After the class, we were supposed to go to dinner with some bigwigs from The Vendor. So, having invited a few folks to ride along in the rental car, we headed to the hotel to meet the others. There was, it seems, to be a parade.
Despite my unease and ingrained lack of trust in parades, we were across the street in record time. Naturally, being too stupid to worry over obvious portents of doom, I merely pressed forward, dragging the others in verbal tow. Nearing the hotel entrance, I pointed the car out to my cohorts.
Or would have, had it still been occupying the same space in which I had left it almost 11 hours ago. The meter poles, which had all been nude earlier, were now festooned in Christmas colors, proudly proclaiming that any cars parked in these spots between noon and 8 PM that day would be towed. It was exactly 6:10 PM.
My engineering background has taught me to deal with everything rationally. I began turning around rapidly, staring in all directions, and shrieking loud enough to catch the eyes of a couple of nearby cops and most of the crowd of thousands awaiting the start of the parade.
After listening to a 5 minute recorded message by a bored, female voice (which, by the way, was entirely in English, and included the sentence, "If you do not speak English, you should probably bring an interpreter with you") I was directed to another number for further information. Naturally, 30 attempts in the next 10 minutes yielded only busy signals and unanswered ringing. It was time to hie me thence. Dinah refused to go on to the dinner, and insisted on coming along. Since I didn't know if I had enough money, or even if they would take money (the being San Jose, they might require a Tofu Bank Master Card) I accepted the offer.
A very nice policeman with three stripes on his sleeve listened patiently and understandingly. He encouraged us to tell our story instead of blindly paying the fees. A detective walked up about then looking like he needed volunteers as targets in a search and destroy mission, so we thanked the uniform and split, after he gave us directions to the tram, to save us cab fare. The detective glared after us. Later I found small burns on my back.
Thinking about the situation as we awaited the tram, I got angrier and angrier. Even if I didn't have to pay, this was costing a lot of time. And we were missing dinner, which for me is sort of like the Pope missing communion. The tram cost us $2 - background noise for this night.
We managed to get off at the right place, despite the fact there were extra stops not listed on the lovely transit map pasted right in front of us. We walked the 2 blocks to the police station. The nice lady at the auto desk informed us we were about the 15th or 20th bunch with this complaint, and asked us to wait for a supervisor who was on break.
While we waited, we watched what could have been 3 stooges from a week night TV police station sitcom. There were an Hispanic, an Oriental, and a standard model WASP - all the same height and build, with black hair. They were young, seemed not too far past Rookie in rank, and didn't care that we were there. One was bragging about how he knew exactly how many beers to drink in an hour and stay just under the legal limit of BAC to be able to drive. When a woman called asking for a Spanish officer, with a complaint about her runaway child, the Hispanic guy wagged his head no, and the Oriental told her that officer was on break.
I said something about Unix to Dinah. As an afterthought I looked towards the cops and mumbled "not you". One of them smiled and waved. I began looking for an escape route or an automatic weapon.
The supervisor returned and explained we had to have proof of ownership or rental (which was in the car, of course). After much quoting of rules and regulations she finally agreed to call Budget for us to get said proof via fax rather than make us hire a cab, which would waste yet another hour and about $30.
While we waited, two women who had come in after us kept staring at us, mostly at Dinah. San Jose is pretty close to San Francisco. I don't know if Dinah was thinking about that, but she was beginning to wonder what was going on, when one of the women explained she'd overheard a Unix reference, and noticed Dinah's conference badge. Her sister was there for the conference, and her car had been towed under similar circumstances. Anita (the towee) said Avis was faxing their info right away. About that time the supervisor informed me that Budget had said in effect that their customers were of less value than camel dung, and why were we bothering them?
At this point, instead of making sure who she was dealing with (I had, after all, called her on a pay phone this time) she gave all the information to the person I handed the phone to (the desk lady). Both the desk lady and her supervisor noted, "she's an idiot." I had to disagree. She was merely doing her job - and doing it well. I'm pretty sure her title was Chief Mongo Jackass Supreme For North America.
