It’s summer in New York City, and you know what that means: scantily-dressed women’s bodies, Shakespeare in the Park and the insanity of our Parks Department are again on full display.
The Parks Department’s latest effort in proving this last truism was to ration toilet paper at Coney Island. This money-saving stroke of genius was initiated on July 4th, brilliantly timed to fall on the same day as the Nathan’s Hot Dog Eating Contest. That’s right, do the math.
The weird scene of women in bikinis lined up to get a few paltry squares of the cheap, single ply bathroom tissue from grim-faced Parks Department attendants made Danish tourist Benedikte Friis scratch her head in wonder.
“To me it’s very strange to have these people deciding how much paper you get because they don’t know what situation you’re in,” Friis said delicately. “You might, uh, need more.”
Really, you Danish socialist? Then why don’t you get a job and bring your own fancy toilet paper, huh? USA! USA!
Actually there was plenty of embarrassment to go around, with the scene sadly reminiscent of the Seinfeld episode with Elaine pleading “Can you spare a square?”
But there was no such rationing going on in the men’s room. Why not? Because there was no toilet paper at all in the men’s room!
Meanwhile up above, the Coney Island boardwalk was going through its own Parks Department crisis, as kids lined up to risk their necks reckless diving off the Steeplechase Pier. “Risking their necks” isn’t a figure a speech here–nearly twenty years ago, two brothers jumped off this very same pier, broke their necks and sued the city for $100 million dollars because there weren’t any “No diving” signs posted.
Virgil Brown, one of the brothers who dove off the pier in 1993 and despite his cash bonanza, doesn’t consider himself lucky as he is now confined to a wheelchair, had a thought. “The city should definitely post a guard on that pier,” he suggested.
A guard? When this story came out in the New York Daily News, Parks Department officials went berserk. The next day, Steeplechase Pier looked, as the paper’s Michael Daley put it, “like a border crossing in cold-war Berlin,” as a swarm of Parks Department guards called in from all points in Brooklyn screamed “Fisherman only!” at elderly couples attempting to cross the barrier and stroll out on the pier to cool off.
Obviously the over-reactive Parks Department is more concerned about bad PR than in doing its job correctly. But look at the bright side. As more stories about the ridiculous toilet tissue rationing hits the newspapers, the next step the Parks Department will take is predictable: Free Charmin double-rolls for everyone!