Bargain (De)Basement

December 19, 2017

“Can you do any better?”  That question has stayed with me since I first heard my mother ask it when I was about ten years old.  A carpet salesman was at our house and was giving a quote for wall-to-wall carpeting that my parents were buying.  At first, I didn’t understand what my mother meant; and then it hit me — she was bargaining with the salesman. My first thought was that my family must be going broke.  Why else try to take from the carpet people’s pocket and put it into ours? What other explanation could there be? My shock was followed by an embarrassment so severe that I went upstairs and hid under my bed (a theme for me) until the salesman left.

In all the years I was around my parents this was the sole time I ever heard either of them bargain or hondel (as we Jews might say) with a merchant of any sort. It just wasn’t in their DNA. Nor in mine or my siblings. I say this not out of a feeling of moral superiority but rather as an admission that my family generally lacked the chutzpah required for haggling.

Like most of you, I think my cable bill(s) are way too high. So my ears really perked up when, over dinner, by friend Nnelg told me a story about how he had gotten Time Warner (“We’re now Spectrum!”) to substantially lower his bill.  It required some tenacity and some nerve but he ensured me he knew how to “play the game” with them.

I was very impressed and lamented that I had neither the skills nor the interest in hondeling with the cable company.  And then one of two things happened: either I begged Nnelg to do the same thing for me or he offered to do it. Either way, I told him there was a nice dinner in his future for his efforts.

I transmitted to him all the relevant information regarding my account including my latest bill and gave him license to do his best. I have to say I didn’t feel overly indebted to him because, unlike me, Nnelg warms to this kind of task; he sees it as a challenge or a game. I admire him for the way he makes this kind of thing fun. In fact, as I think about it, it’s probably fairer that he buy me dinner.

In any event, a few days later he reported to me that he had some modest success which would reduce my bill. However, this would involve my installing a new router that was being sent to me. I was less than thrilled at the thought of myself on my hands and (bad) knees fumbling around making connections but accepted my plight. And then a funny thing happened—that evening, when I tried to access HBO, it wasn’t available to me. Nor Showtime. Nor STARZ (whatever that is). All my “premium channels” were gone. In other words, things weren’t going swimmingly.

The next day the box with the new equipment came; a very BIG box. At this point I knew that I was defeated, that Time Warner (We’re now Spectrum!) had won. Rather than re-enlist Nnelg, or call the cable company I decided to go directly to their store located in a nearby neighborhood.  I wanted to give them back the BOX and reinstate my old services. I was willing to sign any document they wanted indicating I would never try bargaining with them again.

I met with a representative, Danissa, who heard my story and out of the blue, offered to lower my bill considerably—just for showing up. I thanked her and walked out, not exultant but with a feeling I couldn’t quite put my finger on; one that I found a bit disquieting. Later that day as I was settling in for the beginning of a weekend of binge watching, I turned on my TV only to find that the screen came up with a notice to “Call this number to activate or re-activate your account”. I picked up my land line phone to call ASAP and found that I had no dial tone. And then I checked—no internet either!  I was practically off the grid.

I won’t bore you (further) with my phone call (cellular) for reactivation other than to say I wound up screaming at the top of my lungs at the representative who told me a technician couldn’t get to my house for three or four days. So, as I write this, I’m sitting in front of a large TV that can’t transmit anything. I can’t call anyone nor can I find out all the neat things on the internet that I used to.

One small solace though. With the silence that now surrounds me, I’ve identified that strange feeling I had when I left the Time Warner store. I realize now that I was experiencing a feeling of regret. Regret that when Danissa told me the amount by which she was reducing my bill, that I didn’t just this once say, “Can you do any better?”



City Whinery

November 28, 2017

I’ve never thought of myself as a complainer but I think it’s entirely possible I may have been deluding myself.  Because lately, I find myself whining to anyone who’ll listen about how lousy things have been for me recently.  Oh . . . not in all respects, but definitely as regards the attention I need to pay to my body as I try to recover from knee surgery. This endeavor has proven to be way more all-encompassing than I could have suspected. Meaning that I’m almost always attending to some part of my rehabilitation; either I’m going to physical therapy, visiting my gym, icing my freakin’ knee or doing exercises at home. This drudgery is the subject that I seem to be most conversant with.  You can only imagine what good company I’ve become.  You, at least, can avoid me—-I can’t.

