It was late at night and Hurricane Sandy was in full fury. Rain came down and parts of the city were without power. I'd been circling my block for 20 minutes in search of a parking space. Finally, I spied one. It was tight, not too spacious, but I managed to position my minivan so that it did not block the two driveways that book-ended it. I was not one inch over.
The next morning, the world looked a little better, but when I went to my car I found a note had been left. It was hand-written on a yellow cue card and had been sealed in a Ziploc bag. The author evidently wanted to be sure that the message remained dry and legible. It read:
On the weekend I asked you nicely not to block my driveway.
Next time I will call to have your van ticketed.
Please do not park so that your vehicle crosses the sloped part of the curb this much.
I was puzzled for a moment and then I recalled that, on the previous weekend, a lady on our street had cautioned my wife for parking too close to her driveway. Could this be the same one? Apparently yes. What a strange Dickensian twist of fate. I examined my park. Both driveways were clear. If you couldn't get your car out of this, you should turn your licence in. Yet a stern note had been issued. Here I was on the brink of a good old-fashioned parking feud.
Neighbours have many reasons to hate each other, but probably the most common one is that they are neighbours. The Bible says, "You shall love your neighbour as yourself." And we do – the problem is that most of us hate ourselves.
Few next-door slights burn more than a perceived parking infraction. It digs to the core. My "neighbour" was obviously agitated but she wasn't trying to open a discussion. She hadn't signed her epistle or left a contact number. All I could do was reread the anonymous note looking for insight.
This is a strange way to start. What does my dwelling's proximity to her dwelling have to do with anything? Wouldn't "Dear Inconsiderate Moron with the Minivan" better capture her spirit?
"On the weekend I asked you nicely not to block my driveway."
Note the use of "nicely." To this person being civil is a Christmas present.
"Next time I will call to have your van ticketed."
Okay – now we're talking! This is really about unexpressed rage. She wants to see someone punished. She wants to stand at her window and watch them put the ticket on my car. Revenge is a dish best served by a parking drone.
"Please do not park so that your vehicle crosses the sloped part of the curb this much."
The note's author seems to be "detail-oriented" person. Interlopers are to stay away from the "sloped part of the curb this much."
Having examined the note I considered my options. Should I get mad and park my car in front of her house every night? This could lead to years of bad feeling. Or should I repent my parking ways? I needed information. I knew that it was a $40 infraction to block a driveway, but the whole "sloped part of the curb" had me intrigued. I called the city's parking enforcement department and spoke with two polite information officers.
The first said, "I can't find a thing here. I can't find a thing about that."
The second said, "When it starts sloping down, your bumper can't be out over it. Even if you're not really blocking the driveway they can have your car tagged. … If they really wanted to be anal about it, they could call tagging enforcement and have you tagged."
I even checked the Toronto Municipal Code, Traffic and Parking. Sure enough on page 88, Article V Parking, Stopping and Standing, Section E General Parking Prohibitions 1 (a) "In front of or within sixty (60) centimetres of a driveway or laneway so as to obstruct vehicles in the use of a driveway or laneway."
To my naked eye, the driveway was clear but my car was within 60 centimetres of the "slope." Of course, so was virtually every parked car on the street.
Still, there you had it. I was in the wrong. If you went strictly by the law (the only standard by which these disputes can be measured), I was in foul and the note writer was right. If she wanted to be anal about it (and judging from the cue card and Ziploc bag, she did) then she could call the city to get me ticketed.
You know, I could understand her frustration. Over the summer of 2011, a dilapidated urine-coloured van parked in front of my house for months, a clear violation of the bylaw that states vehicles unmoved for seven days may be ticketed and towed. I was tempted to call tagging enforcement but there was something about threatening to call the authorities on my neighbours that seemed a little – how shall I put this – "1938." Besides, the note-writer had no idea I'd parked there by mere chance. As far as she was concerned, the person she'd "nicely" asked was provoking her.
So I will no longer park my vehicle in front of her house nor infringe on that "sloped part of the curb" again. There will be no feud. Part of me, however, thinks maybe I should. Maybe I owe it to my note-writer. She may have been looking forward to making that call, to that release. Perhaps she's fantasized about executing her coup de grace on my minivan. Perhaps she lies awake at night yearning to hear the slap of ticket against windshield.
Maybe I should park there again, a centimetre or two over the "curbed slope" just to let her have satisfaction? If, for some strange reason, I ever do, I will be sure to leave a note. The cue card and Ziploc bag are at the ready in my glove compartment.
"Hello Neighbour," it will read. "Go ahead. Make your day."
Follow Andrew Clark on Twitter: @aclarkcomedy