Thursday, January 17, 2013

Open Letter to the White Van Parked on 38th St. and Granby

Dear Large White Van Parked on 38th Street and Granby,

The van is on the north side of 38th, hidden by that building. 
Since moving to my neighborhood, I have driven past you countless times in anger. I have often shaken my head while flattening my lips into a resentful line. You have been parked there... let me see... let’s call it forever.

I understand: what you are doing is legal. There is a parking space on this street, and you are inside it. But you are the biggest vehicle in the world, parked nearly *on* the paint lines, the farthest possible distance from the curb and the closest possible proximity to the intersection.

You know that every honest citizen making a turn at this traffic light feels compelled to slow almost to a stop, worrying if they can make it past. You see them nudge their bumpers into oncoming traffic, causing drivers in the oncoming traffic lane to swerve away and honk. It’s a narrow street. The lanes are not marked. People get anxious.

There is shattered glass around your rear bumper, leaking out of the parking space and into the street. Your wheels are sunken. Whether they deflated from belligerence or despair I do not know. I don’t know whether that shattered glass is from an actual accident or whether it is the large white van equivalent of a middle finger, extending into the traffic lane. Drivers shy away, and there’s really not room for that, on this busy city street.

Until today, I dreaded going past you, wished you would just pack up your spacious running boards and go. I fumed over why your owner wouldn’t just move you twelve inches toward the curb. Or sweep the glass. Something. Why leave this gross abruption in the swift flow of traffic in our lives? It just seemed so inexplicable, and so wrong. I grumbled, and festered, and nudged my bumper into oncoming traffic, and honked, and ground my teeth.

Then today I realized what you are, you decayed, inconvenient old mess. You are Hemingway’s island in the stream. You are Olson’s stone in the shoe. You are Kierkegaard’s imperfection in everything human. Yes, large white van, that is you.

Contemporary author Charles Baxter wrote, “When all the details fit in perfectly, something is probably wrong with the story.” Well the story of 38th Street and Granby, an intersection through which I pass on a daily basis, is insanely disrupted by one magnificently ill-fitting detail: a large white van, tires deflating, bathing in a sea of broken glass, parked in the most inconvenient quadrant of the parking space, grinding traffic inexorably through its maw.

I’m writing now to let you know: Van, I capitulate. I won’t grapple with you. I won’t stab at you, from hell’s heart, or spit at you with my last breath. We don’t need another sensible intersection flanked by tidily parked compact cars. We don’t need another smoothly turning gear in the machine. You are the clunking sound in the apparatus. You are the hesitation in the march, the blip on the graph, the gap in the data.

Your end will come. You will be washed away eventually. Every island in the stream is always eroding. But until that happens, grind on, white van. Grind on.



  1. that building hiding the van is my home. -aa

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