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Signs Of Life

Columns by Pamela Majteles

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Posted by pam on January 14, 2011 at 10:39 pm

Originally published September 18, 2009

Reprinted with permission from Bay Area News Group – East Bay

I check my watch. Once, twice. I have 17 minutes to go before my parking slip expires. I better step it up, walk a little faster, because I’m falling behind.

Hurrying down Mountain Boulevard in Montclair, I’m working through a list of errands and feeling tense. I picture a knot forming in my shoulders, tangled as tightly as a chain-link necklace bunched at the bottom of a jewelry box.

Since the city of Oakland raised the fine for expired parking slips to $55, I’ve become a little anxious when doing errands here. As mistakes go, this seems a little costly. Of course, the fine used to be $45, which doesn’t sound like a bargain either. But I wasn’t aware of the cost of the fine, until hearing the loud public outcry over recent increases in parking rates and fines.

Now, I can’t stop thinking about a possible slip-up. It doesn’t help to see parking enforcement officers, busy as bees, diligently checking the slips on parked cars. I watch as an officer works his way down a row of cars. Sting, sting, stung.

It’s causing me to change my ways. As I get my coffee to go at Peet’s, I no longer take time to linger, inhaling the heady scent of brewing coffee and surreptitiously checking out the crowd. I walk straight to the door, knowing I’ve got to move along. No pausing to pat the silky heads of desolate dogs waiting outside.

I hustle down the street, avoiding distracting detours to look inside my favorite shop windows. I haven’t seen the latest hats topping off the clothes in Hula. I can’t say who’s coming to read next at A Great Good Place for Books, and I couldn’t tell you the sandwich of the day at A.G. Ferrari.

I make a stop at CVS (which until recently was Long’s), and I wave to Paula, the cashier. I quickly grab what I need and dart to the register. As usual, Paula flashes her radiant smile and asks, “How are the kids?” Normally, I give her the rundown and then find out what’s new with her. But, this time, I reply “I’ve got to run – see you soon”, while making tracks to the door.

I’m headed to Montclair Florist to order flowers for a friend. When I arrive, Rosario, the owner, comes from the back of the store and greets me. I’m tempted to ask if he traveled home to Italy this past summer, as he often does to visit family. But I glance at my watch and see the minutes ticking away. I quickly choose flowers, thank him for his always gracious help and move on my way.

Next stop is the dry cleaners in Montclair Plaza, where I have alterations to pick-up. Judy, the owner, and I usually talk politics. We like to compare our points of view and offer inspired solutions. Considering the big messy political scene at the moment, I know I’ll never make it back to my car in time if this conversation happens. So, I pause to admire the beautiful job Judy did on the clothing before dashing off.

When I arrive back at my car, I see I have one minute left on the parking slip. I exhale, giving a sigh of relief.

One day, I know I’ll stop thinking about the new parking fees and fines, and then I can go back to doing things the same old way. When I get my coffee at Peet’s, I’ll take time to linger. Maybe even grab a seat outside with the dogs.

Creative Commons License This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 2.5 License.

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