- The Washington Times - Thursday, January 9, 2003

The city finally has responded to the ever-growing phalanx of tow-truck operators, some of whose business practices are more questionable than others.
You know the deal: There is an illegally parked vehicle. Here is a tow-truck operator with a box of chocolates in one hand and bouquet of flowers in the other. It's love at first sight.
Tow-truck operators are becoming like the spare-change performing artists. They are seemingly everywhere. Half of the vehicles on the street at rush hour are tow trucks. A few will tow you while you're stuck at a red light. They don't have to explain. They're just doing their job. That includes towing those who act suspicious around parking places.
Not too long ago, many teens wanted to grow up to be doctors, lawyers or professional protesters who camp out at Lafayette Park. Now more and more teens want to be tow-truck operators. You can't blame them. You don't need a Ronnie Few-inspired resume to be a tow-truck operator. You just have to have a keen interest in towing. It's almost like being paid to hang out with your friends, only a tow-truck operator hangs out with harried bureaucrats who have misinterpreted the parking signs that come with parenthetical phrases, subordinate clauses and awfully fine print.
One of the city's dubious communication forms is the parking sign that contradicts the one before it. One sign reads: "You can park here." The next one reads: "You can't park here." This is followed by yet another sign that reads: "Do you feel lucky today?"
This apparently is one of those culturally biased SAT questions, and in this case, only the tow-truck operator with the chili-dog stains on his T-shirt knows the correct answer. He has coffee on his breath, a toothpick hanging from his lips and a conviction to ruin your day.
It has been 16 months since the D.C. Inspector General's Office issued a finding that detailed the hide-and-seek proclivities of certain tow-truck operators. The principle of the game is to transport an illegally parked vehicle to an undisclosed location, possibly to one of the haunts frequented by Vice President Richard B. Cheney, and then let the impound fees accumulate. Days pass, then weeks. Where is your vehicle? It beats the tow-truck operator. He's not talking. No way. No how. These guys are hard core.
You can zap them with an electrical cable and they won't surrender the vehicle until the impound fees have reached an acceptable amount. You can try slapping them around. Sleep deprivation, too. None of the rough stuff works. These guys jot down the whereabouts of your vehicle on a secret map, then eat the map, with mustard or ketchup, and that is that.
Of course, the suits in the mayor's office were disturbed by this troubling revelation. Missing cars. Rogue tow-truck operators. That is a lot to contemplate in 16 months. Hmm. Double hmm.
D.C. Council member Kathy Patterson made a suggestion to those in the mayor's office: Come down from your mountaintop before your city goes to the tow-truck dogs.
"You can color this anyway you like," mayoral spokesman Tony Bullock says.
Thank you. Appreciate it. That is mighty fair of you.
This is not to be unkind to all tow-truck operators, many of whom go about their business in a professional and courteous manner. They see an illegally parked vehicle and bite their lower lip. They clutch a Bible and shed a tear. They feel your pain. Why do they hate us so? No, no. It is not like that at all. All they are saying is give legal parking a chance.
Fortunately, the mayor's office has come to the rescue of the tow-truck industry with a computerized system that will centralize all the pertinent information. No longer will your vehicle be towed to a secret underground parking lot in West Virginia. No longer will tow-truck companies, the Metropolitan Police Department and professional car-watchers be baffled by the city's burning question: Where's my car?
Instead, under the mayor's plan, all you do is dial a telephone number, take down the bad news and then go to pick up your baby. To enhance the experience, the city accepts all major credit cards. See, it is that simple. Hallelujah.
Having your vehicle towed never has looked so appealing almost fun, in fact.
Feel the excitement. You probably can't wait to be towed again.

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