For anyone who has ever lived in or visited a crowded city, finding curbside parking or a taxi when you need one has always been a way of building up anxiety and terrible frustrations.
With my senses dulled by misery and drugs during a recent back-to-back bout with the flu, I was forced into reading a few detective stories and watching hours of TV.
Novelists and TV writers do not like to set a bad example for the motorist reader or viewer by having the hero park at a bus stop, alongside a hydrant, or even by allowing a parking meter to run past its time.
During a filming you would never hear a director yell, "Okay, let's move the action, Jones has only five minutes left on the meter."
Of course we know a street is blocked off for shooting a scene and cars at the curb are props, with a space left open for the hero's car, but it is nevertheless frustrating to watch Telly Savalas come streaking up a crowded street and right into a parking space.
If the T.V. and movie media overlook this problem, the authors of detective stories are just as bad, spending no tie with the incidentals of parking.
You find lines something like. "He was tooling along in his beige $967 super-charged 'Mingo' when he spotted a parking place in front of her building."
Another mystery novel tells about a couple going to Greenwich Village to meet some friends for dinner and the author writes, "As luck would have it there was a parking place on a quiet block just south of Eighth Street." Anyone who has spent time looking for a space in the Village would be advised to skip this page.
Lines and situations run through a frustrated mystery writer's head no matter where he may be.
Standing on the corner of Tremont and School Streets in front of the Parker House in Bosten waiting to be picked up by a photographer, I watched noon traffic that had not moved for the past 10 minutes.
"Try this one," I thought. "Driving along Tremont Street, we were lucky to find a spot across from the Parker House and we were only a few minutes late for our appointment."
This couldn't have happened because the photographer was an hour late for the pickup.
If that kind of situation aggravates the viewer or reader, then the, "Here's five, follow that car" is worse.
When I hail a cab my driver stops to write things down on a log and then turns to ask, "What was that address again?" Then he takes off slowly and usually winds up picking up another passenger going in a different direction.
I would like to see a private detective jump into the cab I got into one day outside the Parker House. I told the driver, "The No Name Restaurant please."
He asked me where it was. My answer was that with all the new construction I wasn't sure. We called a cop.
While the cop squatted alongside the cab giving directions, my driver, for some unknown reason, took off, leaving the cop still talking at the curb.
We ended up deep in South Boston totally lost, so I asked him to stop the meter and he wouldn't.
His explanation was that he was a Nigerian student at Tufts College studying sculpture and this was his first day driving a cab.
The only car in the vacated warehouse area we wound up in had Florida plates. I asked if they knew where the restaurant was and they said to follow them: They were going there for lunch.
We did and my driver almost lost them when they made a right turn.
The cab driver who took us back to the hotel after dinner knew the way and the fare was much less.
Parked next to the curb once again waiting for another unwary fare, was the Nigerian art student.
The smug thought that crossed my mind was that I would like to see a private eye jump into his cab and say, "Follow that car."
There was a night in Boston when a friend and myself - we were in the Navy then - spent an hour looking for a free parking place in his brother's borrowed car. We finally parked in an alley.
Several hours later, after a long winding search, we could not find the alley or the car.
Feeling very much unlike private detectives, we rode the subway home and confronted his brother with his loss, telling him that we would help him find his car in the morning. We didn't though, and I never did find out if he located it.
The real situations we are confronted with do not make smooth, running plots.
While reading or viewing you have to feel a stream of sympathy for the author or director who has to keep a story line moving along.
A lot of successful writers probably live far away from traffic-bound areas and send their offerings by mail.
Otherwise the story might read, "Sam spotted the building but there was no place to park. He drove around the block only to find 'No Turn' signs and one-way streets which took him seven blocks from the address.
"Turning right on Westcott Street, etc."
There are a few private detectives and cops who get around the traffic problem. Harry 'O' who has a bad back never gets into chases and always ends up taking a streetcar home. McCloud rides his horse all around Manhattan without anyone wondering where he ties it up. Columbo usually winds up a show by solving the mystery and finding a ticket on his car for illegal parking but we all know that he never has to pay it.
If we had to view the truth or read it each night we would get up and change channels or just close the book. After all, it is really just fiction because we all live in the real world of parking tickets and cab drivers who would find it hard staying in a funeral procession.