1st Guest Blog: "The Tow"

Sunday, October 14, 2012 | 0 Comment(s)

My first guest blogger.  What fun.  What an honor.  Very exciting.

Today I am more than pleased to introduce to you all my friend Charlotte (Char char.  Pictured below with Grover, training for the uber-competitive 'Get in the Box' competition. )

Char is not only one of the people in my neighborhood (the coffee-side manager of the cafe/bar i spend a good percentage of my waking hours), but also an exquisite human being, characterized by her unbridled zest for life and her inability to interact in an inauthentic way towards fellow human being.  A opal in the rough.  A rara avis. [to follow her tubmlr (whatever that is) go to: ]

But, occasionally, even us super-heroes of upbeatedness have bad days.  No, more, accurately, we have days when stepping in road-kill would be an emotional improvement.  This is Char's story of such a day: 

The Tow; (abridged)

It was Wednesday, October 3, 2012. I woke up at 4:55AM, snoozed for 3 cycles of 10 minutes, and then drove down the hill to work, from Shutesbury to Amherst, Mass. Between the hours of 6AM to 1PM it was a pretty regular day. I made coffee, charmed customers, and talked to Lisa, my seasoned co-worker, about relationships. After my shift behind the counter ended, I placed an order, made some calls, and did other officey-things even though I actually don't have an office. For some reason I can't remember eating lunch, which is strange, because I most always eat lunch. Perhaps, in the same way I uncharacteristically parked my car that day, I also uncharacteristically forgot to pack a lunch.

At around 3:15 PM, I walked to Gaylord Street, where I had parked my car, in the dark, back at 6AM. I didn't see my car anywhere. For anyone who has yet to experience the feeling of returning to where you think your car should be, and it not being there, prepare yourself. For me, it was a mixture of joy, confusion, and disgust. At this point in the day, I was pretty tired and pretty spaced out. Working for me means standing for about 9 hours without sitting down. And without lunch in my system at this point, only breakfast, which was probably just 2 pieces of toast, I couldn't even remember if I had parked on Gaylord that morning. Though where else I could have parked, I had no idea.

I called Ben. Ben lived in the house at the north end of Gaylord Street. I figured he would know whose driveway I may or may not have been blocking. Which was the only thing I could think I could have possibly done to warrant a tow. Ben said the driveway I described to him was the property of the house he lived in, so if someone called in the tow, it could have been an owner of one of the vehicles parked there. He suggested calling the police, to see if they had a record of the tow. Or who knows, he said, maybe it was stolen? And if that was the case, I'd probably want to report it.

I didn't know the phone number for the Amherst Police, and I don't have internet on my phone, so I decided to walk to the station. On the short walk over there I joyously fantasized about what I would do if my car had in fact, been stolen. There were a lot of valuable goods in the car. Costumes for a dance performance at Mt. Holyoke College next month, choreographed by a very prominent choreographer. My laptop. An original artwork intended to be a wedding gift for my co-manager, Alex. Despite the preciousness of these items, I felt relief. Nothing but liberation thinking about my car gone missing, and with it, these things. I thought to myself if the car was really gone it would finally be my moment to move to a city where you don't need a car. New York City! San Francisco! I thought if my computer was really gone I'd just move back to the desert in Utah. to the Frontier! where no one uses the internet! I was overjoyed thinking about these New Life Scenarios. The Car Thief was the answer to all my indecision.

When I arrived at the station I went inside and told the sleepy-looking officer that I had gone to the street where I parked my car that morning and it was gone. Were there any records or tows that day? He asked me for the plate number, which I did not have memorized.

Me: I can't get the plate number right now. Can't I just give you the make of the car?

The officer reluctantly went through his computer system, and sure enough, my car had been towed for blocking a driveway.

Me: Really?
Officer: Really.
Me: Well how do I really know that for sure? I mean, what kind of evidence do you have?
Officer: Isn't the fact that there was an officer present evidence enough?
Me: I mean, not really!
Officer: (Silence)
Me: Well, what do I do now?
Officer: The car has been towed to Amherst Towing. Do you know where that is?
Me: No. Can I take a bus there?
Officer: Yes.

