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"Parking Wars" Reinforces Why I Dislike Tow Truck Drivers

Published 5/3/08 (Modified 3/9/11)
By MoneyBlueBook

Whenever I see a predatory tow truck driver or a parking meter maid strolling by, I just want to roll down my window quickly and yell out - "Hey you! Go (*bleep*) yourself you (*bleep bleep*)!"

As you can tell, I am not too fond of tow truck drivers. My disdain also carries over to others in the parking profession, including but not limited to opportunistic car booters and sneaky meter maids who dart from car to car with their little hand held tri-corder gadgets, tucking tickets under windshield wipers and escaping before the driver comes back and catches them in the act. While these parking ticketers bug me somewhat, they don't irritate me as much as tow truck drivers. Perhaps it's because parking ticket fines are usually not as financially hefty or as personally offensive as getting your car manhandled and forcibly hauled away by a stranger. Most of the time, I see tow truck drivers as nothing but conniving, predatory, and opportunistic vultures who feast on the vulnerable and distracted plight of unsuspecting drivers.

Just Watching Others Get Their Cars Towed In Their Absence Irritates Me

A few years ago I lived near a shopping center located next to a major Metro subway station. Every morning as I walked to the station to take the train to work, I witnessed the daily spectacle of tow truck sharks preying on those who failed to notice the no parking warning signs for non patrons. At the start of every morning rush, like clockwork precision, several red tow trucks would park themselves in partially hidden locations throughout the shopping center parking lot, embed themselves among the other cars, and lie in wait for subway commuters to improperly park their cars and walk away. Oftentimes as I walked by their tow trucks, I could see the drivers eating their breakfast sandwiches behind the steering wheel as they waited. As soon as the commuters had walked out of sight and demonstrated that they weren't parking their cars so they could shop at a plaza store, the tow trucks would take turns swooping in, jacking up each vehicle one by one, and speeding away with their precious cargo like a thief in the night - racking up an instant $150 towing fee for each car, plus an extra $25 per day service charge for the cost of daily impounding. What a lucrative but conniving racket.

The livelihood of tow truck drivers is based on their ability to successfully hide in the bushes with their getaway vehicles and lie in wait for hapless drivers to make a parking mistake or slip up. In their eyes, a breach is a breach - if you park past a certain white line, that means you're going to get towed - there's little mercy. When that happens, it's almost a given that at least one tow truck vulture will pop out from the shadows and holler "Gotcha!" as he gleefully impounds your vehicle with cranes and hauls it away to the junkyard. I don't really care much for their self righteous claims that they are simply doing their jobs. They purport to follow the law and abide by no parking signs, but the reality is that oftentimes these warnings signs are not always sufficiently clear, evident, or easily understandable. The whole towing business is absolutely ripe for unchecked, unaccountable, and abusive practices.

A&E's Parking Wars Reality Television Show Tries To Humanize The Entertaining Lives Of Tow Truck Drivers, Car Booters, and Meter Maids - But They Still Come Off As Jerks, Albeit Funny Jerks

I guess the world of reality TV shows has finally come down to this - an entire show devoted to the people we all love to hate. Yes, they get yelled at, cursed at, bird flipped, and harassed, but apparently they have feelings too as well as stories to tell. The A&E Channel has released a not-so-new anymore show called Parking Wars that follows the daily working lives of parking meter maids, tow truck drivers, and grunts who make a living from slapping indestructible boots onto vehicle wheels. For those who've always wanted to know what it's like to work on the seedy side of the parking business, this show does a good job of telling it like it is - through the daily lenses of the ticketers and the towers.

While the show infuses the parking meter maids and tow truck drivers with some personality and offers a glimpse into their gritty service with a smile lifestyle, they still come off as predatory and opportunistic hounds who howl with delight when they successfully snag and trap a potential victim - a person who probably was simply at the wrong spot at the wrong time. It's clear these vultures get a kick from handing out tickets and I'm sure they feel a rush of superior adrenaline when they get to flex their powerful authority by taking away some one's valuable vehicular possession. Street signs confusing or yellow no parking lines not easily apparent? Tough luck! Ticket and tow, and ask questions later - for they are the law. After all, what is the ordinary layperson going to do - spend thousands of hopeless dollars and file a lawsuit over a $200 towing charge or a $300 booted car fee?

In an episode of Parking Wars, the camera trailed one particular meter maid as she ducked behind a building corner and waited for the right opportunity to pounce - taking a few moments to bask in the inquisitive glory of the A&E camera crew. It was 3:55 p.m. on a weekday and she was waiting near a downtown city street that was close to rush hour time. According to warning signs, street parking was prohibited at the start of rush hour, designated at 4:00 p.m. The parking girl chatted away about how much of a rush she got from ticketing people and the excitement of giving them out. As soon as her watch ticked 4:00 p.m., she eagerly dashed out to begin her ticketing raid, working her way from one side of the street and down the row of parked cars that were now illegally parked on the street. In the distance the camera crew could see a few worried drivers run towards their vehicles, trying to beat the parking violation clock. Some successfully ducked into their vehicles and drove off before their cars were ticketed while others beat it only by a few minutes. One driver who received a ticket only a few seconds before he arrived back protested. However, the parking meter maid was unrelenting and refused to rescind tickets already written.

In one case we had two individuals who verbally protested their ticket concerns to the meter maid over a broken and easily missed no parking sign that was literally dangling upside down. However, their complaints fell on deaf ears as the quota driven ticketing attendant offered no sympathy. Those drivers who parked in the spot guarded by the upside down, broken sign perhaps had a very legitimate lack of proper notice defense. A reasonable driver would not have been able to read the signs as they may not have been readily apparent to a reasonable person. I recently experienced a similar parking ticket scenario. I received a small parking ticket in a neighborhood where there were no visible signs denoting the side street I was parked on as restricted parking. While there were signs elsewhere, there were none readily apparent where I had parked. Luckily I had my digital camera on me at the time, which I used to take photographs of my parked vehicle and the surrounding signs and street shots to prove my case. However, other people are not always as fortunate and most are at the authoritative whims and mercy of parking ticketers.

It's A Rude And Dirty Job But Somebody Has To Do It... I Suppose

Yes they are financial predators that profit from the absent-mindedness of hapless drivers but I suppose they do serve a legitimate societal purpose. None of them are ever going to win a popularity contest but on some level I suppose they are just dutifully doing their job. After all, some do come to our rescue and save drivers who are stuck in a ditch or have a flat tire on the side of the road, and I'm sure some do a great job of clearing away road blockages and making our highways and local streets more passable. A tow truck did come to my rescue when I spun off the icy highway and into a ditch in upstate New York during one particularly bad winter storm last year. Occasionally, commendable credit is due.

But my biggest concern with the parking authority is that oftentimes, drivers are powerless to protect themselves against improper tows, unfair tickets, or even against scrape and scratch damages to our vehicles caused by improper and negligent towing techniques. Oftentimes it's simply your word against theirs. I suppose the only real solution is to just stay out of their way if possible. Follow street signs to the letter, timely feed the meters, and don't park in a spot if you have any doubts. That way, none of us will ever have to learn our parking lessons the hard way and find ourselves as entertaining sideshow victims on Parking Wars.

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