For whom the truck tows; a driver’s lament

CITY OF NY: +$250 AUTO GIGOLO: $-250 and teeth still need cleaning

“The tow truck guy was waiting for you,” said a sympathetic neighbor in my upper Manhattan neighborhood when I came downstairs and saw a grease spot where my car had been a minute ago. “I saw them pull up the second you went in the building.”

I counted to ten and invoked Ralph Kramden’s method of anger management: “Pins and needles, needles and pins; it’s a happy man that grins.” I trudged back upstairs and rescheduled the appointment with my understanding Westchester dentist. Then I called my mother in New Jersey.

“Tell me again, Mom, what it was like to drive in the city in the 50s,” I said.

“It was a piece of cake to own a car,” she said. “I used to drive to work at 71st and Madison from Jackson Heights and park right outside the door. It would take me about 20 minutes from Queens. There weren’t any meters then. You used to be able to go north and south up all the avenues.”

Ever get towed? “Sure—many times,” she said. It was a comfort.

I’d moved into this, my 14th New York apartment, in 2003. Parking on the street outside the lobby was legal then. There was also a U.S. mailbox on the corner, but a car hopped the curb, took out the box and smashed into the building in 2004.

This happens regularly underneath my window.

Soon after, the rules were changed.

But there are the rules, and there was milk that needed to be refrigerated before I headed off to White Plains. I threw the car in park, grabbed the groceries and dashed, and I admit I also quickly brushed my teeth in consideration of the dentist when I was upstairs. But that was all the time it took for the first agent to hook up my car while the other dashed off a summons and squished it under my windshield wiper as quickly as the man at Katz’ Delicatessen spreads a dollop of mustard on your rye. Whereupon my wheels took a trip to the hoosegow, and the $185 tow fee plus $65 summons equaled a $250 sock in the puss.

After I hung up with mom, I trekked to the 38th St and 12th avenue pound and saw my car through the fence, its hazards blinking at me accusingly, and I got on line with about 20 other grim-faced motorists.

I waited, stewing to myself like everybody else. Why can’t the tow fee be $50 or $100, something reasonable? Why can’t you choose, say, a booted foot in your butt instead of a fine? I’d take it. And why can’t I fine the city $185 when the bus doesn’t arrive for a half hour, and then three of them show up? Or when the subways stall when it rains? There was no answer my gripes; no one to bitch to. There never is.

I noticed one of the bulletproof ticket windows had a huge, spidered crack in it. “A shortie did that the other day,” explained the clerk when I got up to the counter. “They took her away in handcuffs.

Pins and needles, needles and pins.

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