Why have a blog if you can't use it to rant and rave once in awhile?
My vote for the scummiest people on the planet are the lowlifes who own and operate towing companies. Not the good folks from service stations or AAA providing roadside service; I’m talking about the dirt bags who tow your car from parking spaces, hold your car hostage, and then essentially rob you to get it back.
I recently had an encounter with one.
I attend an improv class every week. Been going for several years. The class is in North Hollywood at a small theater. Parking is in short supply, but we’ve always been able to park at the small pod mall on the corner. There are usually spaces. The bail bonds place is rarely crowded.
Suddenly, a few weeks ago (unbeknownst to me) they decided to make those spaces a tow away zone. A sign the size of a postage stamp was erected. So I return to class after my Aussie adventure, park in my usual spot, and blissfully head off to class. At 10:30 I return to find my car is gone.
Talk about an oh shit! moment.
My first thought of course is that it’s been stolen. Not to disparage the esteemed clientele that frequents bail bonds stores, but that thought did occur to me. Then a member of the class mentioned that they were now towing cars there.
Perhaps if the sign were larger than a fortune cookie I might’ve known that.
So I call the number. Yes, they have my car. It’s now 11:00 PM. Are they open all night? Of course not. They close at midnight. Swell. Where are they? East Hollywood bordering on downtown. That’s at least ten miles away. I’ve got an hour.
Andy Goldberg, our benevolent class leader, graciously offers to give me a ride. We head to Hollywood, make our way to Paramount Studios, journey east on Melrose. Within blocks the neighborhood becomes Bonfire of the Vanities West.
This was the towing company they used? They couldn’t find a single tow truck in North Hollywood? They had to go to Blade Runner land?
The price for retrieving my car: $307. That includes an extra fee because it was after hours. When are regular business hours? 9-4. It was 9-5 but the 5 was blacked out and the 4 scrawled in its place. I was also charged extra for the mileage from North Hollywood… as if I selected this particular towing service. A young couple was in front of me. They were practically in tears. $307 was probably their life savings. The clerk was more moved that the vending machine was out of Snickers.
At least my car started and the radio was still in my dashboard and not halfway to Tijuana. I’ve heard many stories where car owners were not so lucky.
Of course, the tow people could have been driving around in my car for an hour. I dunno. But there were no bullet holes and the radio station had not been changed. I can just picture it: a high-speed chase, the criminals leaning out the window firing at the police, Sirius/XM Channel 71, “Seriously Sinatra” blaring from my radio.
I understand that people are just doing their job and everyone needs to make a living, yada yada. But gouging the public when they don’t have to, taking advantage of people, not providing proper warning, essentially stealing property that doesn’t belong to them – that seems to be the norm in the car carrier profession.
So if you’re writing a movie or pilot and you have a villain but you’re wondering – what profession can I put him in? We've all seen hit men and strip club owners – that’s so last century. What can you do that’s fresh?
Make him a towing company owner. And if you're looking for a can't-miss happy ending: have his tow truck go off a cliff. And then when he returns home he finds someone had hitched his little house to the back of a flatbed earlier in the day and drove it to Henderson, Neveda because it broke an obscure 1935 zoning law. And for only $307,000 he can reclaim it, but he has to arrange to move it back himself. When he says he can’t afford it and his entire life is ruined, the clerk (hopefully played by me), says, “You think you have problems? The only candy bar left in the machine is a Uno Bar!”