“Is this the Garage?” Op-ed

| 19 Nov 2015 | 01:28

Let’s call it Six Degrees Of Upper East Side Separation.

If you own a car in the area and park at the garage on 67th Street, chances are that you and I have spoken on the phone.

My husband Neil and I have had the same landline for 27 years, even though we’ve lived in three different apartments on this side of the park, with a brief sojourn on the Upper West Side. Our number is the same as that of the parking place, except for one easily misdialed digit. Hence for more years than I can count, when the phone has rung, we have fielded the query, “Is this the garage?”

Despite the fact that people think our section of Manhattan is homogenous, I can tell you we’re quite diverse, based on how people react when I break the news that, “No it isn’t,” and I cannot have their vehicle “outside in five.” Some apologize profusely, others say, “Oops,” and hang up, while others slam the phone down as though it is my fault they pressed the wrong button.

What may seem like a major annoyance to some, (I have been asked many a time as to why we just don’t change our phone number) has become part of our day-to-day New York City life.

Sometimes it’s good for a chuckle, as when Neil and I passed an apartment building just as a guy on his cell was exiting. “Is this the garage?” he was asking. We immediately looked at each other and started to laugh.

Other times it means so much more.

“Is this the garage?” put a smile on my tear-smeared face many years ago when Neil called from work to see how I was processing the news that the principal at our son Luke’s grammar school did not think his sister Meg would be the right fit for that academic environment.

His kind gesture paired with the jokey greeting reminded me that I married a man with a sense of humor, and that if I kept mine, then together we would get through our latest travail.

Everybody who lives here has a New York story: the famous/crazy/noisy neighbor, the construction work that almost leveled your apartment building, the doorman who ran off with one of the tenants, the time or two (or three) you got stuck in the subway, the almost hit by a bike story, and, of course, the time you passed Woody and Soon-Yi on Madison.

Next time the phone rings and the person (you know who you are) on the other end of the line asks if this is the garage (and believe me, there will be a next time), know you are not being a nuisance; you’re just part of the Merkl New York story – and say, “Hi.”

Lorraine Duffy Merkl is a freelance writer in New York City, and author of the novels “Fat Chick” and “Back to Work She Goes.”