At this point we'd been there nearly an hour. Anita and Jenne had kindly agreed to wait for us (Jenne had a car there) and give us a lift to the wrecker lot, assuming we ever got done. Jenne went out to put plastic over her car window (which had been busted that day for the removal of her stereo). Wonderful lady that she was, with a fine grasp of the situation, she left a good bit of the glass in the police parking lot when we left. She kept waiting to get busted for breaking and entering, but fortunately the 3 stooges were otherwise occupied, telling each other jokes about funny busts they'd made or how strange their mothers looked when someone asked if these guys were their sons.
The supervisor, despite having gotten everything asked for from Budget, decided it wasn't enough, and we were to go get copies of the paperwork. The desk lady waited until she left, and gave us the release forms anyway. I would have hugged her, but I was afraid of the 3 linebackers playing cop behind the other desk. She said SJPD would pass the information on to the towing company.
"Don't y'all have a dog?"
"Had a doberman. Died last week."
We'd wondered why the dog the sign mentioned had been so quiet (I had voted it was waiting for a chance to surprise us). It's a good thing I hadn't known about Dobie - by this point I was terribly close to just liberating the cars.
After taking all the same information we had just given the dispatcher and the desk lady, Brian cheerfully accepted our gifts of $91 (US), cracked a few jokes, and called another lot where the cars were actually stored (this was news to us) to have someone come lead us there. Jenne explained she knew the area, but Brian insisted this was just as quick, we'd be there in 3 minutes flat, and couldn't get lost this way. He split. (Before going, he admitted no signs had been visible when he had been called to tow the cars.)
Before I left that lovely city in the Valley of Excessive Pollution, I managed to get one of the signs which had NOT been there that morning when I carefully scrutinized the meter. When I go back that way in a couple of months, if the city has not made reparations, I intend to alter the date and time, place it carefully on the pole of the reserved sign for the car parked in the City Manager's spot, and call Consolidated Wrecker.
Leading Dweeb: Miles (Pond Scum) Leading Lady: Dinah (Pond Scum) Angel 1: Desk Lady (SJPD) Angel 2: Jenne (Apple Computer) Angel 3: Anita (Tenon Intersystems) Bureaucrat: Supervisory Cop (SJPD) 3 Stooges: SJPD extras Good Cop: Tall Guy with 3 stripes (SJPD) Evil Detective: Danno + 100 pounds of fat (SJPD) Festering Sore: Maron (Budget Customer Disservice) Key Grip: Brian (Consolidated Wrecker) Other Toe Personnel: Larry, Daryl & Daryl (Consolidated Wrecker)
Last updated: 1 Apr 1994
Copyright 1992, 1994 Miles O'Neal, Austin, TX. All rights reserved.
This article may be freely distributed via computer network or other electronic media, or printed out from such media, for personal use only. Any non-personal (ie, commercial) use of this article voids the warranty which prevents my wasting hundreds, if not thousands, of yours and my dollars in lawsuits. Commercial copy permission may be granted if, in the author's sole opinion, other usage of this article is for purposes the author holds near and dear to his heart and/or wallet. For such permission, contact the author via email at roadkills.r.us@XYZZY.gmail.com [remove the "XYZZY." to make things work!] or via mail at the address below. Appearing in person at the author's residence during daylight hours for a personal audience is also permitted, provided no weapons are brought along. This notice contains no MSG, sugar, artificial sweeteners, sunlight, air, or other known carcinogenic substances or energy forms.1705 Oak Forest / Round Rock, TX / 78681-1514 / USA
This copyright may be freely used, distributed and modified subject to the conditions noted above in the preceeding paragraph. Miles O'Neal <roadkills.r.us@XYZZY.gmail.com> [remove the "XYZZY." to make things work!] c/o RNN / 1705 Oak Forest Dr / Round Rock, TX / 78681-1514