He gave me some directions. I thanked him, and walked back to the cafe. I was a little hesitant to go back, as I was pretty worked up, and didn't want to unexpectedly blow up at somebody doing something annoying or wrong. But I really didn't want to have to take the bus to the tow place, and I figured the cafe would be the most likely place to find a ride. There were a few people I knew hanging around, but none of them could help me out. Then, just as I predicted, a customer pulled a totally inappropriate move on me (let's call him the "Old Man Espresso") and after screaming at him "YOU'RE NOT ALLOWED TO TOUCH ME. EVER" I left the shop. On my way out, I texted Jeremy, my summertime BFF, who was in possession of his father's silver Prius at the time:

Hey, do you have any interest in driving me to the tow place?

In the meantime, I walked to the depressing bus stop outside the post office. The kiosk is made of dirty plastic, the sidewalk is shaded, and the landscaping in and around it looks like a landfill. I see the "North Amherst" bus arrive, which is the bus the police officer tells me to get on, so I do. I ask the driver if he is going to the "Meadow Street Stop" and he doesn't know what I'm talking about. I tell him I'm trying to get to Amherst Towing and he's never heard of it. Jeremy calls me while I'm talking to the bus driver, and right as the doors are closing I give a yelp to be let off. The doors open again and I step off the bus, while answering the phone.

Me: Hello.?
Jeremy: Hey. Where are you?
Me: Outside the post office.
J: Okay, I'm at Amherst Coffee getting a coffee, but I can come pick you up. Give me 10 minutes.
Me: Okay.

I waited for Jeremy to arrive, bored out of my mind, and also feeling pretty angry for three main reasons: 1) at the expense before me, 2) about the terrible Old Man Espresso incident (he grabbed one of the straps on my backpack and pulled me over towards him) and 3) that the car wasn't stolen, so I was not going to move out of town anytime soon after all.

Jeremy pulled up in the Prius as promised, and I got in.

Jeremy: Okay. I have to be a meeting at UMass at 4.
Me: It's 4:15.
J: I know, I'm already late.
Me: Ok?
J: So here's what we're going to do. You're going to drop me off at UMass. Then you're going to drive the Prius to the tow place and get your car. Then you're going to drive the Prius back to UMass, pick me up, and then we'll go back to the tow place to get your car. Do you know where the tow place is?
Me: No.
J: Ok. Siri, where is Amherst Towing?
Siri: (silence)
Me: Just give me that thing and I will go on Google maps.
J: Fine.
Me: It's not working. I don't know where it is/how to figure it out.

We arrive at the location of Jeremy's meeting. We park.

Jeremy: Do you know how to drive the Prius?
Me: No.
J: Ok. It's really easy. It's like driving an automatic except...
Me: ...I don't think I can do it. It's too much. I am just going to take a nap in the back seat and when your meeting is over we can go get the car. Ok?
J: Ok. Well, if you feel like trying, the manual's in the glove box. I'll leave you the key.
Me: Ok. Bye.

Jeremy leaves and takes his iPhone 5 with him. I look at the clock. It is 4:25. I realize, at that moment, that the tow place probably closes at 5 if it's not closed already. So, if I don't leave immediately to pick it up, it'll probably be trapped there overnight. So some adrenaline kicks in and I move over to the driver seat. I press the Power button and put the car in reverse. I drive around the parking lot to make sure I pretty much know what I'm doing (remember this isn't even Jeremy's car, it is his DAD's car). Once I'm feeling pretty confident, I turn left out of the driveway. I have no idea where I'm going, but for some reason it seems like I should get on 116 North. And luckily I know how to get there from where I am in the labyrinth of UMass. I drive for about 15 minutes without seeing anything promising, and decide to turn off the main road. I call Amherst Coffee while I'm driving.

