Wheels ILLUSTRATION: Jason Crosby

Uneasy rider

One woman’s return to two wheels

By Jennifer Hadley 08/25/2011

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I was taking the dog for a walk a couple of weeks ago when I noticed that my roommate’s SUV was in the process of being towed from right in front of our apartment.

   Nothing gets past me. She hadn’t parked illegally or anything, and I thought it was rather mean that they were taking it away. I stopped and asked the Gestapo why they were stealing her Pathfinder.

“She has $700 in outstanding parking tickets,” the parking enforcement officer curtly replied.

Come to think of it, she did get an awful lot of mail from the DMV.

“Well let me call her, I’m sure we can clear this right up.”

“Wouldn’t matter.”

I tracked my roommate down and told her the vehicle had been towed. She came home and began the painstaking process of trying to locate her now-imprisoned ride. The DMV was as helpful as always, but my roommate is resourceful, so she eventually found her four-wheeled friend. It would cost her about $300 bucks to get it out of hock. But she would also have to pay at least half of her parking tickets as well. Her minimum bail was $600.

We scraped together some cash, and she headed to the car jail. Once there, she was told that she needed to show her registration to prove it was hers. She couldn’t find it in the glove box. And she was having a really hard time remembering if she’d ever registered the thing. On a whim, she’d paid $1,500 cash for the SUV last fall. Still, she must have registered it, right? How else would the DMV have known to send the delinquent parking tickets to our house?

Unable to prove it was hers (despite having the keys to it, and being the sole person seeking to claim the banged up 1993 Nissan with the front bumper precariously held together by blue duct tape), she was also denied the right to retrieve any of her belongings from the vehicle, like her rollerblades, her CDs and a heap of clothing. Things that cost money.

Dejected, she came home, looked at me and said, “I think I’m just going to leave it there.”

“What do you mean leave it there?”

“I’m just going to buy a moped.”

She’d done the math, and in order to get the SUV registered, she would have to buy insurance. Oops, she’d forgotten to mention that she never had insurance. So she’d have to scrounge up some of that. Then there was the towing fee and subsequent daily impound charge. The total bill was now more than she’d paid for the vehide to begin with. A custom moped, on the other hand, was a mere $1,100.

I wanted to be responsible and tell her that even if she left her SUV there, eventually she would have to pay someone something for this whole affair. It wasn’t just going to get swept under the rug. California is broke. Real broke. They could put her money to good use by hiring more people whose sole job is to ruin strangers’ days.
Since I’m a whole decade older than her, I felt like I should give her good parental advice like, “Listen, young lady, you need to own up to the fact that you were irresponsible and take care of this, because that is what grownups do.”

Alas, I couldn’t bring myself to do it, because I secretly really wanted to ride on her new moped. But I did suggest that she insure and register it and maybe even consider getting a license to drive it. I haven’t asked if she’s done any of those things, because I’m not her mother. I am, however, the proud owner of a new motorcycle helmet.

Contact Jennifer Hadley at jmhadley624@yahoo.com.

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