Column Date 2007-03-08

How “The Secret” helped me find a parking place in Manhattan

Have you heard about the latest wrinkle in self-help, “The Secret”? And how it will help you get what you want out of life?

Everybody, from Oprah on down, is talking about it these days, and whispering mantras like “If you can believe it, you can achieve it.”

So I decided to give it a try recently, on a frigid Sunday morning when my wife and I drove into Manhattan to meet a friend for brunch.

I figured it would be easy to find a parking place because:

1. It was a Sunday, and we usually find a parking place on Sunday.

2. I was following “The Secret’s” advice  -- to start small with little beliefs and little achievements. Like a cup of coffee, they said. Or a parking place.

Thinking positive thoughts, I truly believed I would find a parking space on 95th Street, as I drove all the way across to 5th Avenue.

I believed it on 94th Street all the way back to 1st Avenue.

And on 93rd Street. And on 92nd Street. And on 91st Street. In fact, all the way down to 85th Street.

Nothing but walls of cars, bumper to bumper. Not a single space on the Upper East Side.

Obviously, nobody had gone out to the Hamptons on this sub-zero weekend. Everybody had stayed home, probably curled up in front of their non-working Manhattan fireplaces.

Suddenly, a blasphemous thought occurred to me: maybe “The Secret” doesn’t work!

Maybe Oprah and all those millions of other believers were deceiving themselves! Maybe it was just re-marketing the old “Power of Positive Thinking” stuff from the 50’s in a shiny, new 2007 package.

On the other hand, maybe it was my fault. Maybe I was sending out the wrong ‘signal of attraction.’ Or maybe...

I had one ace up my sleeve.

Reaching into the glove compartment, I pulled out a gift from one of our sons: a silver parking angel, complete with directions that it be prominently displayed on our dashboard where, I assume, The Gods of New York City Parking couldn’t miss it.

So we drove on, sending out strong signals of attraction to potential parking places, and hoping somebody up there would notice our angel.

Thirty seconds later, as we turned back onto 93rd Street, where the restaurant was, a Volvo station wagon pulled out of the biggest space on the block.

And we pulled in. And rushed across the street to the restaurant to smooth out the irritation of our long-waiting friend.

We were greeted at the door by Justin, the owner, who immediately brought over a steaming pot of fresh coffee as we sat down.

“It’s incredibly cold out there,” he said. “You’ve probably been thinking of this hot cup of coffee the whole time.”

Actually, he had a point. Maybe, subconsciously, we’d really been trying to attract a hot cup of coffee instead of a parking place.

Maybe “The Secret” works after all.

On the other hand, there’s the unexplained power of a silver–winged parking angel, still sitting on our dashboard, smiling, as if she has her own secret.

©2007 Peter Tannen