Life on the Street

An old white compact car is parked, badly, on the street right in front of my house.

I noticed it earlier today, nosed in to the curb, the back end sticking out into the street a couple of feet. It doesn’t belong to me or any of my neighbors. It’s Saturday, so the first thing I thought is that some kids stole it last night for a joyride and abandoned it hastily when the fun was over.

But while I was pondering this, a woman showed up at the car with a set of jumper cables coiled in one hand. She had a black dog with her, and she opened the passenger door and the dog jumped in. As she was opening the hood a guy drove up next to her car and stopped there, engine running. They hooked up the cables and the woman tried several times to start her car. The first few times nothing happened at all, then the engine sputtered to life, coughed , and died. She tried again, got it running, revved it like crazy, and it died again. She and her friend in the other car got out and conferred in the street. My analysis was that the car was out of gas, or had a clogged fuel line. That’s what it sounded like, and that would kind of explain the bad parking job: engine dies, no power steering, only a small space to pull into, no chance to back up and park cleanly. Whatever the problem was, she and her friend and the dog took off, leaving the badly parked car right where it was. And that’s when things turned sucky.

Since she had returned with jumper cables and a friend, I figured she wanted her car back. She just had to take the rescue mission to the next level, whatever that was going to be. But while she was gone, a Parking Enforcement cop came by. The car was badly parked. No doubt it was bad enough to get a ticket. Still, while the street here is narrow, cars could still easily get past. I would have left it alone, but then I’m not a cop.

The officer had a handheld device and she spent ten minutes keying stuff into it. I already knew the little white car wasn’t stolen, and I hoped that as soon as the parking officer knew that, she’d plant a ticket on the windshield and go away. But she stayed for a long time, taking pictures of the bad parking job, returning to her own car, punching more and more data into her computer, walking around and around the offending car.

Then — of course –the tow truck arrived. In a few minutes the little white car was gone, hauled off to the city tow yard. The parking cop sat in her car for a few more minutes, maybe adding more data to her report of the incident, maybe just recovering from her strenuous half-hour of crime fighting.

Maybe I’ll talk to the woman when she comes for her car. I don’t know what I’ll say. It’s a five hundred dollar car. Not much, but until today it was getting her and the black dog around. It will cost her two hundred bucks to get it out of impound. I’m guessing she doesn’t have a lot of extra cash lying around, or she would have had a better car to begin with, or at least an Auto Club membership so she could get some assistance before The Law arrived. Of course, she’ll be without a car for a couple of days at least, because the tow yard will send a truck out and hijack your car on Saturday or Sunday, but they won’t allow you to reclaim your vehicle until Monday. If the woman has a job, she might not be able to get to work on time on Monday, because no car. So she might lose some money or maybe even her job while she’s out paying money to get her pathetic wreck of a car back. Then of course it still won’t run, because it’s not going to repair itself over the weekend sitting in the city tow yard. If all these things piss her off to the point that she gets a little rowdy protesting, she might even get to spend a few hours in jail, and then get to do 200 hours of community service.

So thanks, police. The whole episode has reminded me again that when you’re down, you just get shoved farther down. I could rail against the unfairness, or I could just be grateful that now there’s no car parked in front of my house, ruining my view of the other side of the street.

2 Replies to “Life on the Street”

  1. Glad I still have the bookmark to your page… Unfortunately, a person doesn’t have to be down and out for bureaucracy (or authority) to put the hurt on people. Seems like our society’s determined to make life either too complicated or just plain miserable.

  2. Bill – I’ve been thinking a lot lately, but not writing. Glad you dropped by. This blog is coming up on its ten-year anniversary, and I hope to keep it going well beyond, so keep the bookmark, please.

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