Shelly Reuben’s new novel is about … well, we’ll let you find out for yourself as we weekly serialize the chapters. If you miss one, get back up to speed with our article archive. Now, welcome to:
Parking Space: A Love Story!
By Shelly Reuben
Chapter 11 - Transcript of 311 Telephone Call
Click. Outgoing Message: this call will be recorded For Quality Control and training purposes
MIRACLE ELSIE ABBOT: Thank you for calling 311. This is Mrs. Abbot. How may I help you?
HECTOR VAN HOOFT: Someone is parking in my parking space. Or...wait. What I meant to say is that no one is parking in my space. It’s empty, but I can’t get in.
MRS. ABBOT: May I have your name please?
HECTOR: Hector Van Hooft. Executive Chef at the five star Wedgewood Restaurant in the five star Houghton House Hotel.
MRS. ABBOT: At what location has this parking problem occurred?
HECTOR: 1582 Chestnut Avenue. Directly in front the building where I live.
MRS. ABBOT: (Slight pause) Are you calling to complain about a parking space on a public street?
HECTOR: Yes! Yes! Yes! I already said that. I am calling about a parking space. I repeat for the third time: A parking space.
MRS. ABBOT: (Long pause). Mr. Van Hooft, I do not care for your tone. You are not above the Law of Common Courtesy. As to your complaint, there is no private parking on public streets. Which is why it is called a public street. Perhaps you…
HECTOR: Bla. Bla. Bla. I’m not talking about a public parking space. I’m talking about the space in front of my building where no one but me has parked for over a year. And I can’t get into it.
MRS. ABBOT: (Ignoring his argument). If your car is experiencing mechanical difficulties, I suggest that you contact the American Automobile Association, which has a list of certified repair facilities that…
HECTOR: I repeat for the four hundredth time, there is nothing wrong with my car. It’s the parking space that’s wrong. Something about it is preventing me from entering.
MRS. ABBOT: Mr. Van Hooft, unless you speak to me in a civilized and respectful manner, I am ending this call.
HECTOR: (Insincerely). I’m sorry, Ma’am, but…
MRS. ABBOT: Nor can the City Parking Authority reserve a space for your use or for that of any other individual. All licensed vehicles, including motorcycles, bread trucks, golf carts, and pizza delivery vans have as much right to park in front of your building, as you have.
HECTOR: (Snort). That’s exactly the point, Ma’am. None of them are in my parking space. Nothing is in my parking space. It’s empty.
MRS. ABBOT: Then by all means, feel free to pull in.
HECTOR: (Yelling). I can’t. I can’t. I can’t.
MRS. ABBOT: (Coldly). Sir, please calm down. A telephone tantrum will only antagonize me further.
HECTOR: (Screaming). I AM CALM.
MRS. ABBOT: And be polite.
HECTOR: (Almost whispering). Yes, Ma’am.
MRS. ABBOT: Very good. Now, why is it that you cannot pull into this public parking space?
HECTOR: Because it’s surrounded by a force field.
MRS. ABBOT: Excuse me?
HECTOR: (Arrogantly enunciating each word) I. Cannot. Pull. Into. The. Parking. Space. Because. It. Is. Surrounded. By. A. Force. Field. (Spelling out). F.O.R.C.E. F.I.E.L.D. As in Impenetrable barrier. As in invisible shield.
MRS. ABBOT: Like in a science fiction movie?
HECTOR: Now you’re getting it.
MRS. ABBOT: And what do you expect us to do about this force field?
HECTOR: Get rid of it.
MRS. ABBOT: How?
MRS. ABBOT: How, exactly, do you propose that we get rid of a science fiction force field in a parking space in front of 1582 Chestnut Avenue?
HECTOR: I don’t know. It’s your city. I just live here. Call the fire department. Declare a state of emergency. Bring in the National Guard.
MRS. ABBOT: For a parking space?
HECTOR: Lady, this is The Big City. A parking space is time and money. A parking space is…identity. Parking spaces are the city’s lifeblood. The city’s heartbeat. DO SOMETHING!
MRS. ABBOT: You do realize, Mr. Van Hooft, that you are talking gibberish?
HECTOR: (Imitating her voice): Au contraire, Miss Civil Servant. I realize that I am talking to the village idiot.
MRS. ABBOT: (Another long pause). Please hang up and dial 211. An agent there will connect you to the Division of Health and Human Services, and they will direct you to the appropriate mental health professional who can assist you.
Click. Disconnect. Dial tone.
Copyright © Shelly Reuben, 2021.