Friday, March 16, 2007

Yes, I understand

Adventures in New York City...

I had a training session in Queens on Wednesday, just across the 59th St. bridge in Long Island City. I had stayed overnight in one of the apartments Met owns in the East village, and took the subway over for the class in the morning. I had lucked into a parking spot on the street and my parallel parking skills saved me the aggravation of parking in a garage. Had a nice walk around Union Square, a couple beers in a pub, and a good night's sleep.

When I got there, the first thing the trainer said was that we'd probably be done around 3. As Ashton Kutcher would say, "sweeeeet!" I'd be at the Holland Tunnel by 4, easy, and have a nose out in front of rush hour. I got off the train and walked up to 20th street, and that's when things began to unravel quickly.

My $%#&ng car was gone. See, they don't tell you this, but if there is one of these signs anywhere along the length of a street, you're illegally parked, no matter how many other no parking signs there may be. And per NY code blah, blah, blah, section umpteen, of 1959, the entire city is a tow-away zone. Now mind you, there's a sign 20 feet behind my car that says no parking Tuesday and Saturday mornings, and the No Standing sign is 50 feet in front of my car with an arrow pointing to Denmark. And, as noted, I had to parallel park in the only open space on the street.

The lady in the tow pound is royalty when she's behind that window. Nobody would probably give her the time of day on the streetcorner, but at work she's the Queen of England. From businessmen in $1,000 suits to punks whose cars are worth less than their sneakers, we are all equal --all subjects of the Queen. There are 10 bulletproof walk up windows, and one lady. And she's in no hurry to get you back in your car. Stand in line, "yes, ma'am, I understand," have a seat. Get called back up to the window, "yes ma'am, I understand," have a seat again. Never spoken, but crystal clear to everybody in that room, was the reality that any other response would cost you as much misery as Queen Latifah cared to dispense. Your car might depreciate before you see it again.

Called back up, "yes, ma'am, here's my $185". Down the hall to another room, hand over the paperwork, have a seat. After 2-1/2 hours, I finally get to my car and realize that my contribution to the city did not end with the towing fee and the chamber of horrors. There's still the matter of the two $110 parking tickets tucked under the wiper. When I get a parking ticket at home, it costs me 5 bucks and I don't even need a stamp.
What a racket. The city owns a fleet of tow trucks, buzzing in and out like blue bees with NYPD emblazoned on the side and armed cops inside. Probably 100 tow trucks, and ONE uninspired, underpaid lady to process all the paperwork. When she got up from the "information" window and walked over to the "cashier" window, I almost peed myself. No wonder they're behind bulletproof glass.

So, $405 and 3 hours later, I'm back in business, sitting behind 10 blocks of traffic trying to get thru the Lincoln Tunnel at 6 pm. New York thanks me for my visit - come again soon.

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