Car Pool, 1994

by

02/03/2019

Neighborhood: Lower East Side, Williamsburg

Got to pick these kids up. Oh why did we start a stupid car pool? Maybe car pools made sense in the suburbs of 1972 but…in Williamsburg, 1994?

Still, it beats trying to get four five year-olds from Brooklyn to Avenue D in Manhattan by subway and bus.

One big problem is our car. I don’t know how we even keep this thing on the road. The decrepit Datsun was a gift, a free car, so who can complain? It wasn’t a choice we made. The exterior is so rusted I’ve had people shout “Get a new car!” when I’m stopped in traffic. “I’d love to – how?” is the only response I can think of. But at least people in the city have more of an understanding of old junkers. Have you ever had whole families stand around your car at Maryland House rest area, laughing and pointing? It’s not fun. 

But back here in Brooklyn, the other parents don’t mind as long as it runs, so we’re part of this thing. Fred is an artist, I think he’s the one who came up with the car pool idea. Roberta his wife is a teacher at the Greenpoint Y nursery school. It was so easy when the kids all went to the Y. We could just walk there. Fred and Roberta have two kids. There’s Maddie and Katie, who has bright red hair and freckles, like Annie on Broadway. I wonder what it’s like to grow up with kids shouting “Mom, it’s Annie! She looks just like Annie!” all the time. But they’re a cool family. They’re around the corner from that weird old candy store on Lorimer, the one where the candy seems like it’s been there since the sixties, brands that don’t exist anymore. Anyways, nearby.

There’s another couple in the carpool who live on the street that bends up in Greenpoint… Guernsey? I love that street. It has trees. This couple has real jobs at a magazine and ACTUALLY OWN THEIR HOUSE. They and their child are clean in a way only someone with their own washer and dryer can be clean.

We live in Brooklyn, but the school is in Manhattan. They’ve never even heard of whole language at our local school, so we’re all enrolled in a magnet in the far East Village. It’s called LESS. Lower East Side School.  They might need to change that name.

It doesn’t matter how early we leave, we are always late. Goddamn Williamsburg Bridge has been under construction for five years, and no sign it will be finished any time soon. We use the secret approach up Roebling and enter into traffic on the slip road there, but things are usually backed up all the way to the BQE by 7:30. Then it’s just creep across for thirty or forty minutes with one or two of the four lanes shut. And we can see the school from the bridge! Get out and swim, I want to tell these kids. Wouldn’t it be something if they had a ferry from Brooklyn to Manhattan?

Very rarely, if we’re running really late and I’m feeling flush, I’ll go up to the end of Greenpoint and work my way around this side road into the entrance for the Midtown Tunnel, but it’s a splurge: three dollars! I often don’t even have that much money in my bank account, let alone my wallet or the car. 

Though I have started fining my daughter every time she mentions the Simpsons:

“Bart said…”

“Lisa said…”

“Remember that time when Homer…”

“You can’t win friends with salad.”

For some reason, she has money. At twenty-five cents a mention, I’m almost up to three dollars for the week.

When I drive, I drop the kids off at Avenue D and Houston and hightail it back over the bridge (it’s much quicker in the Brooklyn-bound direction. They do the construction on that side when everyone wants to leave Manhattan). I dump the car under the BQE and catch the L train to Union Square for the 6 to Grand Central and my temp job. One of the best things about living in Williamsburg is that it’s pretty deserted. Now that we have the L Cafe on Bedford, it’s even possible to get a decent cup of coffee in the morning, before the pizza places open. That Polish bakery with the week-old danish and the bodega on the corner just weren’t cutting it. Yeah, we’re getting trendy now, maybe the Gap is next? But there’s still always a parking space somewhere.

I’ve got a gig tonight so it’ll be another drive into Manhattan after work. There’s a new venue on Houston: Mercury Lounge. I hear it has a real stage! And a sound system. My big question–not who will come to the show, not can I afford a sandwich at Katz’s between soundcheck and the gig (maybe if I split it four ways with the band?), not how will these songs sound. No, the most pressing issue really is…where will I park? There are those spaces on Essex Street, but the signs don’t make sense. When they say “No Parking Midnight to 6 AM Tues and Fri” does that mean midnight of Tuesday or the midnight that begins at 12 AM Wednesday? I really need to figure this out because getting a ticket would really suck. And getting towed would be catastrophic. Like I said, the Datsun was free and…what with the pound charges, towing fee and settling all the old outstanding tickets, it would probably make sense to just let the car go.

And they need us in the car pool.

***

Amy Rigby will be playing at the Mercury Lounge at 7:00 pm on Tuesday, February 5th. Her first solo album, Diary Of A Mod Housewife (1996) is considered a pop/rock/country/folk classic. Rigby’s most recent album The Old Guys was one of NPR/Fresh Air’s Top Ten Albums of 2018. She will publish her first book, a memoir, in October 2019. Learn more about her at amyrigby.com

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