A different kind of panic.

20 Jun

To be sure, there are many situations that would cause a rural person to panic: a run on Velveeta at the grocery store, rationing of Budweiser, code inspectors, a NASCAR drivers’ strike…

Oh wait, I said rural, not redneck. Nevermind. (And quick – let’s give my Facebook friends their contributing editor credit for coming up with those examples before you lynch me!)

Redneck or Rural, whatever the case, these people are safe from the type of panic that over-took me tonight… A panic that only occurs in a city… A panic that can only come from not being able to find your car.

I need this. Seriously.

Let me back up. It’s not UNCOMMON to forget where I’ve parked my car. There is a combination of factors at play: a) I rarely drive it, b) I live in a popular neighborhood where street parking is a competition, c) I rarely park in the same place twice.

I usually have to pause and think about where I left my car before I set out to retrieve it, and I sometimes get stomach flutters when it’s not where I expect it to be. But I’m usually able to calm them quickly when I smack my forehead and realize I’m two-spaces behind the last place I actually left it. (Are you confused yet?)

Thank goodness I don’t drive drunk. Not only would that be a bad thing to do, but it would also expand the margin of error exponentially. I would have to treat cars like disposable diapers.

Anyway, imagine my confusion tonight, when I set out to where I (thought I) had left my car Saturday after Alan’s sister’s baby shower. I walked there confidently, expecting to find my car where I left it. But then, it wasn’t there. I walked a block in either direction on the same street, thinking maybe I just hadn’t calibrated my internal compass properly. No luck.

I began canvassing the area, spiraling out from the initial location to ensure I didn’t miss a block, even though I was a) pretty sure I was correct about the actual location, and b) quite convinced I hadn’t parked on a one-way street.

Interestingly, I found myself clutching my keys and repeatedly pressing the alarm button, as if my car was KITT and would drive itself up to me. It didn’t. (I would like a refund, please.)

In case you think I’m over-stating the level of panic, let me throw some stats at you (because I hear numbers tell the story):

  • Amount of time spent searching: 75 minutes
  • Distance walked searching: 3.52 miles

I actually logged this as a workout. That's how I know the mileage, bitchez.

Seriously. Have you ever walked 3.5 miles looking for your car? I doubt it. Unless you are a stoner. Or live in my neighborhood. Otherwise, you’re probably lying.

Back to me. As I mentioned before, I’ve definitely had to search for my car before. But never this long, and especially never when I was THIS certain I knew its original location. At some point during my search, I began to get a queasy feeling of acceptance: my car had either been towed or stolen.

I weighed the two scenarios. Although my car is a 2006, it only has 22,000 miles on it (I mentioned that I rarely drive, right?), meaning that there’s no way I would begin to get its actual worth in an insurance settlement if it was, in fact, stolen. I sent out a little prayer to the universe: Please Lucky Number 21, don’t let my car be stolen!

Then I thought about it being towed. Is my little car wearing a boot right now? Will I have to take a bus to the ghetto to retrieve my sweet little vehicle? I imagined  my car turning tricks for gas, coming back to me all streetwise — A Changed Vehicle. I shuddered.

Finally, when it became clear that my car was not KITT and the panic button my key chain didn’t activate some sort of avalanche beacon, I headed home. I tried to call the phone number on the “If your car has been towed” signs in the neighborhood (3-1-1, for the record), but was put on hold then disconnected. Awesome service, DC government!

When I got back to my condo, I went online and entered my tag into DC’s “Have I Been Towed?” website. Sure as shit — it came back that my car had been towed three blocks from where I had parked it due to street cleaning today.

[As a side note: I have lived in DC for 15 years. I have gotten my fair number of parking tickets from not moving my car on street cleaning day. I didn’t realize that towing was an option. And I believe it generally ISN’T the standard option, unless some neighbor is a real bitch-squealer and calls to request a tow. So I find it important to note that I parked next to the Scottish Rite, and I’m pretty sure they’re probably a wee bit anal about having a nice clean street next to their DaVinchi Code Temple. It mind of makes me want to encourage drunk people stumbling home down 16th Street to relieve themselves on the big brass door of said Temple.]

I digress. Coordinates in hand, I struck out on foot (again) and had a sweet reunion with my car. I caressed it’s leather seats and removed a wad of paper from under my windshield wiper, an assortment of tickets adding up to $130.

In the scheme of things, that’s not much considering the potential cost of replacement, had it been stolen. Besides, that money will pay a live human to take my call the next time my car disappears.

And if they don’t? Well, I figure $130 is probably the going rate to clean up a human-sized dump left on a meter maid’s car.

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2 Responses to “A different kind of panic.”

  1. Barbara June 21, 2011 at 7:15 am #

    Wait, so they towed your car three blocks, and not to an impound lot? Wow, DC doesn’t know how to really make their money, do they? In Richmond, if you’re towed, you go to some remote parking lot that’s 30+ minutes outside of the city and always seem to arrive 10 minutes after they’ve “closed” for the day, so you not only have to make arrangements to come back out a second time, but you pay the towing fee, AND the overnight $150+ fee. You lucked out!

    On a side note, you logged a walk that was longer than the 5K 🙂 Kudos!

    • pithypants June 21, 2011 at 8:21 pm #

      I assumed it would be in an impound lot, so to a certain extent I’m stoked that it was only three blocks away. But the douchebags towed it to a metered space where it proceeded to collect tickets for the rest of the day. So they’re actually kind of smart on the revenue front — lazy in terms of mileage, then flag the cars for tickets all day long. Grrrr.

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