This morning, walking home from breakfast at the Diner, Alan and I heard an odd noise. The streets were fairly deserted, yet – as an SUV approached us from a quiet side street – it made a distinctive thud-crack sound, as if it had run over a metal plate in the road.
We looked over just in time to see the driver raise her hand to her mouth in an expression that made it clear something bad had, in fact, just happened. It was odd though – she was the only person on the street, and she was going a sluggish 10 mph. So we couldn’t imagine what damage had just occurred…
Until she pulled over and we saw the car parallel-parked at the front of the line near the stop sign. Its bumper was lying on the ground in front of it.
“Holy shit!” I exclaimed. “Did she really just rip the bumper off that car?”
Alan’s mouth hung agape. “I don’t even understand what happened,” he commented. “She is the ONLY car on that street, so she didn’t need to be hugging the side of the road. And she wasn’t even going fast.”
We stood like spectators at a circus, waiting to see what she would do next. A troop of three municipal workers stood next to us, surrounding a garbage can, arms folded in anticipation.
Oblivious to our presence, the woman exited her SUV and ran around to inspect the damage. She bent down and lifted the car’s bumper and attempted to fit it back on the car.
“Now that is some f*cked up sh*t,” one of the men near us commented. Indeed.
Once we knew the situation was under control with ample witnesses, we took off. “Wow,” I said. “I can’t imagine what the owner of that car will feel like when he comes out to find that his bumper has been ripped off.”
Alan stopped and looked at me. “Um, yes you can. Because didn’t this happen to you?”
I smacked my head. OF COURSE. Five years ago, my car was totalled by a drunk driver while parked on the street in front of my house. So yeah, I guess I did know what that felt like. Except in my case, I heard the crash and had the benefit of adrenaline when I went running out to see my car, its sad wheels akimbo.
We started laughing. “Even so,” I said, “That’s a pretty shitty way to start a Sunday.”
Even as I said it, I had a sense that I was somehow jinxing us. And indeed, two hours later, I wasn’t surprised to see my phone light up a few minutes after Alan left my place.
“Um, quick question. Didn’t we park on T Street, near 16th last night?” he asked.
I confirmed that we had.
“I thought so. But… um… my car is not here.”
I went running down, my stomach sinking. It’s not uncommon to have your car go missing in the District, and it can generally be attributed to one of three things: 1) You circled for a spot for so long that you can’t remember where you actually ended up parking, 2) It was towed because you broke a poorly marked rule, or 3) It was stolen.
I’ve listed the scenarios in order of likelihood, yet whenever my car would go missing, I’d immediately jump to Number 3 and assume some thugs had stolen it. When I arrived at T Street, Alan was in the same boat, but we called the phone number on the nearby parking signs and learned that his car had, in fact, been towed. Crap.
We were perplexed, because we’ve both parked in that spot before and – as far as we could remember – there weren’t any specific weekend rules. We walked back to look at it and in doing so noticed a new sign. One designating that spot suddenly as handicapped-only. Not the kind of thing you notice when you arrive at 10pm, especially when you’ve parked there before.
Interestingly, his car had been towed to a gas station back near the Diner, so we walked back past the car with its bumper lying in the road. “Well, I guess it could be worse,” I gestured. Alan shook his head, having no interest in my sudden optimism.
And for good cause. Know how much our oversight cost us? (Get ready to vomit.) Four hundred and seventy five dollars. Yes, that’s $475. Seriously.
Don’t get me wrong – I think there should be serious consequences for parking in a handicap spot. But we didn’t do it deliberately, and a fine of even $100 would have prompted me to jump out and read every sign in a three block radius moving forward. So this seems a bit excessive, does it not?
If I’ve learned anything from my mom, it’s fairness. So rather than try to fight the DC government with reason, I’ll accept their rules. But now I need to make sure I use a good pen when I write the check. Because I surely don’t want ink stains on my ass cheeks.