The tale of the tape

By Timothy J. Gibbons
Published by Columbia University on October 31, 2000.

By day's end, they didn't even bother shredding the stuff. Not enough time; too much excitement.

Instead, the frenzied onlookers high above Monday's parading of the Yankees took to tossing out the window any piece of paper at hand. A flock of photocopier paper drifted in front of the sun, while crumbled handfuls of notebook paper beaned the unlucky on the street. Overhead, arching ribbons of toilet paper unfurled, slightly narrower than the matching curls of dot-matrix printer paper.

Any description of the parchment cascade's effect must resort to cliche, calling to mind images of snowdrifts on the corner, volcanic ash falling from the sky, meteorites smashing into people's heads. Suffice it to say that, between wads of newspapers, flecks of confetti and strips of shredded foolscap, the sidewalks seemed carpeted by the efforts of those above.

"I don't even know why we do it," city employee John Mondesire said, leaning away from his sniper's post four floors up, where he stood, poised, with a handful of typing paper.

"We're just so happy. It's the Yankees, man," he said. "We're here and we got to do it."

Mondesire was one of a group of city employees at ground zero for ticker-taping purpose. The window on the side of their payroll department office looked upon the corner where the parade turned for city hall, giving the onlookers a good view of the action -- and a good launching pad for dead trees.

"The city dropped off a big bag of confetti, with instructions to use that," said Joe Montanino , another employee in the department. "They don't like the toilet paper, but we're good with the confetti and office paper."

Much of the department's contribution to the paper rain started as office forms and reports before being shredded by the in-house staff. "It made me feel like part of the action," said Jeffrey Woods, who spent his lunch hours shredding paper for the past month. "Once the Mets clinched it, I started saving paper."

Since then, Woods filled around 100 of the pale red shredder bags, packing the office closets with the fruit of his labor.

"Usually they pick up all the shredded stuff every few days," Mondesire explained. "This month, I told them to hold off."

Workers from the sanitation department still managed to get their hands on the paper, though -- after it fell to the street.

City employees got rid of the mess quickly, opening Broadway for traffic three hours after the parade ended. More than 600 sanitation workers picked up 47 tons of paper in the hours after the celebration.

"They went around Saturday getting ready," said a department official who saw his building, eight blocks away, receive a dusting of confetti. "They had people welding all the man hole covers shut, so there was no way to put a bomb under the street, and then they got rid of all of the (trash) baskets. They'd be useless there and just be something for people to throw around."

Two sanitation buses stationed the workers along the parade route, and the city employees went to work in early afternoon with equipment including 200 blowers, 110 handbrooms and 51 rakes.

"They're still working on it now," the official said. ""They got the road open, but a lot of that confetti sticks to buildings. It will be falling off ledges for weeks."

Clusters of school children quickly grabbed the confetti that did fall to the ground during the parade, doing their own part to spread the wealth. Scooping ribbons of paper from the sidewalks, youngsters along Broadway took turns drenching their friends and throwing the chaff in the air.

"It's part of the fun," Freddy Delarosa said, moments after burying his friend, Jose Hernandez, with shredded payroll files. "This is the first World Series of the millennium and we're going to do it right. We're New Yorkers, and we're fun."

Washington Heights residents Delarosa, Hernandez and Alfred Vaquez, all 14, had taken the day off from school to witness the parade, the closest any of them had come to seeing the players. No one minded their decision to play hooky, they said.

"I bet you some of the teachers are down here," Hernandez said. "They want to see it too."

The boys grabbed their spot along Broadway around 8:30 a.m., 15 minutes earlier than they usually would have arrived at school. "I thought this was more important," Delarosa said. "It was a good choice."

Further down the line, other skipping students endorsed that idea. "I told my mom last year that I was coming to the parade if the Yankees had one," 16-year-old Andrea DiMauro said. "It took a while for my parents to see that I was going to go, but I was going to go."

Meanwhile, upstairs, Nancy Rivera was doing all she could to cultivate DiMauro's attitude in her daughter.=20

"It was really exciting," the child -- Malorie Rivera, 10 -- said after watching the victorious players pass below the payroll office. "It's the first time I've seen the parade."

Her mother explained to Malorie why seeing the spectacle was so important.

"It takes all they've given," Nancy Rivera said about the Yankees, "and it says thank you. It makes them realize how much we appreciate them."


This is a showcase of the work done by Timothy J. Gibbons during a journalism career now stretching back more than a decade.

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