Stay Away from Gravity

So, this morning, this happened.

It was 8 am and I was walking around the block after walking my kids to their school bus stop. I noticed this piece of edifice on the sidewalk. I looked up wondering where it fell from. Like a jigsaw puzzle, I found the niche.


So I called 311. (I did not call 911). While I was getting transferred to the building department, busybody that I am, I pointed out the brick-like piece of architecture to every dogwalker and child walker who passed.

“Look at this piece of architecture! It came from that building right there.” I was not put on hold for long. I gave the address to the building agency (grateful that our city infrastructure was intact — that the government shut down did not reduce the response time.)

And boy, did they respond! 20131007-090004.jpg

Officer Iosilevich came knocking at my door. See, my doorman, who had been tipped off by my neighbor, pointed out that I was the complainant in this edifice-falling potential disaster. I remind you. I dialed 311 — not 911. (I love 311, the city’s hotline number.)20131007-085926.jpg

This was the fallen cornice — as big as a brick. You can see the impact on the sidewalk. Within 30 minutes of my call, I got that knock on the door. I discovered that four firetrucks and two cop cars had responded. 20131007-090031.jpg



Officer Iosilevich told me it was a good thing that I called. I wondered if the building owners would be fined or required to make their building safe.

I went back home. It wasn’t even 9 am and I had begun my job, saving the city, one complaint at a time.

Incidentally, at lunch time, I headed down to 57th Street to the Carnegie Hall block where I was going to see the movie Gravity at the Director’s Guild. But the street was closed due to a wobbly crane atop a building. I could not get down the block to see the movie Gravity, but I appreciate the gravity of gravity.

Tow Pound


I used to joke that the Port Authority was Dante’s 3rd Ring of Hell. No, no, I was naive. It is the NYC Auto Pound, where your car is towed when you happen to land a parking spot right across from your apartment building. That turns out to be in front of a yeshiva school that is clearly out of session. And the No Parking sign says, “No parking when school is IN session.”

But then every sap sitting here on a plastic seat sounds defensive and guilty, “Mom, I was NOT parked in the intersection,” says a young, African American businesswoman two seats down into her cell phone.

Why couldn’t I get a simple ticket? Why must I be towed? Why have I landed in this purgatory?


Waiting for my name to be called. It’s not hell, it’s purgatory. I wonder whether I should complain because the handyman behind me in line has just been called to pay his fine and so was the young Asian man behind him. Should I make a fuss?

No, they call me. “Mary Coudal. There is a problem. You’re not the registered owner of this car.”

I did not know that. I figured I was co-registered.

As anyone knows me knows, I heart New York. I have lived here my entired adult life — college, first marriage, temp jobs, stand up career, second marriage, kids, professional career. But, today, I will admit and I do hate to say this: New York may not be the most livable or kindest city south of the Canadian border.

Just look around. The crowd here is surly. We are in limbo. We want out. We’ve gotten into a club that we can’t wait to exit.

The 30-some people here are as diverse as a jury room — tradespeople, businesspeople, messengers, teamsters, teachers, international people. We are all trapped in a trailer in this vast warehouse at 38th and 12th Avenue


Let me try and be positive. After all, there is beauty in our diversity. No one is belligerent. The room is air-conditioned on a 100-degree day. I have a seat. I have time to write.

I get escorted to the minivan twice now to procure either an up-to-date registration or insurance card. And guess what? I cannot find either. One is definitely my fault. See, I failed to put the registration card in the glove compartment. I’m pretty sure. But I must blame Chris for the lack of the insurance card.

I tell the overweight seated woman cop and the young copy who has escorted me to the car, “I have to be honest with you, my husband has Parkinson’s Disease and is a bit forgetful. I do not have those cards.”

The woman cop says, “Well, tell the supervisor upstairs.” So I traipse back to the cashier and throw myself on her mercy. I add for good measure that I’ve brought my marriage certificate to show that though my name is not on the registration, I am married to the registered owner of that pathetic minivan.

She whispers to the supervisor, a middle-aged man in a red tee shirt and baseball cap, and nods at me. He says, “Okay,” with a shrug.

I am given the honor of paying $185 to get my car back. I whisk the ticket off the windshield ($65). I resist the urge to phone someone as I drive out of the tow pound.

And I swear, it’s true, the young cop salutes me as I drive away.

Ah, New York. You love it, but you have to pay for a lot of parking tickets.