Rules for Parking in Manhattan

My wife and I don't own a car anymore. But we're still hunters at heart - always sensitive to the signs of movement that indicate spaces are opening up. The purposefully striding pedestrian reaching for keys; the sound of doors slamming; the changing of doormen's shifts. Here are the rules that we've come up with after 20 years of parking in Manhattan. Your Block

1. Park only on your block. All other blocks are unsafe.

2. If cars are circling the block, wait until a neigbor comes by. Never give your spot to a stranger. Strangers can't reciprocate.

Basic Etiquette

3. Don't take two spots when one will do.

4. On the other hand, don't assume that someone taking two spaces did it on purpose. It was probably one space when he originally parked there.

5. Double-parking is not the same as stopping in the middle of the street.

6. You can save a spot for someone else by standing in it - for about 60 seconds. If I swing around the block once and your friend hasn't shown up, it's mine.

Touching and Shoving

7. Touch parking is OK. That's what bumpers are for. Taking off a side mirror is not OK.

8. No matter how small the space around your car, somebody will try to park in it. So don't get hot and bothered when another car jams itself behind you.

9. In fact, you're even allowed to push other parked cars forward or backward a few inches. As long as you're bumper to bumper, that is; Lincoln Navigators shouldn't push their bumpers against a Mini's rear window.

10. The same goes for motorcycles: no pushing. On the other hand, it's perfectly legitimate to pick up and move a motorcycle to create a spot.

11. Manhattan is a level playing field. Your Mercedes will be touched - and even shoved - by an '86 K-car. If you don't like it, use a parking lot. When you park a $70,000 car on the street, whatever happens serves you right.

12. When a passerby shakes his head and tells you the spot is too small, ignore him. He's a pedestrian; you're a pro.

Alternate-Side Parking

13. Alternate-side parking starts and ends 30 minutes before the posted time.

14. Everyone knows the alternate-side parking practice of double-parking for 90 minutes so the street can be cleaned. If you find yourself parked in because you didn't move your car in time, be a grown-up. Don't lean on your horn. Look on the dash of the car parking you in for a phone number. Or talk to a doorman - he'll know whose car it is. Wait. Relax. Take the bus.

15. Sometimes the street cleaner shows up late, before the end of the posted time but after everyone has already moved back to the empty side of the street. When this happens, each car pulls out to let the street cleaner pass, then moves back and takes the next space in front. This means that the person at the end of the street loses his spot. If it happens to you, be gracious. Swearing loudly does not earn you a spot. Or sympathy. Or the offer of a spot from your neighbors next time you need one.

16. Never forget your obscure religious holidays. Allah and the Virgin are your friends.