The purpose of all this effort is so that some day (hopefully, within my lifetime) I’ll be able to resume those activities that give me the most pleasure.  Sure, sure . . .  there are lots of passive things I can still do that I enjoy.  And truthfully, if those were all I was interested in, I could skip the gym and probably all the rest of it.  But I’d really like to get back to playing tennis . . . both for the playing part and for the social connections with my tennis friends.  But despite my best efforts, that camaraderie that I sorely miss, may be in serious jeopardy.  And there’s no amount of physical therapy in the world that’ll be able to set things right.

There’s a famous baseball story that has become almost metaphorical.  At the height of their baseball hegemony, the New York Yankees had a first baseman, Wally Pipp, who on June 2, 1925 complained to his manager that he had a mild headache and asked if could sit that day’s game out.  He was replaced my an unknown bench player named Lou Gehrig.  Well, that game began what became the longest consecutive games played streak in the history of the game.*  Gehrig, who earned the nickname, “Iron Horse” , would play in every game for the Yankees until May, 1939 —  a stretch of over 2000 games. Mr Pipp (who earned the nickname, “Wally, The Shlemiel”), never again played first base for the Yankees.

Why I’m telling you this story is that I’m in danger of becoming the modern-day tennis version of Wally Pipp.  You see, for a while now, until I needed to drop out because of my knee surgery, I’ve been in a great doubles game with some good friends; the tennis is really good and we have a lot of fun together.  But all that may well become just a bitter memory.

In my absence, my tennis buddies have enlisted a replacement, another friend of mine, Retep#2.  Unfortunately, from what I hear, the four of them are having a grand old time without me.  Which makes sense since Retep#2 is nicer than I am and also a better player.  And if that isn’t bad enough, he also has a car available and has supplanted me as the group’s designated driver.  This is no small deal since that service was my ace in the hole and supposedly made me irreplaceable. Hah!

But unlike Wally Pipp, I don’t intend to take this usurpation lying down. But short of slashing the tires of Retep#2’s car, I haven’t yet figured out a plan to re-insinuate myself into the group.  But I will.  Because believe me, the next-to-last thing I want, is to be referred to as “Neil The Shlemiel”.

Before all the smarty-pants weigh in, I know that some fifty years later,  Cal Ripken Jr. broke Gehrig’s consecutive games record. However, it should be noted that Ripken was often inserted into the lineup for an inning or so, solely to keep his streak going.



November 10, 2017

As a result of my recent knee surgery, over the past month or so, I’ve been mostly housebound.  On the few occasions where I’ve been in social situations, I’ve noticed something about myself.  Other than responding to questions about my surgery and recuperation, I pretty much have nothing of interest to say.  I’ve become a bore.

I don’t doubt that even before the knee debacle there were people with whom I engaged who didn’t find my presence exactly scintillating but what I now notice is that even I don’t have so much fun being with me. The well of pleasure I took in hanging out with myself has started to run dry.

My descent into becoming a totally un-engaging person has been accompanied by an ennui, a boredom which has been especially hard for me to shake.  When I’ve mentioned this to some friends, a few suggested that with all the time I seem to have on my hands (since I do nothing but ice my knee) I could spend more time writing this blog. Which, on paper, makes sense.  But the truth is, very little happens in the part of my apartment where I’m ensconced that’s worth writing about.

So, when I made plans last week with my girlfriend, Lebasi, to go out for dinner I was pretty excited. It happened to be, as (bad) luck would have it, on Halloween. We decided to walk down to the restaurant which is a few avenue blocks away. But what I didn’t count on was the throngs of people/families in the streets. Apparently, it’s been like this in Park Slope for some time now. But since I’ve spent the last number of Halloweens hiding under my desk or in my car parked inside my garage, the explosion of humanity on the streets has escaped me.

