Confessions of a parking violator

My roommate, Dave, was the one who noticed that my car had vanished from its spot in the well-lit parking lot across the alley from our building in Midland City. Did you move your car? he asked, turning toward me from the living-room window. I dont think so, I said. I was sitting on the couch, watching C-SPAN. Well, Dave said, I hate to be the bearer of bad news, but it aint where you left it. The smirk on his face suggested that he actually got quite a kick out of being the bearer of bad news. My stomach performed a sloppy somersault and I leapt to my feet, tearing past Dave and throwing open the front door to see for myself. Sure enough, my car was gone, having left only a well-lit parking spot and feelings of victimization in its wake. I was sure a team of professional criminals was, at that moment, stripping my car in a nearby but well-disguised chop shop, and that the insurance company would deem said stripping an act of God. I could just hear the smarmy customer-service representative telling me that, according to my policys fine print which Id obviously failed to read God was defined as the Creator of the universe, or anything else we feel like defining Him as, including, but not limited to, a team of professional criminals. And I didnt react that way just because Im a paranoid hayseed with an irrational fear of city life stemming from repeated viewings of movies like Se7en and TV shows like Homicide: Life on the Street during my formative years. I didnt even react that way just because Midland City, the sprawling Midwestern metropolis where I spend the better part of the year, is widely reviled as a blighted urban heckscape (think of Manhattan as depicted in Escape from New York and youll get a good idea of life in Midland City [minus, unfortunately, the late, great Kurt Russell may he rest in peace]). I also reacted that way because Im a jaded cynic who regards human beings as inherently evil and capable of any atrocity imaginable including making me feel bad by stealing my car without so much as leaving a note. So when I shambled over to my now-empty parking spot, I spent a few minutes staring at the pavement before it occurred to me that my cars absence might have another explanation. Perhaps, I thought, superstar illusionist David Copperfield had just passed through the neighborhood, and perhaps being the widely reviled rascal he is hed decided to use my car in an impromptu disappearing act without telling me. Or maybe, I thought, my car had been towed. That lot was, after all, reserved for residents of the building across the alley from my place, a fact Id known for a long time. There were, after all, no less than fifteen signs in that lot stating that cars without the appropriate permit would be towed at their owners expense. But I hadnt taken those signs seriously, because I thought they were simply there for show a result of spending the majority of my life in the Tri-Lakes, where you can park any place you want without consequence, regardless of what any signs might say to the contrary. Take, for instance, the parking garage at the former Hilton in Lake Placid. Sure, its technically reserved for guests, but who among us hasnt parked there when going to the movies at the Palace? (And yes, this is the third week in a row Ive mentioned the Palace Theater in Lake Placid where you get the royal treatment! And no, Im certainly not receiving any compensation from the fine folks at the Palace Theater in Lake Placid. Its simply a coincidence.) And have any of us actually gotten towed? I dont think so. So why would I expect anything different in Midland City? Heres why: because while Lake Placid is a delightful mountain paradise, Midland City is a blighted urban heckscape. Anyway, after making a few phone calls, I confirmed that my car had, in fact, been towed, and that I would, in fact, never see it again unless I coughed up $130. At that moment, I felt dumber than Charlie Sheen, and hes so dumb he can only play characters named Charlie in the god-awful sitcoms he stars in (post-Michael J. Fox Spin City and post-all-thats-good-in-the-world Two and a Half Men). But I didnt care, because at least Id learned a valuable lesson: human beings are inherently evil and capable of any atrocity imaginable including making me feel like a sap by towing my car and charging me an outrageous fee to get it back. Dan Leonidas makes shallow observations. He can be reached at dpleonidas@yahoo.com or myspace.com/lastminuteconcerns.

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