Monday, September 08, 2008

Park yer carcass

Anybody who lives in a major city will no doubt have endless complaints about a lot of things, from crowds to violence to panhandlers to noise to having their front porch used as a toilet even though they pay as much rent as Warren Buffett earns in interest every month.

And yeah, as a San Franciscan, I can tell you stories about all of those things, and I have the dried shit in the tread of my Chuck Taylors to prove it.

But the one thing that really chaps my ass about living in a city, and this one in particular, is the parking situation. In case you don't live here or nobody has explained it to you, it just plain sucks ass.

First of all, it's a small city area-wise, with a lot of people crammed into it, and despite our California Liberal reputation of being all greenified and all that, way too many of those people have big gigantic stupid gas-pissing SUVs and such, taking up way too much room. So parking is at a premium.

The commercial areas are all dotted with parking meters and overpriced hourly lots, and that's fine. The city gets a shitload of revenue from the meters (mostly when they're expired and the Parking Nazis get to write the tickets they so love to write), and the unknown tycoons who own the lots and garages can likely afford their own private helipads. But whatever. The problem is the residential areas, where I live in my little Victorian flat with my two overindulged and overly furry feline roommates. Yeah that sounded pretty gay. Get over it.

Anyway, here's the thing: there aren't usually meters in the residential areas (yet), but there are inexplicable red zones everywhere, and you can't park in those without costing yourself so much money that I'm embarrassed to admit I know the amount. And you can't park ANYWHERE for more than 2 hours without getting a ticket. I think it's fifty bucks but it's always going up so I'm not sure of the current ripoff amount. To bypass this IF you're a resident, you can buy an annual permit sticker for the neighborhood you live in, for some significant coin. So far; so good -- it's hard enough to even FIND a parking space around here (and I have a tiny car), so if it weren't for the permit requirement, it would be IMPOSSIBLE, so I'm willing to pay for that. But the whole thing is really a racket, so it gets much more complicated. See, every street has alternating days on which you can't park there because of 'street cleaning'. Now, I've lived here for well over 20 years and I've never seen a street that was actually 'clean', but they do have these trucks that come by and swirl the crap around a bit, once a week on each side of the street. If you're parked there on that day, you get a ticket. Cha-ching. But am I complaining about that? Not this time. Not even when they randomly and without notice, change the days on which said 'cleaning' is to occur, putting up new signs here and there but not really making much noise about it so that inevitably they can ticket the folks who were too busy LIVING THEIR FUCKING LIVES to notice the slight sign change. Trust me when I tell you that the whole 'street cleaning' racket makes this city a TON of Benjamins every month, from all the folks who forget to move their damn car so the truck that swirls the crap has to drive around their parked vehicle, even if the 'street cleaning sign' had been quietly changed the night before. Yes, it's true; I've seen it. Hell, I've PAID it. Don't get me started...

But no, this blog posting isn't even about THAT particular travesty. No, it's about a certain city ordinance that one has to find out about the hard way. It seems that, regardless of the fact that you pay annually for a permit to park in your own neighborhood, and even if you carefully observe the sleight-of-hand magic they call 'street cleaning', they have an ordinance to make sure they get you anyway, no matter what you do. I think it's called the 'We're The Government So Go Fuck Yourself' ordinance. What it says is that if your car is parked anywhere, permit or not, for a minute past 72 consecutive hours, they can tow your car away and you have to pay not only an $80 ticket but right around TWO HUNDRED a day in storage fees to the tow yard. Yep. And this is assuming that you actually know you've been towed, since many of us city-dwellers walk or take public transportation and don't drive our cars every day, so -- you guessed it -- it can take a few days before you discover your car missing. So you frantically call the cops, not sure whether you prefer it was towed or stolen -- because nobody tells you. That's right; they take your shit and then don't even tell you about it. Like a week and a half later you get something in the mail saying your car was towed, but what good is that? By then you owe your life savings to the tow yard, so you'd better hope you made the discovery already.

This means, of course, that if you want to, say, fly somewhere on vacation for a few days, you have to be sure and have a friend agree to move your car for you. This means you have to be the kind of person who would do such a thing to their friend, knowing it will mean they have to spend a third of their day trying to find an available space -- one that won't conflict with any 'street cleaning' days while you're gone, or be out of the range of your permit that only covers a few blocks in either direction. And Gawd help them if you've got a car that's bigger than mine, because I can park the little fucker in a lot of places that other vehicles can't (which is one of the reasons I have it).

Anyway, so yeah, I got effin' towed. Altogether it cost me close to 500 smackers. And I can't even kill anybody, though I want to very badly.

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