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Monday, December 25, 2006

Parking Meters and Egg Creams


Waddaya mean you don't see no connection?

You're right. They don't have anything to do with each other.

I usually don't read obits, but this one intrigued me:
The last New York City mechanical parking meter - an emblem of street life since 1951 was withdrawn from service recently.

Before you rejoice and decide to move back to the City from Boca or wherever it's always beautiful weather, read on. The meters have slowly been replaced by more than 62,000 battery-powered digital meters that the City finds more accurate and vandal-resistant.

In a somber but unpretentious ceremony somewhere in Coney Island, the last mechanical meter was replaced by a digital version ready to take quarters.
 Quarters? What happened to dimes?
I remember dime meters on Flatbush Avenue and then along Church and Utica Avenues. And not the type that required the driver to twist a handle after inserting the coin. Just put the coin in the slot, listen for the gears winding or more likely inserting the coin and waiting for nothing to happen before pounding it on its side to jiggle the coin enough to engage the gears. The latter took some finesse.

Parking meters came to New York somewhat late in the dance. They were first introduced in Oklahoma City in 1935. How's that for embarrassment? Scooped by Oklahoma City! I'm sure that really alleviated the parking crisis in downtown OC.

Anyway, it took sixteen years before New York realized that it was letting a lot of dimes - and quarters - to say nothing of slugs and foreign coins, to slip through their fingers. The meters were first installed on West 125 St, and it sure didn't take long for the fungus to spread to the 'outer boroughs.'

Those original meters required weekly winding by some guy walking along the curb with a crank, winding each meter. (Another occupation replaced by modern science and after all that special training you went through to get that job! ) But, the job that really impressed me was the guy who emptied the coins from the meter into a 2-wheeled canister with a long vacuum-cleaner type hose.

Now, that was a job! Just think of the possibilities. Think of all the promotional opportunities that must have been turned down once you got that job. "No, sir. Thanks for the offer, but I really don't want to be borough president. I think I'll just stay down here in the Department of Traffic doing the same boring job out there on the streets I've been doing for 23 years, collecting all those dirty coins for the City I love and making sure they all get into this canister I drag around every day."



A side note for all you ex-pats out there. It no longer costs a quarter for an hour of parking. For that lone quarter you get 10 to 12 minutes of parking. That could be why the City has installed meters that can accept coins or credit cards and/or parking cards. How thoughtful. There is no longer a need to carry a roll of quarters. There are were about 600 meters that accept credit cards.

There must be a lot of folks feeding these machines. In a recent year, the City took in more than $96 million from those meters.

Here's a further update.  Those digital meters have been replaced by muni-meters.  First the meters were removed, leaving only the hollow poles until the City got around to removing them.  I'm sure that the overly honest drivers just dropped quarters down the hollow tubes.  At the other end of the moral spectrum are the citizens who just yanked the poles out of the sidewalk and sold them for scrap metal. 

In any case, now once you've found a parking spot you then have to locate the nearest muni-meter (There's usually two or three per block conveniently disguised as all the other street stuff you find along a curb.)  Determine how much time you need to buy and how you will pay for it (cash or credit). Then run down the block, pay for your parking, run back to the car, put the receipt on your dash - all while looking for the parking enforcement agent.

Figure on about three dollars an hour  A lot of years ago I was in some town on Long Island.  Pulled up to a meter, put in a penny and got twelve minutes of parking.  Since there was already 40 minutes on the meter I felt I had beaten the system.  By the way, many of the digital meters have a sensor that puts the timer back to zero when the vehicle leaves the spot.  Saves you the time and grief of looking for a spot with time on the meter so you can save a dime.  (Don't tell me you didn't do that years ago!)

I'm getting too old to handle all this change.

Well, I was so distraught over another loss from my youth (Ebbets Field, trolley cars, Ebingers, Tilden High School, and now parking meters) that I decided to drown my sorrow, literally, in an egg cream.

Anyway, I could not find a decent egg cream, let alone many who knew what an egg cream is. Anyone out there know where the name came from? Why 'egg'? Check this: a current neighbor who grew up in Bay Ridge seems to remember an egg cream made with CREAM SODA!!! (That's why your mother told you never date anyone from any number street that didn't have 'East' in front of it.)

Decided to see if I could recreate an egg cream on my own.





Fox's U-bet Syrup - a Brooklyn institution long before Ebbets Field was conceived.
The only syrup allowed in an official 'egg cream.'
 
