As I made my way to Manhattan for yet another pilgrimage to the ‘Bastion of (hopefully) Beneficence’ – Memorial Sloan Kettering Hospital – I knew that before performing the mitzvah of Bikur Cholim, I would first have to deal with the critical and necessary step of finding a parking spot. A legal parking spot in Manhattan is a rare, cherished and well-guarded commodity.
In the world of supply and demand, a parking spot in Manhattan can be equated to the shade provided by a lone palm tree in the Sahara Desert – everyone wants it, yet, its space is highly limited. As I made a left turn off York Ave. onto East 66th Street heading westbound, I was shocked and amazed to see a large Suburban pull out of a roomy and seemingly legal spot approximately one hundred feet from the main entrance to the Mecca of Medicine known simply as “Sloan.” I quickly pulled into the spot while silently offering prayers of thanks to HE who is the ultimate parking valet.
As I exited my vehicle and chanced a glance at the street cleaning sign, I could not help but notice that it was forbidden to park on this, the south side of the street between 11 AM and 12:30 PM. However, I equally could not help but notice that every single spot on the street was occupied. On further investigation I also realized that all of the parked cars were occupied by their drivers.
I gently tapped on the window of one car in which a white bearded gentleman of about 60 was peacefully reading “War and Peace” in the driver’s seat of his vehicle. “Excuse me my friend, is one permitted to park on this street at this time of day on a Tuesday?” I asked. My new found friend broke from his book and calmly replied, “You can park here, however, just don’t leave your car until 12:30 unless you want a ticket.”
“Do you mean that you are going to sit here for the next hour and wait until 12:30?” He looked at me with the same look of amazement that I gave him and promptly replied, “Of course, it’s only another hour or so.”
“Do you do this every Tuesday?” I asked.
“Yes I do; when else can I catch up on my reading?”
I bid him farewell, pulled out of the spot, and headed westward until 2nd Ave where I found a garage to park my vehicle. As I walked from the garage to the hospital, I pondered the man who reads every Tuesday for an hour and a half in his car and then thought how my original excitement on finding a parking spot was premature and misjudged. And I came to the Solomonic realization that first impressions are misleading… you can’t judge a parking spot by those who park there and you can’t judge a man who sits for an hour and a half in his car just reading… The first case looked ‘good’ when in reality was not helpful, while the second case looked strange. However, when one thinks about it with the proper perspective, reading in the car is probably very relaxing.