What I really wanted to title this was, “The Criminal Enterprise That Is Our Parking System And I Hope Every Party Involved Is Thrown In Jail And Tortured For An Eternity”, but I figured that’d be a little too on the nose. Now normally I’m prone to writing, what you might call, fluffier pieces. I leave the more serious stuff to the professionals. But if I were to leave a kind of legacy behind me, it’d be the dismantling and punishment of an albeit necessary system, run a muck.
Full disclosure. I’m slightly biased. I’ve been ticketed. I’ve been towed. I’ve been debased as a human being for what amounts to an infraction of inches. I’ve visited a prison (the place they have you pick up your car). Lemme tell you, it’s exactly what being within prison walls would feel. A close approximation, anyway. Only it feels like you’re arresting yourself when you enter. And you’re accompanied by this inescapable feeling you may inadvertently end up owing more than you did when you walked in. In the same way one overlooks the directives of a No Parking sign and ends up there.
The neighborhood sucked, too. None too inviting. Now picture this, you’re by yourself, trapped, in a post-apocalyptic industrial area somewhere where streets have no signs, and at any given moment, one’s tire could puncture from some rogue screw or nail rattling around the roads. I will admit. Or at least leave the light on. This could be my entitlement run wild. I’ve engaged in obscene, taunting, very public, in the middle of the street, screaming matches with several soulless ghouls employed by this transit authority.
What red-blooded American worth their salt hasn’t?
And speaking of red-blooded Americans, I also moonlight as a superhero of sorts, sans the cape, partly in my own mind, to save from time to time, the working class denizens of this fine city, warning them when I see them in clear violation, to move their vehicles immediately. Some take their chances. But to those who favorably respond to my superpowers and move their vulnerable automobiles, may they live another day free from the clutches of this, dare I say it, evil empire.
Let me back it up a few sentences. When I said “move their vehicles immediately.” Why do I say immediately? Because I’ve seen, with me own two Ray Ban tinted eyes, in fact I have video of this, of a tow truck parked on one side of the street, and the Miami Parking Authority parked on the other. Pointed in opposite directions, facing each other. This, outside a church. Almost Shakespearean, the landscape. As if they were star-crossed lovers, only uniting when some unsuspecting vehicle’s time is up.
Then, the sweet release from their mobile chambers. Ready to play a one-sided, gleeful game of tag team against us, the unsuspecting, naive public. Their engines while idling hum a devil’s tune under the shade of some city planted palms. So very sneaky-like, but out in the open. Dark sunglasses hiding those demonic, governmental eyes silently judging us. Holes in their souls the size of snowballs.
Did you know your car’s bumper can’t stick out past the No Parking sign?
Not the sign, no. It mustn’t trespass the sign’s metal pole itself. No give on this. None. Check it. Not only are you ticketed, but now your car is towed, you have to find a way to get to the impound, you better have your paperwork in order, then you gotta pay them for towing your car, and if you don’t have the money then your car is jailed and charged everyday ‘til you do, all the while they expect you not to burn down their legally-suspect place of employment with the same glee they take our money with.
This brings up what may be one of the most important questions to ask in our time. Whatever happened to issuing warnings? Warnings, dammit! Keep track of ‘em in some database. And then yes, if someone’s abused their stern talking to’s, then I encourage you, go ham, ticket and tow. Fill up that snowball sized hole in your soul with all the infractions and violations you can fit in a day.
Here’s where things get real dicey with me. The actual paying for parking. If ever a scam was a foot, this is the kicker. When I have work at a certain location, these sessions are scheduled like say Noon to 4 pm. That’s 4 hours. That’s already 12 bucks (which is crazy to begin with). But I have to enter this business a few minutes before. And when my four hours are up, there’s still a good few minutes before I leave the building. There’s no system in place for the pedestrian to account for this.
Of course, you may ask, “Just account for the difference.” Well, you’re gross. Kidding. Kinda. Because I do. I do account for it. But check it. That initial 4 hours now turns it into 4 and a half hours which they then charge you the full 15 dollars max parking fee. Rinse, wash, repeat every week and those leftovers begin to pile up. Like me, you may not have that extra cash to throw around. It’s kinda crazy what we pay for an afternoon’s parking is basically half a tank of gas.
Okay. Since these ticketing, towing parking parasites descend upon your vehicle the second your time runs out, why aren’t you granted a grace period? A little common decency. I think it should work both way. I mean, what happens when whatever session I was scheduled for ends early and there’s a whole two hours left on my clock? Shouldn’t I be refunded for that? It’s these dribbles and drabs that add up. Our dribbles and drabs. Like the wishing well coins in The Goonies, “I’m taking mine back!” I wish. But I can’t. Those coins are purposed to line the pockets of this powerful unelected parking hierarchy who rule over a baffling, corrupt mountain called Dade County.