Because I was so worried that some little super-hero or princess would run into my brand-new knee, Lebasi ran interference for me as we made our way to the restaurant.  The trip was very daunting and I arrived at the restaurant with an even greater eagerness than usual (if possible) to have an intimate experience with a martini glass.

About an inch into my glass, I starting to regain some sense of equanimity.  Lebasi and I ordered dinner at the bar and were in the midst of eating when, without warning, several families of trick-or-treaters blew into the restaurant creating a tumult which was completely at odds with my vision of a lovely dinner. This went on for what seemed like days (but was actually about five minutes—  a window into my soul). Unfortunately (for me . . . and for whoever is with me), I have a fairly simple rule: if I’m dining at a restaurant where the entrees are more than $7.99, I pretty much expect an aggravation-free experience.  Which was exactly what was not happening.

So, I went over to these families and asked their addresses.  I said that I’d like to stop by their houses sometime while they’re having dinner. And I’d like to bring my grandkids; maybe with some of their friends. It shouldn’t be more than six or seven kids . . . nine, at most. Would that be okay?

Of course, that’s not what happened. (Maybe in a year or so.) Instead, I stewed or complained to Lebasi.  Or stewed and complained. Which, apparently, is not that attractive. Although she had some sense of my grinchiness from reading some of my blog posts, I think Lebasi had the mistaken impression that I had exaggerated for dramatic effect. Now the (black) cat is out of the bag. And I have some serious ground to make up. I told her that, going forward, I’d try to embrace the holiday. But next Halloween is a long time away.  So what I’m doing now is looking around for just the right outfit for Arbor Day. Sounds like fun!




“Taking A Knee”

October 17, 2017

I’m sure you’ve been following the latest dust-up between our president, our moron-in-chief (MIC), and National Football League players who are protesting social and racial injustice by kneeling during the National Anthem. Somehow a guy who dodged the draft, boasts about not paying taxes and has shown himself to solely “live in the eternal present of his own immediate desires” has made himself the arbiter of what’s patriotic

But the NFL players are not the only ones taking a knee; so has my doctor–my surgeon. And not just any old knee . . .  he’s taken one that used to be mine. (That should read: MINE!!!) Fortunately, he swapped that one out with one he got from Home Depot that’s made with titanium, plastic and chrome.  You see, about two weeks ago I had a total knee arthroplasty which, as bad as that may sound, is actually a lot worse. I’d try not to bore you with the details, but what then would I have to write about.

This is my second joint replacement just this year.  About nine months ago, my surgeon, Dr. M., also replaced my hip. As a result of this latest go around, he and I are gradually warming to one another. But the truth is, I can think of several thousand better ways to go about improving our relationship. A cocktail after work is one that comes to mind immediately.  But at this point, that doesn’t seem to be in the cards. However, I’ve one more hip and one more knee available . . .  so I’m not ruling anything out.

I’ve begun my rehab with a physical therapist, Adrianne, who also worked with me after my hip replacement. She’s a really lovely person who seems dedicated to her job. As of now, she comes to my apartment daily. Instead of limiting my rehab to various exercises or stretching, with the mild weather, my therapy has also included our taking slow walks around the neighborhood. Which is fine with me. But as nice as Adrianne is, as we take these walks together, I find that we don’t have a whole lot to talk about. Mostly our conversations are banal chit-chat.  Or we say nothing at all.

Which has struck me as incredibly ironic. After all, just within the last several weeks I wrote about a nightmare I regularly have about working at the Park Slope Food Co-op and having the job of escorting shoppers who use the Co-op’s shopping carts. Walking through my neighborhood making banal chit-chat. Or saying nothing at all.

Yet another instance of life imitating art.



Hobson’s Choice

October 2, 2017

One of things I like most about writing this blog is I get to do some research and learn new things.  Or I re-learn stuff that I once knew but have forgotten.  And then, in about two weeks or so, I forget everything all over again; as a result, I’m always learning things. Very cool!  So when the situation I find myself in recently developed, I did some noodling around and was able to find the precise term that I was looking for, which is the title of this essay.

