This morning’s run takes me down a service road of the Long Island Expressway as it soars toward Queens Boulevard. Here I pass by guys just stumbling home from third shift, or blindly feeling their way toward their cars to start their day. I also see the Can People in their true element. You probably only know the daytime Can People, deferential, quiet, slightly ashamed. But if you wake up this early, you will see the Can People brazenly fording front yards and alleyways, unlatching gates to make their raids and move on to the next plunder.
Along this service road stand a few little concrete triangles, formed when the street grid hit the arc of the highway’s shadow. These little spots are too small to build or plant anything on, so they just sit there, serving no function but to provide yet another parking space.
On one such triangle, someone has parked a brand new cherry-red Corvette. It would gleam if there was any sun to bounce off of it. I marvel at the thought of the man who owns this thing and think to myself, “Man, I wish I was him.”
I do not think this because I want a Corvette, or because I want some fabulously wealthy life I imagine he has. For all I know, this guy’s eyes are bigger than his wallet and the payments are more than he can afford. Considering the neighborhood, this is more than likely.
I feel this envy because this man was able to park his brand new sports car on a service road, mere feet from the highway on-ramp. It’s a spot where the car could easily be sideswiped by a semi, or keyed by late-night vandals, or broken into, hotwired, and zipped out onto the highway in 10 seconds flat, and no one who perpetrated any of these crimes would ever be caught.
I once parked my car on a service road just like this, on a late night when I tired of circling the neighborhood for parking. When I went to check on the car the next day, it was long gone. And my car was an ancient Oldsmobile, not some high octane muscle car.
And yet, this man parked his car on the service road anyway, and he is surely sleeping like a baby right now. I can barely conceive of a soul so unworried. What I wouldn’t give to live my life so free of concern, just for a day or two.
Another little triangle sits one block away from the Corvette. This one is seeded with some sickly grass and demarcated with a wobbly chainlink fence, an entrance padlocked. Within its confines, a baby blue car of early 80s vintage. It is dented all over with covered in stickers, with a huge 13 plastered to the driver’s side door. A cinder block rests on the hood.
It’s a demolition derby car. Another complete lack of worry on display here, albeit of a different stripe. A man who would ping-pong a dirt track in vintage Bonneville is a man who thinks injury and pain will never touch him. I can’t imagine what such a life must be like.