The level of stress associated with parking goes way beyond what a simple, daily pedestrian activity like this should induce. Case in point, whenever my wife parks somewhere in the city, she sends a photo to my phone asking me if there’s anything she’s done that may bring a certain evil down on her car. I’m not kidding. A magical city you’ve lived all your life, now a minefield of financially crushing possibilities engineered to take you car and your money. And when we speak of ancient evil, these parking apps themselves are ripe for exorcism. And explanation. Especially if you’re of a certain age.
My Mom’s of the “quarters generation”.
I remember it well. You know what I don’t remember well? Cops givin’ a crap that your parking meter is up because there’s plenty of spaces around. You could even haggle with them. But now, these apps. Park By Phone. Park Mobile. Not only are there two separate apps you must use in this city, which is odd enough, but if you’re like my Mom, you bypass the whole ordeal. Instead of nearly having a stroke figuring out how to park Downtown for a little light shopping, she’d rather drive to stores much, much further away, where they still respect the old, more humane way of doing things. You know, Broward!
Now hitting even closer to home, is my home. The parking in front of my home. I was issued a citation for having my car’s front left tire over the line next to me. Thing is, it was my wife’s car in that next spot. Literally in front of our place. If the individual who wrote the ticket check both our plates, they would’ve known that we were married and this is our crib. If they did figure all this out, and still ticketed me, that’s some evil on a whole ‘nother level.
Think of it. Even if they just checked my plate and gave me the ticket knowing I lived a couple knocks on a window away, this is still a form of evil I can’t fathom. Can you imagine let’s say thirty years ago, would this have ever happened? Oh how I long for those years before these cartels strong armed their way into our parking system. By the way, the cost of that ticket, about $50 (that’s a tank of gas!).
I’ll leave you with one more example before I close this out.
And it’s why my Dad will always remain on a level of badass the likes of which haven’t been seen since Patrick Swayze in Roadhouse. One day my Dad (who actually looks more like Tom Selleck from Magnum P.I.) and I pulled up into an empty parking lot. No cars in sight. In front of us, across the street, a cooking school. We innocently assumed where we parked was where we were suppose to park.
Can’t remember why we were where we were, but when we came out of the building our car was gone. My Dad’s car. A black Crown Victoria LTD. A standard issue car cops used. The irony. Well, apparently there was some faded yellow line that indicated we couldn’t park there. I think a half a foot over, we would’ve been good. We then started looking for a sign, found a sign, some ways down, stating a tow truck company’s name. Anchor Towing. A sinister people. A sinister place. A sinister thing.
After arriving at the tow truck company’s office (had to have been a taxi there was no Uber) and having an increasingly heated difference of opinions between us and the owners, my Dad on a dime, turns and walks out of the trailer without saying a word. Those who remained didn’t move. We were all puzzled. Then through the trailer window we can all hear a chain link fence rattling. It was being scaled. Lo and behold, we all fumble out of the trailer, and there’s my Dad defying the bullshit of what’s occurred and getting his damn car back his way.
Unfortunately, there was a cop on site so my Dad was politely forced to make his way back on the ground. Ironically, justice averted. We had to pay. Dad did. It wasn’t much. It almost never is when these things happen. But it wasn’t about the money. It was about the inhumanity of what went down. Something so personal as someone’s car, stolen by legal means, thrown behind a tall locked fence, and ransomed at an inflated cost. My Dad did all a man can do when pitted against a special kind of evil like Anchor Towing. And I’ll forever love him for a million reasons, but especially this one.
Is this probing, hard-hitting journalism? No it is not. Is our Miami Parking Authority a criminal enterprise? Perhaps. Perhaps, it is. Perhaps I’ll take two to the head when I enter my car while they needle drop the Rolling Stones’ “Gimme Shelter”. One thing is clear, before pulling into that empty spot, take a look all around you. They may be watching. Triple check the available signs. Obsessively make sure your car’s bumper doesn’t betray some invisible line. And always have a plan in place in case the transpo cartel move in on your car and cost you your life.
I guess it’s not likely they’ll murder you. Take that with a grain of salt. And Parking Wars, that show that only plays on hotel room TVs, may cut the more violent parts out. But really though, in one fell swoop, they can get you for like a quarter of your rent. And for those living check to check, that’s one more hustle you gotta figure out to cover that inflated cost. Think about that. Now look! I see one of them now! (rolling down window) “Demons! You (dramatic pause) fiends! The whole lot of you!” (Rolling window up). And to the rest of you transit sumbitches all I can say is, “Get a life, will ya!”