One of Chicago's great selling points as a "livable" city is its alleys. Unlike New Yorkers, Chicagoans can stash their smelly garbage bins out back and keep them off the sidewalks. If they're lucky enough to have a garage, like we do, they don't even have to worry about parking on the streets, and if they do have to park on the streets they don't have a plethora of driveways to worry about avoiding. And best of all for me, walking Ella through our neighborhood's alleys inspired large chunks of the novel I'm working on.
But there's a darker side to alleys, too, which I was reminded of earlier this afternoon as I was driving over here to the Writers Workspace. As I turned into the alley that leads to the little parking lot behind the workspace, I found my way blocked by a huge garbage truck. That was no big deal in and of itself, just a little annoying, since I could circle the block and come into the alley from the other side. But there was a day a little over a year ago when I didn't have as pleasant an experience with trucks in an alley.
It was early on a sunny weekday afternoon, and I had gone to a favorite haunt called Tweet (no relation to Twitter) for a very late brunch. Tweet has a tiny lot out back off the alley where patrons can park for free, which is what I did. That block is pretty long, and as I drove in from the south end of the alley I could see a big moving truck way up at the north end plugging that exit. I wondered briefly if parking in the lot that day was a good idea, but I didn't want to try to turn the car around and hunt for street parking.
After a leisurely meal while I got some work done on my laptop, I headed out back to leave. I backed the car out and was heading north up the alley before I realized that the moving truck was still there. Oh well. South, then.