Some of you may not know what a Hobson’s Choice is.  Essentially, it is an option that’s given to someone where the alternative is so bad, it’s no choice at all. (The derivation is somewhat interesting but you can follow up that on your own.) The relevance here is that recently, a Hobson’s Choice has entered my life.

As you may remember, the new owners of the real estate office formerly and presently know as Garfield Realty, Luap and Zil, have been, ever so gradually, upending my status in my former office; moving me a little closer to the front door in incremental ways. It started with the downsizing of my desk. Not long after that, there was the indignity of placing it so that I faced a blank wall. I had mostly gotten used  to all that but now . . . now I’m being told that Garfield Realty is going to be re-branded (or so they say) and the office is being reconfigured to a place with fewer desks, none of which shall be mine. What’s being offered to me is the use of a shared conference room style desk. Now, that would be bad enough, but it’s going to be at the front of the office which means that whenever anyone comes in I would be the first person they would encounter.  In other words, I would be the OFFICIAL GREETER!!! (that’s me SCREAMING!!). Engaging in idle CHIT CHAT with whomever shows up!

If you know me at all (and why wouldn’t you want to?), you’d know that this kind of circumstance is probably the essence of every third nightmare that I have. Sometimes that nightmare includes an episode in which I’m working at the Park Slope Food Co-op where one of the jobs is to escort shoppers who are using the Co-op’s shopping carts to their home or car and then bring the cart back.  I see these twosomes all over my neighborhood, very often chatting away as if they go back to grade school together. In my dream, I’m the guy wearing the Co-op’s yellow vest walking with and making inane conversation with a total stranger. Saying the same stuff over and over with different shoppers. Sometimes there’s a variation of the dream where instead of repeating myself endlessly, I’m more or less mute as I walk the streets of my own neighborhood. Either way, I wake up in a cold sweat.

So being up front, right there by the entrance door is, I think, the real estate equivalent of walking someone home with the shopping cart. The only meaningful difference is that I won’t be wearing the yellow vest. Otherwise, just the same.  It seems that the only alternative available to me may be to set up a very small work station in the bathroom.  A Hobson’s choice if there ever was one.


The Bris-kit™️

September 22, 2017

I know, I know . . .  you’re thinking: there he goes with another meat blog.  Well, that’s not the case. Not the case at all. Instead, this is a commentary on an article I read a few weeks ago that brought me up short.

It seems that there is a movement afoot by some Jews to overhaul one of the major rites of the Jewish tradition, the bris. Apparently, the circumcision of new-born male offspring is now up for grabs. According to the article, a number of Jewish parents are “aghast at what they see as unnecessary infliction of pain or even mutilation and are retreating from the ancient ritual.”

The article featured a woman who is a single parent living in, where else, Brooklyn.  The mother was steeped in a Jewish background but is a feminist and activist who believes in the “right to your own body”.  After struggling with her decision not to have a traditional bris (the kind that has cutting), she settled on a “gentle bris” ceremony. This rite called for the use of some alternative ritual objects. So, a mohel was replaced by a service that included a pomegranate, a gold kiddish (wine) cup and a large ceramic bowl filled with water to wash the baby’s feet.  No mention was made of bagels, lox or appetizers.                                                    

As an atheist, I may be exactly the wrong person to be critical of this new-fangled approach. But I’ve been a Jew for my entire life and find that I’m still drawn to many of the religion’s traditions, the bris being one of them. Sure, it’s a little barbaric but after all, this has been going on for some 4000 years, starting with God commanding an adult Abraham to circumcise himself. (I imagine Abraham could have negotiated with God to see if He would settle, instead, for some fruit, wine and a large bowl of water. Maybe he could have thrown in a few goats to sweeten the deal. Had that happened, Jewish history penises would be so much different and . .. well, maybe most important, we wouldn’t have this essay.)

This is not the first time I’ve come across this bris mutiny. I checked my blog records and found that I had written about a similar circumstance concerning a measure that was on the ballot in, where else, San Francisco, that would have banned circumcision for all men under eighteen. The proposed law called for making the practice a misdemeanor offense punishable by a fine of $1000 or up to a year in jail. (Imagine being in Alcatraz and your cellmate asks, “What are you in for?” “Foreskin issues” is the answer I’d give.) Needless to say, the measure failed.

