Tuesday, February 20, 2007

Were they the Van Buren Boys?

One thing that makes DC wonderful in the winter are the mounds of rock-hard ice in every legal parking space in the city. This weekend, I got the car stuck thrice as I was trying to parallel park. Once, on the downhill part of 18th Street near Florida. What a terrifying experience that was. I pulled in behind another car, and when I went to back up to straighten it out, I found the car going forward, down hill into the other car, instead of back. The more I spun the tire*, the closer I came to the other car.

I reviewed my options. I could wait until the spring thaw. I could wait until the car in front of us left, or, better yet, I could push the car in front of us into the empty space in front if it, maneuvering out of the space as I went. The other option was to enlist the friends we were with to wedge themselves between the front bumper of our car and the back bumper of the other car and push. This, off course, ran the risk of pinning them between the two, surely thinning our social circle from angry outrage as much as from debilitating injuring. After some negotiations, in which it was decided that we all would push (including me) from the side, we finally managed to move the car up hill about 2 feet. It took 15 minutes. (For you math fans, that’s .00009469695 mph.) I then proceeded to get it stuck again a few spaces further down 18th. But we decided to un-stick it, with much the same process, after dinner.

Then, last evening I got the car stuck once again on top of a huge mound of ice as I tried to parallel park. Half way in the space and half way out, I couldn’t move it anywhere. So, once again, I found myself pushing the car with my wife at the wheel. As I was cursing the city and the snow and Michelin and whoever made my shoes, four strangers walking down the street quietly helped. In about 3 seconds the car was free! I don’t know who they were (although they reminded me of the Van Buren Boys from Seinfeld), but it reaffirmed my faith in humanity and this city. Thanks Van Buren boys, where ever you are!

* Growing up as a boy in Western PA, I learned about things like limited slip differentials. (I think it’s on the Pittsburgh Manhood Test we all took in 9th grade.) Our car does not have this, which means that the wheel sitting on the most slippery ice is the one that will spin and spin and spin (and throw snow all over you as you try to push), while the other tire remains still. Cussing was invented soon after the limited slip differential.

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