So on Monday, the front page of the Washington Post Local had an article about a woman whose car was towed and temporarily lost by DC Public Works. It was accompanied by the following dramatic photo:
Anguish Via Washington Post
My response? Shrug. Look, this happened to me for the 5000th time YESTERDAY. And who can forget the Great Corolla Caper of 2010? I don’t know, maybe I am just worn down by the system, but having DC Public Works move your car and lose it seems like a rite of passage for a DC resident. For those who are uninitiated, here’s what happens:
- You park your car in the morning, happy that you snagged such a clutch spot. As a newer DC resident, you do not yet view this parking serendipity with the necessary level of suspicion. Rookie mistake.
- You come out to retrieve something from your car and find that your car has vanished. Yes, vanished. You think your car was stolen (it wasn’t).
- If you have violated a signed law, you probably kick the sign pole, curse the heavens then call the number listed (mistake). 90% of the time this number is just the DMV number. You will be lead through a labyrinthine mess of numbers, transfers and menus. Save your effort, just call 202-541-6083. All DC tows, regardless of reason, redirect there. Trust.
- If there is no sign, take a deep breath, your car has been “courtesy towed.” Upside, you didn’t get a ticket (yet). Downside, the likelihood of DC locating your car has automatically fallen by 50%.
- In either case, you will be told conflicting information about your car’s whereabouts. Breathe. The best advice I can give here is as follows: if your car is ticketed and towed during peak driving times, they will likely tow it to some other street. They don’t want to drive to the impound lot during rush hour. During this time, you have a 1/25 chance of them actually knowing where it is. I would probably wait a couple hours and then call back. By then, they usually have towed it to a lot
- If its courtesy towed, just keep calling until you get an answer. Courtesy tows never go to the lot, you’ve got to find them on the streets.
- If it is in the impound lot, pick it up ASAP. If not, you run the risk of them towing it to Blue Plains. This is a massive hassle, so just leave work and pick it up. The internet gives conflicting hours, but the sign on the 15th Street NE lot door says 8-6:30, I would go with that.
- After you finally get your car, you will be told that the confusion was somehow your fault. I have seen this happen multiple times. Accusations that you got your license plate wrong, your car color wrong etc. Honestly, don’t argue. You will never win and it will put you in a lousier mood when you find out you have a $100 towing fee in addition to the ticket. Just go home
It’s a sad story, but it’s reality. Lexus lady was just another person initiated into the system. And yes, I feel for her (save the handicapped element). However, rather than a headline, what these stories should warrant should be a letter to City Council on fixing this mess. Cars get moved, they get lost in the system and the customer gets blamed. The Great Corolla Caper of 2010 was a courtesy tow in which I only found the car through pure luck. Sadly it seems to be the rule, not the exception.
Happy Car Free Day!