She is a scowling, short haired and overweight woman and she runs the parking lot on 58 street downtown, next to a hotel painted egg-yellow with a tourism van almost always parked out front.
Normally, I use the parking lot across the street, which charges double – a whopping 14 pesos an hour – what she does, but on this occasion the lot is closed for the holidays and necessity obliges me to use hers.
I park my car, and carry a large heavy box to the window/door entrance to her dark cave, where from whence she emerges with the usual bad humor I have come to expect from this sallow-faced human to glare at me. Previous attempts at light-hearted banter have been met with a cold expressionless stare, somewhat akin to that of a shark; this is why I prefer not to use this parking lot.
“Numero de placa” is her barked greeting as I attempt to balance the box on a small counter and free up one of my hands. Just to bother her, I answer “buenos dias” in as cheery a voice as I can muster with that dark cloud of misery masquerading as a person in front of me. Her response is unreceptive to any attempts at civility. “Numero de placa” she repeats. I decide to keep it simple. “42-26” I reply, using the accepted method of skipping the letters on my license plate and using only the last four numbers.
As she writes this vital information on the parking ticket and hands me my stub, she again feels the need to communicate. “Estacionaste bien?” escapes her throat with a growl.
Did I park correctly? What a ridiculous question, I think to myself. “No” I answer. “estacioné mal” She is not amused and thinks, perhaps, that this smart ass gringo is serious. “Hay que estacionarse bien” she informs me – you have to park correctly. Um, OK.
I take my parking ticket after assuring her that I did indeed park my car correctly, took my ticket stub and, reclaiming the box I had partially set on her filthy counter/desk, left to go about my business.
Her face an angry mask, she retreated to the darkness of her cave and awaited her next “customer”.