Me: Can someone Google the number for Amherst Towing and text me the number?
Amherst Coffee employee: Sure, I'll look that right up for you.

They text me the number, I call it and no one answers, but then I'm really not all that surprised. I'm driving past all kinds of picturesque farmland, which on any other day would make me feel proud to live in this part of the state. At this point though all the pumpkins and corn fields and tobacco barns are only sickening me. Where's a fucking Cumberland Farms when you need one? I see a farm stand to my left and figure with any luck there'll probably be a farmer nearby. I parked the Prius in the mud and ran over to the packing shed. There were several burly men loading heavy-looking bags into a truck. I approached one of them to ask for directions. They told me I was not far away. Phew. Siri zero, cabbage farmer one.

I got back in the Prius and drove successfully to Amherst Towing. I approached the building and all the doors were locked. There was a man driving a large truck around in the yard, so I got his attention and he let me in. I would let me in too if I was about to cough up 150 bucks. The inside of this office looked like a set out of the movie Se7en. The last time I had smelled an interior like that was when I was getting my oil changed in Ely, Nevada back in the summer of 2011. (You can smoke inside buildings in Nevada. Especially those with motor oil and alcohol!)

I paid the Amherst Towing guy and removed my car from the gated-junk-car-community. Everything inside of it appeared to be safe and sound. I got back in the Prius and it wouldn't start. I tried everything. I tried holding down the button for long periods of time, short periods of time. I got the manual out, but had no idea what to look up. Just then Alex, the bar manager, texted me: What's going on? Are you okay?
I called him:

Me: Can you help me troubleshoot? I can't start the Prius.

Immediately after I called him Jeremy called, so I hung up on Alex.

Me: Hi. I can't start the Prius.

Jeremy gives me some ideas but none of them work and my brain is essentially non-functioning at this point.

Me: I am just going to drive my car back to UMass and we will come back for the Prius.
J: Ok.

When I arrived at UMass, this time, instead of turning LEFT out of the driveway we turned RIGHT. It turns out if I had turned RIGHT in the first place I would have been at the tow place in under 3 minutes. Oh well. We arrived at the tow place and Jeremy gets out of my car and starts the Prius.

J: Are you sure you had your foot on the brake when you were starting the car?
Me: No I guess it was on the gas. Oops. (Oops!)

Jeremy and I had made plans for later that day, to watch the first presidential debate, and maybe even eat supper.

Me: Do you still want to hang out later?

At this point Jeremy was basically collapsing onto the roof of my car; I guess he had a terrible day too. My eyes were barely open, I'm not sure I could stand up anymore, and my bladder was speaking to me, loudly. Jeremy takes a long time to answer my question.

J: Yes. Let's not do dinner, but we'll watch the debate."
Me: Ok. I'll see you at 8:45.

Jeremy gets in the Prius and I get into my car. I stop at the farmer's market and buy some tiny potatoes. I drive home, eat supper, and then drive back to Amherst, to watch the debates at Jeremy's apartment, since I have no TV and my internet connection may as well be made of tin foil. Jeremy had math homework to do and eventually decided he couldn't focus while I was listening to the debate on his computer. He kicked me out so I went to the bar across the street, since they were screening the festivities. I sat down (I sat down!) and ordered some chocolate cake. I needed it. Badly. Luckily due to my status as a service industry worker in the Town of Amherst, the cake was free and perhaps more importantly, delicious. I could barely hear the debate but it didn't matter. Exhausted, I finished the cake and drove home.

If this telling were unabridged, it would include further details about the incident, such as:

1) What it was like when I later met the guy who had my car towed (he was super nice, but not very attractive and I am a S/W/F—so this isn’t the story of how I met my future husband).

2) What it was like when I met with Claire McGinnis, the Treasurer/Collector for the town of Amherst to give her a piece of my mind (she wouldn't even let me in her cubicle).

3) What it feels like to pay $200 for an honest mistake when I don't even make $200 in one day.

Stay tuned?

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