A Guy Named Vinnie

The City Line Deli near the North White Plains train station.

It was a Saturday morning in October, and there I was handing my car keys to a guy named Vinnie I’d just met in a deli in suburban, New York. Vinnie was promising to keep my Nissan Altima Hybrid parked in the lot behind the deli, while Karen and I went off to New York City for a couple of days.

Yes, you read right, a guy from Ohio was giving the keys of his car to a guy he met in a suburban New York deli just five minutes earlier, and the guy was named Vinnie. Kind of sounds like the makings of a movie–maybe The Out of Towners.

Hey, it seemed like a good idea at the time, and Karen didn’t object. Waiting for the train, I called Dan and told him about Vinnie and the car.

His response was, “You did what!” The implication in tone and volume was that my sanity was in question.

“Sometimes,” I responded, “you just got to go with what feels right.” So how did we get to the point where Vinnie felt right?.

Karen and I had driven to New Haven Connecticut to visit our grandnephew Leland, a student at Yale, after which we were going to spend a couple of days in New York City with our friend Jean. The problem was what to do with the car. Park it at a train station and take one of the commuter trains into the City we thought.

After much research on the internet, we finally found a station that seemed to offer multiday parking, and it was only going to cost us $7 because weekends were free. Let me tell you, finding a station with the right kind of parking was not easy. The North White Plains Station of the Metro North commuter line seemed to be about the only place where we could park over the weekend and into Monday. The regular jam of commuters in need of parking seemed to prevent leaving the car through Monday morning elsewhere, unless we were willing to pay 20 or 30 dollars per day. Hooray for White Plains–we thought.

When we got to the station, the promised parking was nowhere to be found, unless you count the six spaces designated in a garage that were already full by 10 o’clock on a Saturday morning. According to websites for the parking company and the Metro North train line, scores if not hundreds of parking spaces should have been there to meet our needs.

After circling the station a couple of times, I went looking for somebody to ask about where the parking was. That’s how I found myself in a deli, talking to Vinnie. After conferring with others in the deli, Vinnie suggested the already-full garage. Then he looked me up and down, and offered more direct help.

He said I could park the car in a space behind the deli, but that the space was already occupied so my car would need to go in a temporary space and he’d move it later. Ipso facto, he’d need the keys. I asked him how much and he said, “Don’t worry about it,” which sounded suspiciously close to the New Yorker catch phrase of fugetaboutit.

What can I say; Vinnie seemed like a nice guy, and he’d ¬†offered to help with a big open smile. I decided to take a chance–besides I was pretty sure he owned the deli.

After two days walking our feet off in the City, it was time to hop the train back to North White Plains, and our waiting–we hoped–car. We walked in the deli, found a smiling Vinnie working the counter, and our car waiting by the back door.

He greeted me like a long lost friend, and between making sandwiches waved off my profuse thanks and offer of money. As we took possession of our keys, I remembered that I still had a subway card in my pocket.

“Hey Vinnie,” I hollered across the counter, “will you at least take this subway card? It’ll be useless in Cleveland, and anyway there’s only $3.40 left on it.”

“That I can use,” he said reaching across the counter to take the card from my hand before giving me one more good-bye handshake.

Sometimes in a town far from home, just when you need him, you meet a guy named Vinnie.