Sunday, March 11, 2012
The Fork Not Taken
Yogi Berra said it best: “When you get to a fork in the road, take it.”
I learned the value of these words on Saturday when my sister and I took her cat, Smokey, to the veterinarian in Manhattan.
This was the first time we made this trip since Smokey’s brother, Tuxedo, died back in January.
I was behind the wheel and it was painful seeing my sister walk toward the car with only one cat box in her hand. Smokey was flying solo now.
But Smokey doesn’t like to fly or ride in the car for the matter and he made his feelings known by howling for the entire length of the trip. Nothing my sister said or did could calm him down; he just wailed and wailed.
I don’t like driving in New York and that’s why I gave up my car years ago when I moved back to the city. Between walking, riding the subway, and taking the express bus, I do just fine. (Check out my buddy Ron’s post about this same topic over at Vent.)
But taking Smokey on the subway is, of course, out of the question. All the noise and banging around would drive him crazy. And I'd be right behind him.
We usually go to the vet in the morning, when things are a little quieter, but Smokey had an afternoon appointment this time and that proved to be a bit of pain. There were more cars, more pedestrians and much fewer parking spots.
I felt like we were trapped in some bizarre theme park. There were sirens coming from all directions, cars all over the road and idiots walking out into the street every time I blinked.
We circled the block searching for a spot and my sister was about to have me put the car in a lot—which is a major investment in New York—when I saw a car pulling out of a spot on the corner of the vet's block. What luck!
Unfortunately there were two cars behind me as well, and when I stopped to try and get the spot, horns started blaring at me, mixing in with Smokey’s howling.
I saw angry faces in my rearview and I to tried to get out of their way, but I only managed to box in the people who were trying to get out. Finally they pulled out and we saw they had parked illegally in front of a fire hydrant, so the whole schlamassel was for nothing.
I pulled aside and the two losers behind me went roaring down the street honking their horns.
What gets into people when they drive? Yes, I know we were holding up the works, but it wasn’t that long and certainly not worth all the outrage.
Luckily, some very nice people were walking to their car down the block and they told us to follow them so we could take their spot. I was grateful, of course, but I quickly put that aside so I could go back to stewing about the honking idiots.
“I’m glad I made them wait,” I grumbled.
But that kind of thinking—or lack of it—only spreads the hostility and there’s plenty of that in the world already.
After all, Yogi tells us “if the world was perfect, it wouldn’t be.” And how could you argue with that?
It wasn’t until we were inside that I realized there was a valuable lesson here. The two drivers were dopes, yes, but the real role models were the people who gave us their parking spot.
They didn’t know us from a fork in the road, but they had helped us out of a tight spot. Those are the people to emulate, I thought, those are the ones to remember.
As Yogi would say, “you can observe a lot just by watching.”
As we were leaving we ran into this lovely elderly woman who was bringing her little dog to the vet in a shopping cart. She was dressed very stylishly and I held the door open for her while my sister took the cart.
She thanked us and then, noting the cat box, said, “good luck with your little passenger.” The entire encounter lasted less than a minute, but it was so pleasant that I'm still thinking about it.
Now I wish I could say the trip was uneventful, but there were a few slip-ups.
First, I crossed over a couple of lanes at the Brooklyn Battery Tunnel toll plaza in my zeal to reach a cash lane—a vanishing breed in these days of EZ Pass.
Then I went down the wrong exit and wound up on the BQE. Like Yogi, I had made too many wrong mistakes, and, as we all know, a wrong mistake is the worst kind.
But my sister directed me to the Atlantic Avenue exit and we were soon heading in the right direction.
We had met some nice people, we had gotten home in one piece, and I had gotten an important lesson in human behavior. Yogi would’ve been so proud.