Just as Brooklyn bagels taste better than bagels from any other city, so too, with egg creams.
 
As a public service, the following is the recipe for an 'official Brooklyn egg cream' from Fox's website:

  • Take a tall, chilled, straight-sided 8 oz. glass
  • Spoon 1 inch of U-bet chocolate syrup into glass
  • Add 1inch whole milk
  • Tilt the glass and spray seltzer (from a pressurized cylinder only) off a spoon, to make a big chocolate head
  • Stir, drink, enjoy
It didn't taste the same!

By-the-way: No more glass jars; only plastic squeeze bottles. For those of you who insist on scooping your syrup out of a hard-side container, Fox's U-bet is available in 55-gallon drums. (No kidding!)

2 comments:

Sandy Andina said...

NOOOO!!!!! Pour the milk into a tall glass (at least 12 oz.) first, THEN add the syrup, taking care not to let them mix...yet. Then take the freshest, fizziest coldest seltzer you can find (or make--the halcyon sealed-siphon-bottle days are gone) and pour it slowly over the underside of the bowl of an inverted spoon. This will assure a thick head of virginal white foam resembling egg whites whipped to soft peaks (or not-so-micro-froth generated by an indifferent airport Starbucks barista operating a superautomatic espr....whoops, wrong obsession). Only once the foam reaches the rim of the glass and threatens to spill over do you begin to stir. Stir vigorously along the bottom of the glass, incorporating the syrup into the milk while maintaining distinct separation between the froth on top and the fizzy chocolate milk on the bottom. The finished product should resemble an iced cappuccino with the coffee missing, and be sufficiently effervescent as to produce a “greps” of such proportions as to ensure social unacceptability for a good 15 minutes after you polish it off. BTW, Fox’s U-Bet is no longer de rigeur, as it’s sweeter and less chocolatey now that it’s made with corn syrup instead of sugar. Hershey’s actually comes closer to the taste we remember.

As to Delaney cards, good thing that my law school out west had never heard of them. We had great fun every day sitting where we wanted and signing the seating chart that was passed around. We took note of who was absent that day, and employed a theme each day for filling in the blanks: Dead Rock Stars, Famous Dictators, Our Gang/Little Rascals, and--for those of us who were NYC expats--original Mets and assassinated Mafiosi. Our profs never did catch on.

BTW, we’ve had those blasted muni-meters in Chicago for a couple of years now, and the city had them privatized so we really pay through the nose. The sting is lessened somewhat by the advent of a smartphone app that lets us pay remotely by entering our license plate and meter-zone number.

Sandy Andina said...

NOOOO!!!!! Pour the milk into a tall glass (at least 12 oz.) first, THEN add the syrup, taking care not to let them mix...yet. Then take the freshest, fizziest coldest seltzer you can find (or make--the halcyon sealed-siphon-bottle days are gone) and pour it slowly over the underside of the bowl of an inverted spoon. This will assure a thick head of virginal white foam resembling egg whites whipped to soft peaks (or not-so-micro-froth generated by an indifferent airport Starbucks barista operating a superautomatic espr....whoops, wrong obsession). Only once the foam reaches the rim of the glass and threatens to spill over do you begin to stir. Stir vigorously along the bottom of the glass, incorporating the syrup into the milk while maintaining distinct separation between the froth on top and the fizzy chocolate milk on the bottom. The finished product should resemble an iced cappuccino with the coffee missing, and be sufficiently effervescent as to produce a “greps” of such proportions as to ensure social unacceptability for a good 15 minutes after you polish it off. BTW, Fox’s U-Bet is no longer de rigeur, as it’s sweeter and less chocolatey now that it’s made with corn syrup instead of sugar. Hershey’s actually comes closer to the taste we remember.

As to Delaney cards, good thing that my law school out west had never heard of them. We had great fun every day sitting where we wanted and signing the seating chart that was passed around. We took note of who was absent that day, and employed a theme each day for filling in the blanks: Dead Rock Stars, Famous Dictators, Our Gang/Little Rascals, and--for those of us who were NYC expats--original Mets and assassinated Mafiosi. Our profs never did catch on.

BTW, we’ve had those blasted muni-meters in Chicago for a couple of years now, and the city had them privatized so we really pay through the nose. The sting is lessened somewhat by the advent of a smartphone app that lets us pay remotely by entering our license plate and meter-zone number.