On the June day I moved out of New York City, it rained really hard. The rain came down so much that we seminarians took out our Bibles and compared Noah’s experience with our own. Despite the rising waters, despite the guaranteed drenching each and every one of our possessions would receive, my fiancée and I, two recent Union Theological Seminary graduates, moved back to Maine.

On that stormy moving day in 1996, we encountered an absurd dilemma. Union Theological Seminary houses students. Students move in and students move out. Yet in front of the entrance to Union  –  the entrance we had brought our belongings in and now would bring our belongings out  –  No Parking signs were now staked deep into the pavement up and down the block. New York City, it appeared, wasn’t going to just let us leave without first tempting me like the Devil had tempted Jesus  –  see Luke 4:2.

The hero’s journey from the lobby to our apartment covered the great distance of three floors. One monster did impede my need for speed, and that was a tired Union elevator that slowly went up and slowly went down and slowly opened and slowly closed its doors – all despite my frequent urgings of “Come on, damn you!”

After several trips up and down, a traffic enforcement car pulled up alongside the U-Haul. I approached the car, which now had its blue lights flashing. The officer, let’s call her “Officer Meaney,” had already begun to write a ticket.

“Nice day,” I joked as a tsunami of dark, slimy runoff swirled through my legs and down a nearby sewer grate.

Officer Meaney ignored me and filled out the ticket she was about to hand me. She doggedly looked down. She doggedly wrote my fine and doggedly refused to see me or my predicament. Just as infuriating, her window remained tightly rolled up.


Like some marine animal behind aquarium glass who swims over to the blurry figure moving behind it and seeks connection, or at least a small herring, I gently tapped on her window. The window crept down and her hand ventured from its shell to pass me my fine. Then the window darted back up and she drove away.

Our eyes had never met. She had learned that sleeping is easier at night and the conscience is clearer if you don’t remember the eyes of parking violation perpetrators.

As for my ticket, the pelting rain had made all the words run into a single, unreadable smudge.

I then sinned for a second time that day. I tore up the ticket and littered.

The trailer was loaded and I pulled the roll-up door down and latched it. Now was time to say goodbye –  and Allison and I waved quickly to Union as sentimentality had been replaced by survival instinct and horizontal rain. Then we got into the U-Haul and drove north to Maine –  with the wipers going the whole way at their highest setting.

And we never looked back.

Comments are not available on this story.

filed under: