Saturday, October 25, 2008

I would have rather had the shoes...

We are still not sure what exactly happened, but suffice to say, after a panicky hour or so on Wednesday morning, we learned that our car had been towed. Not stolen as initially suspected. I began to get that tip-off when I saw a couple of other people walking the neighborhood with this weird look on their faces apparently trying to find their cars.

Let me preface this post by saying that “No, I did not park in an illegal spot” on the streets of London. In fact, I parked my car literally across the street from my house and about 7-8 cars down from the front door. So trust me when I say, I know whether I am supposed to park there or not. And yes, I do have a parking permit for off-street parking. No, I did not park the wrong direction (not an issue anyway in London) nor did I park on the sidewalk. In fact, I am still unclear exactly WHY the car was towed.

But I digress.

After having to call the Budman at the office (and on the very day when he was hosting 75 people from all over Europe to a conference that he was chairing on behalf of his company), he contacted the necessary parties regarding the MIA vehicle (insurance company, employer – it is a leased company vehicle, London Police), and was steered toward “Trace” to find out if the vehicle had been towed. After 30 seconds of a database search, the Trace Department in fact confirmed it “had a trace on the Hachie Gal car” and that it was currently residing in a central London tow-yard. Well, at least it was not sitting in a chop-shop.

Next step – retrieval! As everything in London…easier said than done. Retrieval of the vehicle must be performed by the person named on the lease (so only the Budman could do this because it is his company car), and requires 5 forms of ID. Who has 5 forms of ID anyway? Upon closer inspection, the 5 forms of ID included: a driver’s license, copy of passport, 2 different bills (i.e. water and phone bills), and proof of car lease and insurance. All were in easy reach with the exception of the insurance card, which was held by the Budman’s employer…OK, he is really peeved at me about right now, because his fifth call of the morning on this subject (following employer notification, police, insurance company, and trace) is now once again to his employer to get said proof of insurance.

The day progressed normally from this point on (apart from the Budman putting on a happy face at his conference), and car pick-up occurred later that night…or shall I say morning. 1:00 AM to be exact, because poor Budman had to then host a dinner AFTER the conference and it was not over till 11:30 PM. By the time he arrived home, we caught a taxi to the tow-yard, drove around a bit trying to find the location in the dead of night, made a few wrong turns because the area was under road works, and were finally dropped off at the gate of the car pound.

At this moment I am now envisioning walking through a dark car pound, junk yard dogs with fangs glistening in the moonlight, abandoned buildings on the right and left as I tiptoe to the mobile home/trailer type office to get my car out of hock...only to be greeted by a toothless, tattoo-ed, balding, paunchy/pot-bellied chain-smoker who runs the car pound. I guess images of south Oak Cliff car pounds are hard to get out of my mind. To my amazement, we were greeted by a relatively efficient, clean shaven and officially looking dressed car pound attendant who was working nights while he pursued an MBA in accounting. And not a junk-yard dog in sight…but still plenty of dark abandoned buildings.

I tried to be really nice to the attendant because it was late and I wanted to go home and just crawl into my bed. When he started asking the Budman for career advice on the value of an accounting degree in the current market downturn, I groaned inwardly, smiled that sweet smile to my husband that only he knows after living with me for 25 years that basically says, “Let’s get a move on and get out of here”, and shut down the mentoring session.

After a few minutes of shuffling a lot of paperwork…yes, all those 5 forms of ID, we were jumping into the BMW and whooshing homeward…now approaching 2:30 AM. Budman made sure we legally parked this time.

Now, back to the reason for the towing in the first place. Well, I am not really sure. The official wording on the ticket reads “Parked in a restricted street during prescribed hours” but for the life of me, I see no signs stating some other restriction except those for off-street permit parking permits. Which I possess. Maybe there is another law I should know about…one that you learn in a UK driver’s education course. Oh…yea…I have yet to do that. So, the Budman and I will take the instructions for “how to protest a parking ticket and towing violation” provided to us by the MBA accounting student/parking attendant, and file a protest within 28 days.

The sickest part of the day (after the initial horror of thinking the car had been stolen)? I could have had a pair of Manola Blahnik shoes full price (not on sale)…from the fall/winter line…for the same bargain basement price of one ticketed, towed, and car-pound stowed SUV…

It is indeed enough to make a grown gal cry.

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