After reading the article, I had a brilliant idea for a business that would take advantage of what I see as the next hula hoop for Jews. I thought I could combine the alternative bris items and market the pomegranate, the wine cup and the washing bowl as a collection . . . as a kit, so to speak. My first step has been to protect the intellectual property rights of the business.  So, at great expense, I’ve registered the name, “Bris-kits ‘R’ US®”.  I am also now the owner of the domains,, .org, .net, and just in case this winds up on college campuses, .edu. This may seem as if I’m being overly ambitious in preserving my naming rights but this is too good of an idea to have slip through my fingers.  (Oh . . . and by the way, if you’re thinking of cashing in on a parody of the Ella Fitzgerald song, forget it; I also own the copyright to A Bris-kit A Basket© .)

An addendum:  I’m not the only one who thinks this bris thing could be a whole cottage industry. Marvel Comics also.

Not To Be Confused With Fiveskin Man






The Kite Bummer

September 7, 2017

“Little Boy”– Kind Of An Unfortunate Name

Recently, my son, Essej and my daughter-in-law, Fets, came with my grandkids to spend a weekend with me in the country. Julian, Levi and Skye are 7, 5 and 3, respectively; at least for a while. The two year differences in their ages is great for me because it’s both easy to remember and also easy to transmit the information if someone asks, “How old are they”.  Remembering all of the birth dates is another matter altogether but has the benefit of requiring me to use some brain cells that I ordinarily keep in cold storage.

Knowing that the kids were coming, I decided to do something grandfatherly—I bought some kites on Amazon, one for each of them. Different colors. I had a Norman Rockwellesque fantasy of them lined up, each flying his/her own kite while occasionally looking in my direction and thanking me for such a treat.  Well . . . this was, at a minimum, magical thinking.

I unpacked the first kite and took it out to my yard to begin the festivities.  But, although it seemed breezy enough, the damned thing wouldn’t go up.  Essej and I took turns running around trying to get it airborne.  No luck.  This went on for much of the weekend.  Apparently, the kite was fly-resistant. And then it hit me — the kites were each shaped and decorated to look like an octopus.  Or maybe a squid. Well, whatever it was, neither of those animals fly. In fact, they do the exact opposite. It’s as if I had taken the kids fishing and all the rod reels had been painted with pictures of birds. Totally wrong. I bet I could get those to fly.

For as long as I can remember I’ve had a fascination with watching kites fly. When I’m in Prospect Park and I see someone flying a kite, I’ll always spend some time watching.  There’s just something so innocent and pure about the sight of an object floating in the sky, powered by nothing other than nature. When I was a kid, my older brother, Evets and I would occasionally go to Marine Park to fly a kite that we would buy at the local candy store. The kite, a Hi-Flier, was made of paper and came with wooden cross pieces that my brother would assemble. We’d bring some torn rags and tie them together to make the tail for the kite.

Evets was in charge and, as usual, I was his assistant.  Which meant that I’d only occasionally get a chance to do the flying.  My favorite part was when we’d attach a leaf or a piece of paper and watch it miraculously work its way up the string to the kite that was hundreds of feet in the air. I don’t know how long we’d stay in the park but at some point, it would be time to go home. Imagine — two freckle-faced boys tramping home with their kite. Probably to do some chores or maybe prepare for our paper routes the next morning.  So much like . . . like . . . well, like a Norman Rockwell painting.

Truthfully, that’s a fantasy; neither my brother or I have or had freckles. No paper routes either. But as the narrator in The Sun Also Rises asks at the end of the book, “Isn’t it pretty to think so?”



Double Fault

August 15, 2017

Once you reach a certain age, you begin to wonder how you’ll be looked back upon.  If I haven’t reached that age, I’m certainly getting closer.  So whenever there’s a funeral, memorial service or other recognition of a life passed, I pay attention.

