Towing cars can be a power trip

Jed Herrington and Jed Herrington

Tow companies are a useful necessity when cleaning up the aftermath of automobile accidents or when giving broken down vehicles a lift. However, many instances that call for their intervention show that they are nothing more than legalized car thieves.

One of my classmates entered East Hall yesterday afternoon, frazzled by a previous event of the day. She began to relay a story of being towed by one of the local wrecking companies from a spot that she used for a very short amount of time.

The location that she left her car at was marked with a warning sign from the tow company; a clear indication that she was committing an infraction in a designated lot. The towing itself wasn’t the source of frustration. The problem occurred when she attempted to retrieve her car with the $60 maximum fee expressed by the sign above where she parked.

The worker for the towing company told her the advertised maximum figure was only imposed when drivers “caught” employees of the company in the removal process of the vehicle. He told her she needed to supply $97 cash to leave with her car. Storage had not yet occurred.

I had a similar experience two years ago in Chicago, when I parked across the street from my cousin’s apartment complex. You need a pass to park in their garage, and even though I parked my car in a loading zone across the street from the main entrance (it was the only space for at least five blocks), it was commonplace at that particular complex for someone to flip on the hazard lights, run in the building, acquire a pass and take the car in. As soon as I completed that process (which took about six minutes), I returned to the location to find my car gone. Obviously, the city had trucks swarming the streets with orders to snatch up cars before drivers would notice.

My car was imprisoned by the city in an underground hell off of Wacker Drive. Tow trucks were flying in an out of the place, bringing new automobiles every minute. Hundreds of vehicles were lined in rows across a large lot. A Japanese couple was trying to retrieve their sedan, but was treated rudely for their broken English. I had to pay $167 for the two hours my Subaru was held.

Who produces these rates that many people cannot afford? Does it really matter in the grand scheme of society if you run in a building and leave your car in a vacant spot for a couple of minutes? As long as nobody is being blocked from urgent business, why do cars get whisked away so quickly without common courtesy of waiting at least fifteen minutes?

What about bank or government parking lots at night? The spots are empty, but when residents and visitors flock to downtown Bowling Green on an extremely busy night, they have to spend a good chunk of their night driving around and/or walking five blocks to the downtown area from a side street. Many parking lots west of Main Street are vacant and no one needs to use them at midnight, but you will still get towed for parking there.

Citizens who report these parking infractions out of anger stemming from not being able to access a space close to their home or business need to remember that they might be towed sometime in the future. Employees of the towing companies who take their jobs too seriously need to step back and ask themselves why they continue to inhale oxygen to sustain their lives, if it is to be spent spiting others with resent for their own stagnation.

The same sentiment applies to overzealous traffic workers. Does the parking ticket guy high-five the towing guy at the end of the day while talking about their jobs? “Man, I’m sure glad the University got all of their parking money, today. There were about five separate times where I sat by the meter waiting for it to expire. Nobody’s gonna get away with sitting in a spot for 10 freeloadin’ minutes on my watch!”

Yeah, somebody’s got to do it and there are plenty of good-hearted workers bringing in the fines, but their willingness to partake in such annoying employment straddles comparison to telemarketers, but exceeds their consequences by further supplying validity to an industry that causes more harm than good.

We need the towing companies to transport wrecked and damaged vehicles so that roads and highways are clear and accessible. What we don’t need is ridiculous charges that don’t match the amount of work done and a the fear that, whenever the City, University or towing company itself is in need of funds, they are driving around scoping the streets for a potential transportation device to hold for ransom.

E-mail Jed with comments at [email protected].