Parking is a way of life in New York. Either you have what it takes to find a parking spot, or you don’t – in which case your car lives in a garage that costs more than the average monthly rent for a small Miami apartment.
When I moved down here, I was stoked by the possibility that I might have a driveway or, even better (because of some invisible cool-factor) a designated parking spot in a condominium complex. With a valet named Roger. And I would call him Rog. And we would have this system where, when I was in a rush in the morning, Rog would have the car up front waiting for me as I came barging into the garage and, without missing a beat, toss me the keys as I ran for the car. We’d exchange pleasantries (“Morning, Rog!” “Stay cool, Dan!”) and that’s how I’d start my day.
Instead, Brooke and I eschewed high-rise living for a cute two-story building in a quiet part of town. It doesn’t have a garage or a driveway, much less a valet. But it comes with a residential parking pass, so that (theoretically) there is spot reserved for me on the street (somewhere) because I live here.
I can see how the idea seemed good at the time (again, theoretically). But either everyone in my neighborhood owns three cars, or someone in city hall did some bad math. Because when Brooke and I come home late at night (you know, nine, ten o’clock) there usually isn’t a spot to be had anywhere on our block. (Whoever had “1 DAY” in the “Amount of time before Dan turns into the guy who calls the city information hotline to turn in illegally parked cars on his block” pool, congratulations! You win!)
It’s still better than NY, though. In New York, you could spend an entire night looking for a parking spot.
“So what’d you do this weekend?”
“Parked the car.”
One time, I literally spent hours looking for a parking spot on the Upper East side. I was employing all the tricks: Driving up fast behind someone who you know is also looking for a spot in order to make them nervous and hopefully miss one; keeping an eye out for the people who look like they are going to a car (they tend to walk diagonally across the street); driving extra slow when someone is trying to pull the driving-up-fast trick on you, right up until you hit a yellow traffic signal, at which point you gun it through the intersection so they are left behind and you can troll the next block at a leisurely pace. I tried everything. It lasted so long that I had to stop and get pizza. By the time I found a spot, I had spent in gas money what I had hoped to save in garage fees. (I called it a moral victory, but my friends said I didn’t really understand what the word “moral” meant.)
It’s never that bad in Miami. They even have a free parking lot two blocks away reserved just for people in the neighborhood in case there aren’t any spots on the street. Miami is gracious in their inhospitality. Like they really want you to be able to park your car. Honest. It’s just been so hard lately, you know, since the wife left? And I’m getting old and I lose track of things. I forget where I put my glasses sometimes. I hope the parking lot isn’t a big inconvenience . . .
Besides, the price you pay for parking illegally? $23.00. In most cases, that’s cheaper than having to valet your car. I haven’t gotten a parking ticket in New York in a long time, but the last I heard they were up to $850.00 (ballpark).
The only negative difference in Miami? The towing. In New York, you have to literally be parked in the middle of Broadway or on top of a hydrant in front of a three-alarm fire to get towed. One night, I walked past a car that had jumped the curb and slammed into a bus stop sign. The next morning, the car was still there, with a ticket on the window.
Here, though, they don’t fuck around with the towing. A lot of stores and banks in Miami Beach have small, designated parking lots with signs posted that parking for those lots is restricted SOLELY for those stores’ customers. Hence, when that store closes (say, 8 p.m.) if your car is there at 8:01, it gets towed. And the tow companies are on the friggin ball, often waiting there with the truck, watching the hands of the clock tick away. It’s nearly impossibly to drive around the beach in the evening without seeing a tow truck hauling a car. I imagine the towers as the tycoons of Miami, sitting in their mansions on the bay flipping through big-rig catalogues, watching the sun set. Their cats eat Fancy Feast, and every Tuesday Dale has a barbecue on his yacht. Everyone brings their dogs and it’s a hell of a good time. Then they all gather around and sing the tow truck driver anthem, “We are tow truck drivers, we reap what we tow; we eat caviar and drink Chateau Margeaux . . .” and they laugh and laugh and laugh.
As David Caruso would say: “That’s justice . . . Miami style.”