We were driving to the Park Slope Food Co-op when the guy in the black car service car tried to cut us off.

There are in that single sentence four terms that I should define, for those of you who don’t live in Brooklyn:

1) Park Slope is a once downscale neighborhood whose brownstone row houses, proximity to a park, and convenient subway lines have upscaled it. It’s crammed with boutiques, wine bars, and young professionals with Golden Retrievers and Golden toddlers in Golden strollers. Which are usually pushed by nannies.

2) The Park Slope Food Co-op, founded in 1973, is a funky grocery store for members only, each of whom must work 2 3/4 hours every month for their nicely-priced organic rudebegas.  Some of Park Slope’s young professionals hire their nannies to work their shifts for them, an egregious no-no recently outed in the national media.

3) A car service car is always black, and driven by guys for whom English is the only obstacle that they can’t run down. Car services are Brooklyn’s non-metered taxis; you call rather than hail them, and haggle over the price for your trip.

4) “Cutting off” is what car service drivers do. When you haggle, time is money in a whole different way than it is when you meter.


We were driving to the Park Slope Food Co-op when the guy in the black car service car tried to cut us off. Paul was driving–

Paul always drives. He’s a control freak, and my driving makes him grind his teeth because I leave space between myself and the car in front of me and permit car service cars to cut me off. I’m not crazy about his driving, either. It’s not that he’s exactly a bad driver, but he tailgates, for one thing. It’s irritating and dangerous, but since I don’t grind my teeth, I ride. We don’t have dental insurance.

Paul’s driving was sketchy enough in Boston, where five-lane cowpaths segue to rotaries, and street signs are considered a fascist plot. He said he thought of driving as a game of strategy: “Don’t look ‘em in the eye,” he told me more than once, as he ignored another hapless driver’s bid to enter I93 in a traffic jam.

Here in Brooklyn, drivers cannot live without their horns and their middle fingers. Stop for a siren-screaming ambulance; the guy behind you blasts the horn. Stop for a pedestrian in the cross walk, you get the horn and the finger. Stop in the wrong place, you might get a snarling Brooklynite with a tire iron.

And, of course, there are the car service cars.

Paul loves to drive in Brooklyn. Different game, different strategy.


When, on our way to the Park Slope Food Co-op, the guy in the black car service car tried to cut us off, Paul kept going.

“Stop it,” I said. “He’s on my side–you’re gonna get me killed.”

He grinned. “Just sending him a little message.”

“Send him a message when you’re driving alone, so when he comes at you with a tire iron, it’s not my issue.”

A block later, the car service driver tried it again–we were tailgating a school bus at the time–and again Paul shut the guy out.

“Stop it!” I glared at him. “His is bigger; live with it.” And I didn’t mean the black car (although that was, too).

Paul sighed and backed off. Two blocks later, we and the car service car were side-by-side at the same intersection. Which illustrates another Brooklyn driving maxim: even when you gain time and ground, you don’t.

When, at last, we parked on an obscure side street in The Slope–you can’t park near the Food Co-op; you can’t park near anything in Park Sloop because there are too many damned cars– a man who’d parked ahead of us opened his car door right into the path of a biker.

The driver climbed out and helped the biker up from the street.

“Look at my bike,” the biker lamented. “It’s messed up.”

The driver leapt onto the curb and shouted back, “I get out, make sure you’re all right–I do that just to do the right thing, and you give me attitude–” And the car-door man huffed off, double-time, leaving the dazed biker to stand over his kinked front wheel.

Another player; another strategic move in the game…