Sunday, March 06, 2005

Welcome Home

I just got back from a trip to the East Coast and then it was Welcome to San Fran: my car got towed and $345 later, I have it back. Welcome home. Oh well, really was my fault. I left it on the street in a place I thought was safe from the ever present meter maid--I think that the only more prolific group than the meter maids in this town are lawyers. But, based on signs on the street, I just was not thinking, which is not all that unusual, since I am a self diagnosed ADD. Naturally, there's a law that you can't leave a car over 72 hours but who knows that. I was going out of town and had carefully selected a spot over on Pacific to leave my car for the time I was gone. The signs said no parking over three hours unless you have an F sticker. I did. But, foiled I was. The ever present car police gave me a warning that the car had to be moved and of course, I wasn't here to do it: once they give a warning, all I had to do was move it or somebody move it but I screwed up. But...what the hay! Before I found all the facts, I was determined to fight the injustice of it all. And, the fact that Frisco makes 2-5 mil a year on parking fees and I have been a substantial contributor, I get the picture.

Having a car in San Fran is a burden--the American way of having a car and practicality collide. There are way too many cars for the parking space in this City. So, what do you do? The City knows what to do--tow your car.

Sometimes I think living in San Fran is like living in a foreign country. And, I don't mean all the languages you hear spoken. If your folks are on the East Coast and you go go back with some regularity, then it means a flight of at least five hours, time changes, you name it. And, to get back and your car towed is like having insult added to injury. Oh well, how to make the best out of this?

OK, just be thankful that you can afford it is the first thing I tell myself. As my brother would say, it's like throwing money up a hog's rear. But, no choice. So, I've been through it before and so, I think I know what to do. I live out in Laurel Heights which is a nice little section, a little too yuppie for me but what the hay. I hop a bus. I never know where they're going only that they are moving in the direction of where I want to go. I plan to do some running anyway. It has been about a week since I've exercised and this is hardly getting ready for the marathon I'm bragging I'm going to do. The bus winds around, actually taking me closer to the objective. I get off on Van Ness and start jogging, not running: most a downward slope and when the light catches me I double over and end up going behind City Hall. Lo and behold, there's Willy Brown, former Mayor, state power broker and by most folk's measure, a crook but they always voted for him anyway. Well, crook may be a little harsh: wheeler dealer, appointing his friends and contributors to various political rewards, and always tough on his enemies. He was talking on his cell phone and I didn't stop for an autograph.

I finally made it to the traffic section. The wrong place: this is for paying traffic fines, the car retrieval is another story. Help. I have to run further, not even sure where it is. It is on Bryant street and I've been on the street lots of times. Afterall, this is only the fourth time I've had my car towed.

So, off and running again. Some guy stops me and wants to know where Brannon street is. He points in a direction and says, Bryant Street is that way but not sure about Brannon. I don't know but take his word for Bryant and out of there. Now, the neighborhood has "seeded" a little; a few more homeless, shotty types standing around. I finally make it. Go inside and it all comes back. The line is not so long on a Friday afternoon. However, all the folks in there are poor and struggling it appears to me. I remember my other visits and think to myself, "maybe the rich don't get towed." There's a tall black guy who is pleading his case to one of the three "bank teller types" who are "midgets" in the system. I could have told the guy, he is not going to get anywhere. From what I hear him saying, he's a musician and two of his instruments are in the car. He gets nowhere and so forks over his credit card which promply gets rejected. He snatches it back and storms out cursing. I don't blame him. He's probably a budding rapper.

At the next window is a young, fairly attractive girl who is using her Mother's credit car and has all the documentation that she is authorized. I think she's done this before. Thank the Lord for Moms. Her boyfriend keeps walking up to comfort or chastize her or something. They are both fairly well dressed. I wonder why he doesn't do the chivorous thing and pay it himself while telling her things are going to be alright. Oh well. They finally finished and next goes a young Latino guy with a baby. His wife is sitting down looking forlorn. He speaks to the bank teller person in Spanish. She calls over a translater and they start talking. I get my turn at the next teller and so the process begins. I plead my case slightly knowing it is to no avail. I hear the guy next to me getting excited in Spanish or at least I think so. On TV, they are so animated that sometimes I just watch, not understanding a word and wishing I could speak Spanish beyond ComesStat. I finally give up, fork over my credit card and silently curse. After I paid my fine, he stamps a bunch of papers and says, "I don't think you can get there before it closes." What! Isn't it just next door? I'm an experienced towee: no, my car is in the retrieval lot at 3d and 22nd, where ever that is. He gives me a little map and says they close in 30 minutes and if you could get a cab, no problem but it is three miles away. I calculate: three miles, that is three ten minute miles if I could do it. If I can't make it today, then I have to pick up my car on Saturday. Oh no! I take off running. I know I can do this, ten minute miles, give me a break! Should be a snap! I get lost, figure it out, about kill myself getting there. I try self hypnosis and pretend I am a soldier back in the 82d Airborne where we had to run four miles in 28 minutes. I haven't run in five days and now I'm killing myself. While I'm lost, I stop and asked an angry black kid. Don't have a clue why he is angry but all whites in general probably. No, "he don't know" where the impound lot is. I panic. Call on my cell phone. Thankfully somebody answers the phone and they tell me the address. I'm four blocks away and have five minutes to go. I take off and make it. It is nowhere around the address. I ask another guy who tried to help. He even asked his girlfriend: nobody has ever heard of it and then in a moment of resignation, I see a sign way down at the end of a large lot by the Bay. I charge out. It is the place and I've made it with two minutes to spare. But, they are closed. Help! A guy comes out and says they close at 4:45PM, not five. He must have seen the look on my face as I was about to drop over and he says I'll call my boss and see if he'll let you get your car. The boss says yes. The gods must have smiled on me. I go down to a lower level and can hardly believe it; there are acres of cars, as far as I can see. I give my paperwork to the nice Hispanic lady and she tells me to wait. I am not in the slightest impatient as I am so thankful to get my car. Finally, she calls me over and says to go in the warehouse and drive it out. I do and am so happy to have my car. It is like one of my children has been a hostage.