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My mother-in-law, Anna, had me drive her car because it fit us all. We were going to pick up her husband from work in Bay Ridge and then go to the famous Gargiulo's restaurant in Coney Island. This was assuredly going to be Tony in his element, Brooklyn, and my parents would be witnesses to the lion in the jungle. Unfortunately, the stress I had been experiencing had now transferred to Anna.
Picking her husband up at work made sense logistically, but experience had taught her to be wary. If he had a bad day at work, there was no telling what he would say or do in the immediate aftermath. More importantly, she knew there was no way in heck he was going to be ready.
Tony was not ready. It was rush hour in Brooklyn. We had reservations. He recommended we double-park in front of his office while we waited. All I can say is thank God I was driving and not my parents, and especially not my then wife-to-be. She is an anxiety attack waiting to happen when parking in an area where parking is not permitted. She won’t do it. She couldn’t wait near the curb in the arrivals lane of an airport if her life depended on it. She’ll drive away the second she believes someone of authority is approaching the vehicle, even if that someone is a small, lost child. Though not as extreme, I am sympathetic to her plight, which is why it’s always a joy when Tony recommends doing what he would do in a situation: “Just double-park,” or “Tell them you want a discount of seventy-five percent,” or “Don’t worry about what’s on the menu—ask them what they really have.”
So I double-parked, and we waited, and waited. Anna was a ball of stress, hands in the air, checking her watch, apologizing to my parents. My parents were fine though. That’s the thing about my parents, and it’s a trait I most certainly share—if people are waiting for them, the tension between them will explode in a flurry of raised voices and condescending remarks. If they are waiting for someone else, they’re totally cool. Tony is the exact opposite of that.
As we waited, someone pulled up next to us, stopped, and then the driver got out of the car and ran across the street. Triple-park! Man, I love Brooklyn. I thought Anna was going to pass out. It was then that Tony finally emerged from the office. He indicated he was going to drive, which was fine by me. I hopped out and joined my parents in the back. Tony hopped in, threw his briefcase and papers at Anna and joyously welcomed my parents to Brooklyn.
“Jack, Judy! So happy to see you! Ready for some good food and … (cell phone rings, looks down) What the fff … (picks up) Hello? What? I told you already, fifth floor. Apartment 5C. Bring a wrench … (hangs up) So happy to see you guys!”
The only problem was, we were stuck. My guess in that moment was that Tony was going to lay on the horn until the person who had triple-parked reemerged. I was wrong. He put the car in reverse. He was going for it.
A person riding a skateboard could not fit through the space we had, much less an SUV. Tony yelled, “Jack, how’m I looking back there?” to which my dad replied, diplomatically, “Umm, not sure we’ve got enough room here, Tony.” Keep in mind that this was the second time my dad had met his son’s future father-in-law, and he was already being forced to say to him, essentially, “I do not agree with this decision you are about to make.” It was a nice touch though for my dad to say “we’ve,” as if trying to drive out of this situation was a collective decision.
Tony was undeterred. He cut the wheel hard, checking his mirrors. Anna began yelling at him that there’s no way we can make it. Rush hour car horns were beeping in the distance. The chaos of the situation and everyone’s general opposition to this attempt only strengthened Tony’s resolve. Insurance information was about to be exchanged.
Thankfully, in the nick of time, the triple-parker got back into his vehicle and rejoined the traffic flow. We all breathed a sigh of relief. Tony viewed it as only a minor convenience. He definitely would have made it, he assured us.
My dad was cracking up, and so was my mom. They had officially met Tony, and they really liked him.
Oh, and we had a great time at dinner. My dad had an allergic reaction to the shellfish. Tony made sure to alert him as to how swollen his face looked.