Yeah, that's the ticket.

Let's talk about parking tickets, shall we?

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Tow Head


Something I haven't written about yet is when I must tow a vehicle away. Not just cars either. I've towed thirty-foot motor homes, trailers (some with boats on them), motorcycles, semi trucks, 60's vans, even a scooter once (!). With a little kid still on it! No, no just kidding there. He went into the ice cream shop and while he wasn't looking....again, just kidding. I can't help myself, you know.

Anyway, there are only a few reasons why a vehicle might get towed away (almost sounds like it's never coming back - and I wish some of them wouldn't!). The most common is that the vehicle's registration has lapsed. If it's six months out of date, we can impound it. We can't crush it into a cube, but honestly, sometimes we'd like to. If it's been stored on the street in the same place for more than seventy-two hours, we can take it. Now look, we are on to all the tricks. If you move it across the street or roll it forward or backward, this does not constitute "moving the vehicle." Yes, technically it has "moved" but don't be a wiseguy. We left you that little red tag for a reason: so you'd read it and learn the law. Too bad if you didn't.

There are other reasons to tow as well. A common one is a street sign that says in effect, If You Park Here We Will Tow Your Car Away. I wish it said that in reality and not just in effect because people will park there anyway and completely ignore the sign that simply says Tow-Away Zone No Parking Any Time. It's amazing how many of those kinds of tows we get, whether they are the temporary type signs put up because of a parade, street repair or some other street work that needs a-doin', or the regular old street signs on poles. You know, the ones people routinely ignore anyway.

There are also the cars that are simply abandoned. There are cars that are missing parts (like engines) that may be hazards and can be towed for that reason (I wish you could tow away some people who are hazards but, sadly, we're not there yet). And there are cars that are parked illegally, like in a red zone for instance, that have no proof of registration - no plates, no VIN. Why anyone would do that is a complete mystery. Maybe they hate the car and are trying to get rid of it or maybe it's just a bad case of the Stupid Flu.

Then there are those vehicles we find that have more than five unpaid parking tickets in our computer system. We call those "keepers." Oooh, what fun. I enjoy running the paperwork back at the station and seeing exactly how much the person owes. Sometimes it's been more than $1,000. Can you imagine? I would start a keeper "pool" and take bets on how much the person owes and whoever is closest gets the money. But I can't do that. The police wouldn't like it. Gambling on duty and all. Bummer.

One quick story: a few weeks ago I impounded a young woman's SUV which I found out really belonged to her father back in the Midwest. I was furious at the old man. What the heck was he doing letting his daughter drive out west in a car that wasn't registered? For over a year! The plate was even listed in the system as "destroyed." Destroyed? I saw it right there - on the car! Shame on the old guy. I'd like to send him a nasty note. Maybe with some dog poop in it. But the police wouldn't like it. Harassing the citizens and all. Bummer.


A Futile Gesture

Hello everyone,

Today some guy flipped me the middle finger. This is not a terribly unusual occurrence but this one, given what's going on in the world, was slightly different. At least for me. Here's what happened: I was driving along and he was driving in the opposite direction towards me. He had left the ticket on his window under the driver's side wiper but the envelope was open. The little blue and white ticket was there flapping in the breeze. When he saw me, he stuck his arm out the window and flipped me "the bird" as they say (although honestly I don't know why they call it that). It struck me funny and I laughed. He saw me laughing which gave me no end of pleasure (twisting the knife, I believe that's called). I didn't even write him that ticket, of that I was sure. But my enjoyment of the moment soon gave way to a different feeling. I don't know, empathy maybe. I understood his frustration and the futile gesture it caused. This might have made him feel better momentarily but really had no effect on the situation whatsoever. And that's what I started thinking about.

I'm extremely upset about the gulf coast oil spill. This is turning into a gigantic ecological disaster. I feel upset, and angry, and...powerless. Just like that poor guy must have felt. I have made my displeasure with the situation known on other websites that I frequent and I really began to see the futility of my gestures too. They made me feel better (slightly) just to vent, but really what effect would they have?

I wanted to go find that guy and tell him this: I understand your taking your frustration out on me by saluting me as you did but it won't change the fact that you got the darned thing for parking illegally. If you really want to do something, run for city council and then have those signs changed (you know, those signs you didn't obey). Then and only then will you really get the satisfaction you are looking for. This is not easy and it's a long and, I suppose, arduous way of making that change but there's not much else you can do.

What can I do about the oil spill? Run for Congress? That's about it. Make new laws so these kinds of things can't happen again. I suppose both he and I could write to our appropriate representatives but let's face it, that won't do much to make us feel any better. The world is ours. We should become the change we want to see, to quote Gandhi. Which is certainly easier said than done.

Did you ever think you'd see the Mahatma's name in this blog? Be honest.

Nope, me neither.


Monday, May 10, 2010

And Now For Something Completely Different

I talk a lot on this blog about writing parking tickets (well, duh) but let's talk about something else, yes? Quite often us parking ticket types are asked (that's being polite - we're ordered) to block off a street if there is an emergency of one kind or another. Such as? Well, such as: a traffic accident, a fire, a bomb threat, a hostage situation, a shooting, or more desirably (although not to everyone) a parade.

Let's see what happens when this is our assignment. Typically, we are told: "Block this street (or alley or driveway access) and don't let anyone through." That's it. Pretty straightforward. This is generally for the safety of the citizenry but you'd never know that. To them it is one massive inconvenience. How, they wonder (usually aloud) am I going to get where I need to be? Which is always right in the thick of what is going on. Recently we did have a bomb scare and you'd be surprised (would you, really?) at how many people wanted to go....over there. Yes, there. Just over there. I wanted to say to them this: "Would you like to drive right into the bomb (or the fire or the shooter) or would you just like to interfere with the policemen and firemen who are dealing with it?" Believe it or not, there is a reason why buildings are evacuated. Why people are kept away from dangerous situations. This is not TV, you cannot change the channel. And yes, this WILL be on the news. Do you want to appear on the news as the one putz who insisted on getting himself blown up?

It's just as bad when it's a parade. Ah, civic pride. There's nothing like it. There's also nothing like marching bands and horses lining up on your block just when Junior has to have you take him out for pistachio ice cream right now or he's going to hold his breath again. I'll bet you'd like to take him out, wouldn't you? Anyway, the same parades are held in our town every year at the same time. Notices are sent a week or more in advance to every household that may be affected. Signs are put up on the streets days ahead warning that parking there on parade day will result in your buggy being towed away. But, I kid you not, people act as if this massive undertaking has been sprung on them in the middle of the night. I didn't know Officer. I've only been living here for 35 years. And yes, I'm a moron. How did you know?

It's pretty pathetic when we put up Street Closed signs, block the street with our vehicles, stand there waving cars away and still have someone drive up to us and ask us if they can go through. The exchange usually goes like this:

Can I go through?


But I live right there!


But I just live right there!


This could go on for a half an hour or so until the resident gets tired out or finally gets the hint that we are not budging. Is it your goal to run over the entire Pee-Wee Karate School, Ma'am? Are you harboring some kind of grudge against them that we should know about? Oh, or maybe your vehicle is really a float? The float representing the Terminally Clueless!

I tell you, it's crazy. And the sad part is, we can't write them a ticket for acting like this.