October 20th, 2004

This day in vehicle hell

This morning I crawled out of bed at a ludicriously early hour (for me) so that I could go geocaching with cyan_blue before work.

Shortly after 8 a.m., I went out the door of the building to get in my car, and I couldn't find it. I did not come home drunk last night, I don't normally misplace things that I can't put in my pocket, and I was dead certain of where I parked the car to within about a ten foot radius. I asked my neighbor to confirm that there was no gold BMW in front of the building, and he couldn't see one either. The car was not there. I checked the garage just in case I was losing my mind, but no... it wasn't there, either. Damn damn damn fuck fuck damn bloody hell.

I went upstairs, called cyan_blue to explain why I wouldn't be meeting her, and then called the Oakland PD. I expected to be reporting the car stolen, but mercifully it had been towed. The nice officer on the phone said, "Wow, I don't even recognize this code. Let me look it up. Oh, OK. You had an alarm that was going off and it wouldn't stop." Blah blah blah about X feet from a residence, unable to contact owner, blah blah blah.

I have an alarm on my car, but it's been turned off for months. It shouldn't have been making noise, but even the dumbest cop is probably going to be able to accurately identify car-making-loud-whooping-noise. Occam's razor being what it is, I guess my alarm was going off last night.

So I can come pay $75 to get it out of hock then traipse down to the tow yard to collect it. Whoops! No I can't. My registration has expired, though I don't think I ever got a renewal notice. And I can't get my tags because I have to have the car smogged, which I can't do until I have the car, and I can't get the car until... OK, they have a solution. I have to go to the DMV, pay the registration fee, get a driveaway permit, go to the police department, get a release, go to the tow yard, and collect the car. Whooopppeeeee! This is precisely the way I wanted to be spending my morning.

And none of these things is convenient to any of the others, so I get to add a step to the beginning: rent a car. I call Hertz, reserve a car, walk over to the Marriott, and I'm off! The car is a Vibe, which sounds like it should be really fun, but it isn't. And the visibility is crappy.

First stop: DMV. Lemme tell you... if you have to go to the DMV, do it at the Oakland one on Claremont. I walked in, got a number, sat down, and stood right back up as my number was called. Ten minutes later I was out the door.

Next stop: police department. If you ever have a burning need to hang out with the dregs of humanity, get your car towed. The guys in front of me were trying to collect a car that hadn't been registered since 1999, wasn't registered to either of them, and hadn't even been towed. She kept telling them, "We don't have your car!" and they wouldn't believe her. I got to listen to this, partially in English and partially in Spanish, for about fifteen minutes.

Next stop: deep, dark Oakland down by the Coliseum to collect my car. I was wrong about the dregs of humanity-- the impound lot is worse. Or maybe it's just that there were ten times as many people there, and none of them seemed to have showered recently. My guess is that it's because they didn't have running water. I got to fork over another hundred and a quarter, wait while the nice lady screwed around doing god knows what, and finally collected my car.

I left my car on the street, and as soon as I locked the door, the alarm started going off. Shit. OK, maybe they were right. I solved the problem temporarily by pulling the fuse from the speaker.

Back to Hertz with the rental, then onto BART to go back and pick up my car. It took me 15 minutes to get a cab from the Coliseum station-- I think I would have walked it, but the nice lady at the police station said, "Whatever you do, don't walk."

At least I have my car, though the brakes feel funny... I'm betting they towed the car with the parking brake on. Bastards!

Vehicle Hell, the sequel

Well, not quite so hellish at this end.

To get to my house you hop off the freeway, turn right at the light, go a short block to a stopsign, and then turn right at the stop. Voila! You're in front of my loft. People often take both turns at fairly high speed, since they're still in a freeway state of mind.

Tonight, as I was turning right onto my street, I noticed that there was a police cruiser sitting at the corner with its lights off. A very small number of seconds later, said police cruiser was on my tail, lights blaring.

"Fuck me with a nightstick", I thought to myself. "Today is just not my day."

Officer Friendly came up to the car and said, "You sure blew through that stop sign back there." I made my best apologetic noises, and explained that I hadn't intended to run the stop.

He took a quick look at my license, and asked me if I still lived on Walter Street. "No, I live right there", I said, pointing to my building.

He handed my license back. "Take it easy at that stop. There are bicyclists around here." And he sent me on my way.