Friday, January 21, 2011

Back to the impound lot

I am not sure how many of your remember the last time my car was towed, but it was many moons ago, when I was fairly new to New York. That time was much more expensive than this time, although the process and reasoning this time were, if anything, even more ridiculous.

Just like last time, I was parked on Seminole, except that this time it was on the other side of the hospital. Just the same as last time, a fully legal parking spot, about 4o feet from a fire hydrant, in a spot clearly left open because another car had just left. I have in fact parked in this particular spot several times, and am always pleased when I can get it, because it is a good spot, close to work and easy to pull into ... which is saying something these days, as snow takes up about 20% of the available parking spaces around here. Thus parked, I walked into work and had a pretty good day, and was excited to leave a bit early, around 6, to get home and spend time with Aviva. So I walk over to where I parked ... and the car is gone. At first, I think it was stolen, then I talk to Aviva, who convinces me to check the near-by streets in case I misremembered where I parked. Obviously the car was nowhere to be found, so I call the police, tell them my car is stolen and they tell me to call 311 and see if it has been towed.

At this point, I cannot think of a reason why my car would be towed, I parked legally and have no outstanding tickets. It occurs to me that my inspection sticker expired on December 31st, I had tried to get it done on the 3rd but everywhere I went was too busy, and I was planning on taking it in over the weekend. But that was just a ticket the last time, so I am left in a quandry about my offense would have been to get my car towed - nevertheless, I am shocked when I find out it has, in fact, been towed to the impound yard.

I trudge back to work, trying, without success, to get someone at the tow yard to pick up the phone, the first yard I call is the wrong one, which the very angry guy on the other end of the phone assumes is because I am an idiot .. and not because that is the number I was told to call. As I walk back to work, I call the Bronx tow yard number and finally, after 4 calls over 30 minutes to 3 different numbers I finally get someone on the phone. She tells me the yard is open until 10 pm, and that I was towed because my inspection had expired and then hangs up while I am asking for directions.

It begins to occur to me that perhaps I sound like some sort of raving lunatic or something else dramatically unappealing, because everyone I am speaking too sounds angry at me and cannot wait to get off the phone.

Once back at work, something goes right and one of the students in the lab offers to drive me down to the impound yard. Its only 4 miles away, but it takes 35 minutes to get there because in the Bronx streets are laid out like the city planner was a one-eye drunkard with no thumbs, and the drivers are not much better. When we finally arrive, I walk in, show my ID and am gestured into the first of several portable offices. As I walking into the office, the guard asks if I will be needing a tow truck. I tell him no.

This, as it turns out, was foolish ...

I quickly find out that the guy in front of me in line has also had his car towed for an expired inspection, and that his inspection also expired on December 31st, 2010. Further, I find out that because our cars have expired registrations, they are deemed "unsafe" to drive in New York City, and must be towed to an inspection station. In fact, they will only release the car to a registered tow truck driver who is present in the office. A bit incredulous, I lean back out the door and ask the security guard about that tow, I am informed that the truck just left, but another will be by in 5 minutes.

It briefly occurs to me to find it odd that they generally have a truck just waiting there ... this immediately makes much more sense when the tow truck driver informs me that he does not have to tow me back to my house, just out of the impound yard, at which point I can repossess and drive my car ... oh, and the 60 foot tow out of the yard will cost me 65$, in cash, because they don't take checks. But I can use the ATM conveniently located in the office, which of course charges a reasonable fee. At this point I have not even mentioned the glacial pace at which our paper work is being filled out. There are 3 people in the office but on only 1 is doing work, 2 if you count continuously refilling staplers as work. I arrived at the yard at about 730 pm, and there was one guy in line in front of me and they ended up processing our paper work together. By the time I get out into the street, having given our receipts to the tow truck operator, it is already 830 pm. The tow truck driver goes down to his truck - which as it turns out, is just a Ford F-150 with a wooden 2x4 and some large chains in the back - and drives into the yard, slowly coming out with our vehicles, first the other guys, then mine. While he is doing that, I ask the security guard when they started towing for inspection violations. He says that it has been the law for more than 5 years, but the tow is at the officers discretion. He notes that recently officers have been choosing to tow an awful lot more often, so often that now there is a tow truck permanently parked outside the impound yard.

I choose not to mention that if are cars are truly unsafe to drive, necessitating the tow, in seems silly that towing them would probably not be at an officers discretion.

When the tow truck finally comes back out with my car, 35 more minutes have passed ... probably because it is more difficult to tow a car when your tow hitch looks like something MacGuyver would come up with. The tow truck driver also mentions, in response to my queries, that he works for the body shop across the street, and that once this sort of thing started happening, they just got a truck and started to do towing, and it has already easily paid for itself .. obviously, as this guy just made 130$ in 20 minutes. Less than amused, I go to pay the guy, and only have 62$ or 80$, not the chane for 65$, which is what he told me the official fee was mandated to be by the tow yard. He looks for a minute and says, "62 will be fine." Mandated my ass.

After I pay the guy and get my car off the truck, I receive one final bonus from the NYPD ... I discover that I have also received a ticket indicating that I need to pay 65$ because my inspection is expired ... good thing they gave me that ticket, otherwise I might not have realized my inspection was expired.


Jennifer Granit said...

Man P.J., this story actually made me hurt. Physically hurt. It never ceases to amaze me the way the city makes money....instead of towing your car, they should have been protecting all those cars that are broken into all the time on the adjacent street. But I now realize that the NYPD is about revenue and not doing their job (of course I am generalizing and when an absolute emergency occurs, they really are helpful).
I hope this never happens to you again!

Melanie said...

So I found your blog because I was trying to find coffee labs info and got here through your wedding site! Dude, THIS blog posting is a great example of the reasons I have for leaving NYC and its surrounding area as soon as I get out of med school! I mean what's with the angry misery all over the place? I have grocery stores I won't go to anymore! I use self check out just to avoid the misery... I know everyone wants to live here but me and my tree loving self isn't one of them! Good to know about that area of the Bronx and the parking craziness however since I have to be at Einstein once a week.

Wokn said...

Can't say I disagree about the anger and the misery at times, but I still kind of love NY ... having said that, the move north into Westchester has very much helped my disposition on the subject.