I came across the sign shown above this past weekend in Gardiner, the small town where my house upstate is located.  It was posted outside a building that houses the town’s volunteer fire department. My son, Essej, and my daughter-in-law, Fets who were staying with me had also noticed the sign. They both thought that it may have simply been an acknowledgment of Mr. Becker’s retirement. While I may not be wiser than they are, I’m older and more experienced. To me, it seemed pretty obvious that the notice was a public obituary. For Al and his family’s sake, I hope I’m wrong. .. but I don’t think so.

Unlike Mr. Becker, I don’t belong to any volunteer service organizations. In fact, the only organization I do belong to is my tennis club—The Knickerbocker Field Club.  Apart from a great place to play tennis, I see the club as playing a very important part in any public recognition of my having existed. (This is euphemistic to a fault; and for good reason–my kids read this and I don’t want them to be alarmed. Or to prematurely start the fight over the estate, for that matter.)

At the “Knick”, I have some very good friends, some almost-very good friends, some just friends and a host of acquaintances. And hardly any enemies. So I think I can count on a reasonable representation from the club at a way-in-the-future appropriate time.

But what’s missing  at the “Knick” is a way to make public, important events and happenings. True, we have an e-newsletter.  But it’s only published weekly and often goes into spam folders. What’s needed, I think, is a large sign board a la the Gardiner volunteer fire department which would alert members of significant announcements.

I know that one way or another, at some point I will no longer be playing at the club. When that happens, I’d like some recognition of my connection and time there. I think a large sign announcing my departure would be the perfect way to highlight that event. And, I have a few suggestions of how I’d like the display to read.

“Long time member, Neil Stein, has hit his final winner at the “Knick”.

“……….  has served his final ace…..”

“……..  has given his final bad call….”


“Long time member, Neil Stein, has double faulted for the final time.”

I really, really like that last one a lot.  And as long as I’m fantasizing, why not see if there’s someone who wants to do a documentary about my time at the club. Maybe Martin Scorsese, for example.  Call it, The Last Faults. Or even more poetically, The Last Faltz.



The Italian Job

August 3, 2017

Over the last six months or so, I’ve become an expert on national politics. This is, in no small measure, the result of a very unhealthy obsession with the disturbing activities of you-know-who.  So if I didn’t know how “a bill becomes a law” before, I certainly do now.

Interestingly (to me), as much as I know about the political landscape in Washington, I know next to nothing about New York State politics.  Sure I know that Andrew Cuomo is the governor . . .but truthfully, I don’t think I know who the Lieutenant Governor is.  My guess is that it probably doesn’t matter.  As for Mr. Cuomo, the only things I really know about him is that he screams a lot when he’s just talking; he’s not nearly as smart as his father nor as good-looking as his brother, and he hates Bill de Blasio.  Oh yes, and he has a girlfriend whose name is somehow related to a frozen cake brand.  I think I have that right.

As far as the rest of my knowledge of State politics I’m aware that there is a State Senate and a State Assembly.  But now that Sheldon Silver is gone, I don’t think I could name even two of those politicians.  Of course, I could easily find out who most of those Senators and Assembly(wo)men are—just by doing a Google search of white-collar indictments in New York State.

Here’s some more information to use at your next cocktail party:  the State legislature is only in session six months a year (January-June). During that time there are about 17 days that our representatives are actually physically present.  This sounds like it would have been the perfect job for me before my  reti…retire…retirement.  (Now, there’s not even one day that I have to be present!)  Although, as I think about it, being in Albany during January and February is no great shakes.  Who knows . . . maybe there could have been a part-time, part-time job for me.  But that’s all water under the bridge.

Speaking of bridges, this brings me to what this blog is about. According to an article in The Times a few weeks ago, as this year’s State legislative session was wrapping up, there was some unfinished business regarding a proposal to name the new Tappan-Zee Bridge after the Governor’s father, Mario.  This effort failed.  But an item that really interested me was proposed legislation to add a second “z” to the Verrazano Bridge. The bridge which connects Brooklyn and Staten Island, is named for the Italian explorer, Giovanni da Verrazzano, but it has only a single “z” and it seems that the single “z” has long been taken as a slight by Italian-Americans.

