Clareified

Where does the good go

Soul food

“We used to come here after work all the time,” my mother said taking a sip from the glass filled with a pink liquid.
Mai tai, I think. Maybe.
“Who would pay,” I asked, skimming the menu of ten dollar appetizers and thirty dollar entrees. Even if I weren’t unemployed, which I am, this would not have been my first choice for a casual mother/daughter lunch outing.
But she had insisted. A week of job rejections and fighting with dry cleaners, had taken its toll on my mood and I had been properly bribed to leave the house.
“We would chip up. Everyone would put in. The people who didn’t drink got screwed,” she took another sip, “I never got screwed!” She threw her head back as she laughed.
My mother is almost 70. She doesn’t much resemble the woman who raised me two or three decades ago. Her gait is cautious after double knee replacement surgery, she’s noticeably shorter and her face is gaunt after a doctor-ordered drastic weight loss. She has also taken to lengthy chats, if not with me, then with strangers — I rescued the poor waitress from being regaled with tales of my mom and her coworkers’ adventures in this very restaurant those many decades ago. And so now, she tells me the story.
“I’ve got to put money in the meter,” I say digging in my coat for my car keys and a credit card.
It was a rainy day. Cold.
I got to my car, which, by all calculations had another ten minutes left, and found the tell-tale orange-backed New York City parking ticket.
If my life were a movie, I would have ripped it from beneath the wipers, crumpled it in my fist, thrown it to the ground and then promptly gotten another ticket for littering.
I checked my muni meter slip and my calculation error actually went the other way, I had almost 20 minutes of legal parking left on the slip.
I looked around for the traffic cop, but nothing. The ticket was 17 minutes old.
I was getting wet and the ticket was getting soggy. I jogged back to the restaurant and slammed the ticket on the table.
The busboy unhelpfully said “uh oh. I know what that is,” in a ridiculous sing songy voice that made me want to rip out his throat.
“What happened? I thought you were keeping track of the time?”
“I DID! I got a ticket ANYWAY!”
“How could you get a ticket if you were keeping track?”
“Because the traffic cop is an idiot and claims he didn’t see a ticket on my dashboard.” (New York switched from individual meters to this central box where you paid for 10 minute increments and then put a slip on your dashboard to show how long you’re allowed to park there till.)
The busboy, who was still lingering, chimed in that if I had a slip that was valid at the same time as the ticket, I could fight it.
“Yeah, right,” I said glumly pushing a chicken leg closer to my mother’s side.
He and my mom began a lengthy conversation of all the times he got a ticket and went to court and beat it.
“There. See?” she said when he left, “you just go down there and tell them.”
“Do you want to hear all my stories of tickets that I got where I caught the cop in a lie on the stand or my car got towed for a sign that used to be on that corner and nobody gave a shit and I just had to pay it?”
I was angry and tears started to fall.
“Are you crying?” She put down her fork.
“No,” I said wiping my face.
“Women who cry for nonsense are stupid or weak. Which one are you?”
I looked up and, at once, recognized her face.

3 Responses to “Soul food”

  1. Pdov Says:

    Had the same thing happened to me but I got it dismissed just make a copy of the ticket and send it to them with an explanation. Seriously works. I’ll do it with you if you think you will jinx the process. That’s what friends are for oh and drinking.

  2. Rick Says:

    OMG! I love a good cliffhanger!

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