages are now encouraging teenagers as young as 13 to open accounts and trade, all with no commissions to make teenagers or anyone else for that matter hesitate. And of course the lack of knowledge as to how financial markets work and what patterns to look for is a guarantee for losing money unless by pure rare luck someone hits the jackpot.

In other words, whoever is connected with making trades possible, such as a brokerage, is by design, consciously or not, making calculations as to how to approach would-be investors to woo them to engage in trading. Even with knowledge, it takes tremendous planning and work for an investor to come out ahead. Without knowledge and just the lure of “easy money”, yes, the novice investor is bound to fail. But it is not because the godlet of markets is punishing that investor. It is because various savvy individuals who are well-versed in human behavior are taking advantage of that information about human nature to get that investor to reward the wealthy ones. Don’t say I did not warn you.

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Parable submitted by an anonymous investor on September 30, 2021:

“I agree with you  Karen that the markets do punish investors, and more so try to constantly turn prudent investors into bad investors. I agree it’s not because the market is some self-aware entity. It is because it acts as a simple feedback loop for the participants themselves. The “market” is the sum total of the participants – and they punish themselves.
We had chronic problems with local squirrels ripping apart the contents of our garden shed, boring holes through the plywood and frame to get in. A real mess, especially in mid-March trying to clean it up in the middle of a heavy snow and -15C. So I installed some black 1/2″ square Peak netting to prevent squirrel entry. That netting was successful. However we also had a cute chipmunk who arrived this season after the netting was installed. It was much smaller, generally kept to itself, would hop up on our deck, look at us curiously as though we’d feed it (we didn’t) but the chipmunk did their own thing and didn’t create any home ownership issues.
One day I noticed the chipmunk was repeatedly entering the shed, by pushing aside my black netting in one corner of the shed floor which blocked the larger squirrels. Not enough that squirrels were getting in, but enough so the smaller chipmunk could get in. It was remarkable how it could make its way through that maze of netting each time. It did this for the better part of this year, storing acorns and other food in some small corner of our shed floor. Fine I thought; we’ll live with the chipmunk since it isn’t actively destroying the contents of our shed, or ripping up wood and other items to try to build a nest, so I’d leave it be.It successfully entered and exited the shed past this dense netting hundreds, perhaps thousands of times.
You probably know where this investing parable is going.One day two weeks ago, I noticed a funny smell by the shed. I didn’t see anything obvious but on closer inspection, I saw the rotting carcass of the chipmunk which had strangled itself attempting to traverse the netting. Sad. Had I been able to communicate with the chipmunk, I would have said “your risk / reward is far lower by continuing to store your acorns under our deck, which has clear passage and where you’ve also been storing them for the season”. Everything was fine traversing that netting, until one fine day came along when it wasn’t. But that’s life, in both investing and acorn storage.”

____M. Anonymous is referring to the current danger of buying stocks at already very high prices, where one is bound to lose as the stock could rocket downwards literally in moments. -Karen

My husband has his own site, https://truecontrarian-sjk.blogspot.com/ if you want to “invest” more time on this subject. His newsletters are available through paid subscription only.

To see me on Twitter: https://twitter.com/chaplainkkaplan

To see Steven on Twitter: https://twitter.com/TrueContrarian

I Dare You To Top This Parking Story

Who says you have to go far to find exotic and inscrutable customs among the locals? I in my own country, near my own state, visiting Saratoga Springs, New York. Yes, that place, the one famous for natural springs, casinos, and horse racing. (I was there for the first, honest.) But I could not fathom the alternate side parking rules. I mean everywhere else I have been, rules like that might indicate, no parking on Side A from 12 noon until 4 p.m. on Wednesdays and no parking on Side B on Thursdays. Yeah, so? On Wednesday, one must move the car to Side B anytime after 4 p.m. the preceding Thursday but before noon on the following Wednesday. On Thursday, one must move the car to the Wednesday side before noon. In other words, there are plenty of hours available to move the car, right?

Well I noticed in Saratoga Springs, several streets had rules that said the alternate side parking had 24 hours on each side. Say what? How could they mean 24 hours? Let’s say I arrive on a Monday and park my car on Side A, which says you can park there from 8:00 a.m. Monday through 8:00 a.m. Tuesday morning and not a minute after that. Are you with me? Bear with me I promise it’s worth it. And Side B says you can park there on Tuesday from 8:00 a.m. Until 8:00 a.m. Wednesday morning. Well wait a minute. That means I must move my car at 7:59 a.m. on Tuesday morning to go from Side A to Side B? I asked a neighbor about this and he says, unless he was messing with me or something, that people moving cars to the other side as late as 8:05 a.m. could get ticketed.

Hmm, what if I suddenly had to go to the bathroom at 7:59 to 8:02 a.m.? What if I felt sick? Or had to answer the phone because I was expecting a call about my dying aunt at any moment? Or I had to be at the Zoom interview of my life right at 8:00 a.m. with people who wanted to turn my book into a film?

But just imagine the daily tumultuous atmosphere around 7:58 in the morning when everyone pours out of their homes to move their cars to the other side, greeting each other with knowing grins, or more often furious scowls, and gossip that can last no more than three minutes prior to the mass side-changing ritual. And who can move their car the fastest while everyone else is trying to do the same thing? All with the police looking on, hands filled with tickets half-filled out just in case of a potential bonanza at this only once-a-day opportunity. Maybe this is a way to get all the neighbors on one’s block to know each other. Or hate each other and keep their distance.

I did not get to witness this daily spectacle, as I searched for a street nearby that always allowed parking on Side B, but always prohibited parking on Side A. After all, I was on vacation, and did not want to wake up at a specific time. I wondered, though, how Side B ever got a shot at street cleaning. If you don’t believe the 24-hour story above, here’s the proof from the Saratoga Springs city site, which has the ominous URL of “ecode360”. I absolutely get lost though from the word “except”; a sentence undoubtedly created by a parking Nazi.

“For any street where parking or standing of vehicles is permitted on both sides of the street, parking or standing shall be prohibited on one side of each individual street from 8:00 a.m. on Mondays, Wednesdays, Fridays and Sundays to 8:00 a.m. the following day, and on the opposite side of each individual street from 8:00 a.m. on Tuesdays, Thursdays and Saturdays to 8:00 a.m. the following day, except that when signs are installed to indicate that parking or standing shall be prohibited on one side of each individual street from 8:00 a.m. on Mondays Wednesdays and Fridays to 8:00 a.m. the following day, and on the opposite side of each individual street from 8:00 a.m. on Tuesday, Thursdays, Saturdays and Sundays to 8:00 a.m. the following day, then parking or standing shall be prohibited as indicated by such signs.”

Still think I am the one who is messing with you? Today’s not April 1 or anything. Go see for yourself if you don’t believe me at: https://ecode360.com/6521610

For more of my writing, see me at https://twitter.com/chaplainkkaplan