Which I already knew.  I have a fair number of Italian friends and I have to tell you, whenever I see them, after a few pleasantries about the weather and the family, it’s not uncommon for them to launch into a tirade about feeling dissed about the missing “z”. Which I totally get. Because, although I try to not let it bother me, I feel exactly the same way whenever I think about how they screwed around with the spelling of the Bronx- Whitestein bridge.


The Designated Driver

July 17, 2017

A few weeks ago I read an article in The Times about the sale of a parking space in Hong Kong for $664,000.  Now, that’s pretty astounding but even here in sleepy Park Slope parking spaces are selling for near $300K.  The reasons for this extravagant price include the closing of parking garages because of their greater value as condominium sites and the confiscation of countless street parking spaces by the Citi Bike program which operates like the anti-Kris Kringle and overnight, stealthily removes parking spots replacing them with bike depots. But the greatest cause of the skyrocketing prices for parking is the influx of money into the neighborhood formerly known as Park Slope. After all, if you’re paying $5 million for your house, what’s another couple hundred thou for a little home for your car.  What we have here is the purest form of the economics of supply and demand.

Now, you may think that you’re detecting a trace of my signature holier-than-thou attitude in this reporting.  Or maybe, even a little envy (the only one of the Seven Deadly Sins for which I don’t have a monthly subscription). But for once, you’d be wrong; ’cause you see, I own a parking space; right here six floors below my apartment. But before you start to figure that I’ll pay for dinner, you should understand that my flushness is not what it seems.  But more on that later because what this essay is really about is the burden it is to always have a place waiting to park my car.

You see, I have a group of friends and almost-friends that I play tennis with.  Sometimes singles, sometimes doubles. But since I alone among us don’t have to worry about finding a place to park afterwards, I do the driving to the courts. That is, I do the picking up and the dropping off. Which means that when I’m playing doubles, my route includes three pickups and three drop offs. The logistics of this is very challenging and forces me to use some brain cells that have been hanging around doing nothing. Walking on cobblestones and crossword puzzles are now redundancies. For this, I’m grateful.  (If I haven’t said it you directly, “Thanks fellas”.)

Before I continue with the benefits of being a chauffeur, let me return to why there’s no way you should be asking me to pick up the tab when we go out.  Even though I have a truly beautiful parking space, it’s not worth much.  You see, because of a quirk in my co-op’s by-laws, if I wanted to sell my parking space, I could only sell it to someone who lives in my building.  Meaning that American capitalism stops at my garage door. About one half of the people in my building already own a spot and about 80% of the remaining occupants don’t have a car.  This means that there are only two or three people who would have any interest in buying my parking spot. Because of this tiny universe of potential buyers, if I wanted to sell my space, I probably could get $9.00, maybe $9.75 for it; if there was a bidding war, possibly $12.00 – $13.00.  (Under the rubric of “Just because it’s good for me doesn’t mean it’s bad for you”, I recently brought up the idea to the co-op of opening up the sale of parking spaces to the world at large—the Board’s reaction was just short of coming after me with torches and pitchforks.) So for now, you’ll have to pay for your own drink.

I think I’m pretty good-natured about doing the driving.  Apparently so much so, that (half) kiddingly, even when my tennis buddies are playing without me, they ask if I’ll drive them to the courts. There’s something very sweet about that, no? But in case you start to think I’ve had a lobotomy, I do have one resentment.  And not a small one (big surprise!). Because of the non-Uber service I provide,  I’m always the first to leave and the last to arrive home. My friends have gotten to sleep in before I come by to pick them up and when we return, they’ve showered, gone grocery shopping and started a stew, all before I’ve even made it to my front door. I try not to think about it but when I do finally get around to cooking dinner—-oh wait, that’s someone else’s life I’ve just entered. Forget it.

There’s one thing about this situation that is completely baffling to me. When I go out with friends, and I’ve done (more than) my share of drinking and it’s time to call it a night, I’m still the “designated driver”.  I can’t put my finger on it but I know that’s something that just doesn’t make any sense.