Thursday, July 31, 2008

New York's Black Hole

There is not a place in New York more horrible than the Tow Pound. Except prison.

When your car gets towed, they send it to a place that is inaccessible except by car. It's a really, really long walk. Really long. And when it's 90 degrees, it's twice as long. Or the other choice is the $10 taxi to go 8 blocks from Penn Station. But yes they are loooooooong blocks.

Then, even with no line, you are required to wait 45 minutes before you can pay and get your car. With a line it's about 2 hours. Tonight it took me 1 hour 20 minutes from the time I walked in until I got out the door. Not as horrible as others who were complaining of being there for 2 hours, and a couple of them had done it for 2 days in a row. I'm not sure why I got picked early, but I definitely got to leave before people who were near me on the initial line.
Things get rowdy at the tow pound. One guy was selling his cookies for 25 cents. Another was making friends with girls who he thought would be sympathetic to his sob story about missing work 2 days in a row as he tried to get his car back. Two music students twirled a poster and got some pretty good rhythms going. A baby alternated between crying and laughing and drooling. An extra large man in a yellow shirt was on the verge of violence as he saw person after person get called when he was way before them on the line. And every time he complained, he couldn't hear or understand the women behind the glass.

You know those built in speakers that you use to speak to the people selling movie tickets? The NYPD hasn't discovered those yet. Every single person was yelling at them, "I can't hear you" and "I can't read your lips" and "Which name did you just call?" Some nice people stood by the window and repeated the names to the crowd, but almost always got them wrong, because they couldn't hear a thing either, even with their ears pressed against the glass.

When it was my turn, the workers started arguing about the single stapler they had to share between them because they were out of staples. Finally one of them found a row of staples, and they lined up to get them as she broke the row into small pieces, enough for each of their staplers. Then my attendant had a lot of trouble getting back onto her chair. This whole side show took at least 5 minutes. And based on how quickly the credit card transaction should have taken, it seems that something of this ilk happened each time someone was called.
I can think of a dozen ways to improve the experience at the tow pound. I suppose just going there is part of the disincentive to park in an illegal spot, but I think the nearly $300 penalty is incentive enough, why add insult to injury? It's just uncivilized.

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