It wasn’t as much Ludacris' “Move, Bitch, Get out the Way…” I heard booming through rolled up windows that made me sit up out of bed and look out the window. It was the unmistakable sounds of a car being transferred onto a tow truck. If it’s happened once, which it did to me in 2003, the very thought of your car getting towed will make you move faster than every B being in your way. I was house sitting, and although she’ll swear up and down she told me not to leave my car parked out front overnight, I can’t say I agree.
Dude wasted NO time. It might have been 3:02, but no later. He had been pre-gaming to Luda, waiting impatiently to claim his first victim. He does this every night. When 3am hit he attacked, and by the time I could focus, I was watching my brand new car getting taken away right before my eyes by this giant disgusting rusty hook and a guy who’s face had a smug that told me everything about just how much he was enjoying this kill.
December in Chicago meant it was easily in the 20’s that night, but I didn’t need a coat. I was on fire before sprinting out of the house barefoot in shorts and a t-shirt to beg and plead for this car’s life but when I got down there, there was no point trying to negotiate. All I could think to ask was “Why are you taking my car? WHERE are you taking my car?” As nonchalantly as he possibly could, he pointed to a sign that I had to squint and then go walk to the corner to read.
Got all that? He then went right back to loading my truck onto his. At least I saw with my own eyes it had not been broken into at this point. I had heard stories about that happening on the way to the yard. And when you show up to give your first born to get your car back and realized it has also been vandalized, they tell you, “well, that’s how we found it so…. sorry.” Sucks for you, doesn’t it.
My parents were staying with me. I woke up my mom, my voice and body shaking more from anger than cold, almost in tears, and said, we have to GO.
Even if you don’t live in Chicago, you know how dangerous it is and if you do live here, you figure out real quick where those areas are and don’t spend a lot of time in them. The west side of the city is one of those places, and this yard is located right in the middle of it. I knew where the yard was because I covered that territory for work (in scrap metal recycling sales) and well, 4am on Christmas Eve, I knew we were in for a treat.
My mom sat down in the waiting area, inside this suffocatingly small trailer. The people watching was phenomenal as you can imagine it would be. Most everyone else in the room had their car towed while they were inside the late night clubs, so just imagine what that looks like, and I’m in here confused in sweatpants and bed head. I avoided eye contact with everyone. In line I prepared myself to take a mental beating. Since I’ve had my car towed once already and I’ve been known to catch a Parking Wars marathon, I know generally, if you work at a towing company, it requires an “IDGAF” attitude, and they hear things like what McHenry said every, single, day. Trying to get your car back by degrading the people that work there is wrong, yes, but its like bringing a plastic knife to a gun fight. You made a mistake, so now, they have all the control. You are now their prisoner and have no more control over the moment. That’s the only way I could get above the anger I was feeling, because I knew anything I said could and would be used against me. These ladies only worked at one pace…theirs. While I stood there expressionless and church silent, the woman working behind the glass would go back and forth between barking orders at me and telling her co-worker how hungry she was. It took her a few minutes just to locate a pen but she also made sure to walk around scratching her butt the entire time while she looked for that pen. I didn’t find it that funny at the moment. The longer I waited the more my blood was boiling, but I stayed focused, again more out of necessity than anything. Getting my car back was the only goal at this point. You cannot and will not win against a tow truck company. I signed, I paid, I walked to the right, obeying my next order like a good prisoner.
The yard was a dark sea of cars and trucks and felt like death, like an I am Legend moment. They take you back through hundreds of jagged aisles, riding in a car with only three doors and possibly no brakes. This thing was one day away from dying a scrap yard death and the guy driving it looked like he might have stuffed someone in a trunk before. Just saying…. vibes.
As soon as we pulled up I saw it, they were softball sized and frosted over. Two enormous identical dents on the front bumper. I heard the monster and looked to my right and there was the offender. A giant 20 foot forklift was parking cars by scooping up cars like hot chicken breasts off the grill.
I took pictures, I spoke face to face to the supervisor, I even had a piece of paper that he signed saying “Yes, we are responsible for the damage to your car.” He told me I needed three estimates, and the average cost of them would be the payment. Ok, ridiculous and annoying but I did it. I did everything they asked of me. I even called the supervisor to give him a heads up I was coming by to drop off all the paperwork. But he changed his mind this day. He said “Yeah, I don’t really care, we still aren’t going to pay for that.” That flipped the switch for me. In my family, we call it “Chicken Blood.” I went off and started screaming at him, cursing at him, no doubt there were a few MF’s that flew out and of course he hung up on me. But I wasn’t finished talking, so I called back, three more times, and the last time, I said “I hope someone waits for you and kicks your ass one day after you leave work.” I don’t feel bad for saying that at all. But, at the end of the day, guess what? I still lost. I ended up paying for the damage to my car but really, I bought a $1200 lesson in common sense, which is more valuable than any degree.
Always read the signs.