Chapter 37: New York City
After accidentally merging with a parade column, take a moment to panic. Seize the wheel and yank as though a dislodged steering column is the answer. To drive at the speed of tourism behind a thing of papier-mâchéd chickenwire riddled with lip-synching Broadway lifers (and, like them, with no means of escape from hollow spectacle) is certainly worth your upset. Release tension with a few staggered honks — no one will even hear.
People may have heard. Did onlookers react with morose puzzlement and a touch of disbelief? Are they openly weeping? Underneath the flowers and American flag, is the “float” ahead of you a hearse? Badgering the funeral procession of a local dignitary isn’t the end of the world, but so far nothing has been. Get out and apologize.
The sick dazzle of a beer bottle exploding on your skull argues a grave misreading of the situation. Whoever’s dead must’ve been a controversial figure if their memorial service can pivot to wanton riot on a modest faux pas. Get back in the car. Apply pressure to the head wound. Swear the same way twice.
Applying tip #32 — Anarchy Is Just A Poorly Organized Parade — let’s assess the escalating frenzy as we would a ticker-tape celebration. People swarming your Corolla, destroying the futon you spent two hours securing to the roof with twine, siphoning your sixteenth-of-a-tank of gas: These actions give the impression of sheer chaos. In fact, such pack behavior is de rigueur among euphoric sports fans, the only difference being that unaffiliated rioters can hold their liquor.
Ticker-tape parades are only held in honor of a Giants Superbowl victory or the Yankees signing a player whose contract mandated a ticker-tape parade. If you see a fair number of Mets hats and Mr. Met himself, high-fiving like he needs the flu, well, there’s still no way it’s a parade for the Mets, who these days if they balanced the city budget and caught Osama bin Laden could at most hope not to be spat on in their local Duane Reade. Take no chances: Roll down the window, identify yourself as belonging to the nebulous “we” that encompasses an athletic team and the people who pay to watch them exercise, declare victory in no uncertain terms, and for God’s sake, don’t mention hockey.
OK, shameless bandwagoner boasting didn’t play well. Concede the windshield wipers and hubcaps, they’re as good as resold on Canal Street. Ditto the futon — your girlfriend was never going to allow plaid furniture in the new apartment, and those bed bug exterminators were none too thorough. So, karma! Still, time and options are running out: you’ve got to figure out what festivity you’ve ruined.
Yes, from running over balloon vendors to exchanging slurs with the gentleman in a Testaverde jersey hacksawing your radio antenna, everything’s easier with a sense of background. But before you jump to conclusions, recall tip #55: Dates Can’t Be Trusted, as New York City’s overstuffed public events schedule ensures that any parade can fall on any day, subject to the caprices of a giddy City Hall intern. Tip #106 (Color Is King) comes in handy here. Ever ask a colorblind person what a given parade is about? Tears will collect in his/her defective eyes as s/he mumbles something like, “I don’t know, I thought maybe The Festival of Brown.”
Should green, white and red abound, for example, you may be the tail end of Macy’s Thanksgiving affair and under attack by overprotective Santa groupies. Check the rearview. Same colors? In the form of plastic hats, sun-deprived skin and pubic hair left exposed by inadequate kilts? That’s St. Patrick’s Day. By the luck o’ the Irish, which history argues is scant, you’re the soberest person in a five-mile radius. Sure takes the pressure off. Unless you’re driving under the influence, in which case, congratulations! — you’re now the lead float in the St. Patrick’s Day parade. Hunker down; your mottled futon resembles a half-assed tribute to the Blarney Stone, and the rabble intent on kissing it will terribly compound your phobia of strangers’ lips.
Dispersing them will require the parade’s sole weakness: Rain. Dance to invoke proper gods — provided this parade isn’t some new part of Native American Week, of course. Feel free to pray for other disruptive circumstances if you’re unsure. The prepositional plea could just have easily been “Don’t earthquake under my parade,” or “Don’t run alongside my parade, brandishing a potato cannon.”
Alas, if you’ve succumbed to dramatic instincts and climbed atop the car yourself, a car now being overrun like the supporting lead in a zombie flick, hoping to make an impassioned speech that rises above the rollicking Sousa-blare of Ohio State’s marching band (flat, going flatter), a speech that questions the merits of reducing ethnicities to annual ambles along major avenues, or the necessity of confetti in a deforested world, or the causes of an apparent police barricade shortage, then you’ll probably learn tip #1 the hard way: Here No Salmon Swim Upstream. Except maybe at the Coney Island Mermaid Parade.
Even then, you’d need a costume to really sell it.