Gapers Block has ceased publication.

Gapers Block published from April 22, 2003 to Jan. 1, 2016. The site will remain up in archive form. Please visit Third Coast Review, a new site by several GB alumni.
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Tuesday, February 27

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Maggie / November 18, 2004 4:05 PM

I actually had a very pleasant towing experience. I parked my car in front of fire hydrant on Belmont, near Southport, and was rightly towed. I called 311, the very nice and understanding dispatcher told me to go home and go to sleep for a few hours (it was around 2am) and let the city process my car before heading down to the auto pound. She also told me to call back and get my towing number because that would speed up the process. When I arrived at the pound, a small dance party had started with all of the people whose cars had been towed off Halsted for the parade (it was Pride weekend.) I made friends, I danced, I got my car back in relatively quick fashion.

However, when/if the city tows my car due to my many parking tix, I may not be singing such a sweet tune.

Andrew / November 18, 2004 4:05 PM

I was parked on Devon in what looked like a safe zone, but I got nailed for "snow day parking" on a completely clear night. I didn't find out till the next night -- I thought it had been stolen and check with the police. I had to have a friend drive me down to the city lot at Sacramento and something or other.

I almost couldn't get the car: the registration was in my boss's name (it was a company car), and they mulled over making him come downtown from the suburbs at 8pm on a Sunday night to get it out. The nice lady in the trailer that passes as an office at the tow lot took pity on me, and let me have my car back. Total cost: $165 and two hours of my evening.

vit / November 18, 2004 4:17 PM

The city 'moved' my car twice without my knowledge. The first time it happened I called the police to report it stolen, but as he listened to the details, he suggested that I 'go for a walk' and call him back if I didn't find it. I found it two blocks away with a parking ticket, apparently they had cleaned the streets but failed to put up and stinking signs. The second time it happened was during a massive snowstorm that occured while I was living in Old Town and was parked on Lasalle and Division, they moved it without my knowledge, but by this time I had an idea that might have happened as every car that had been on the street the day before was missing, so I called the non emergency line and asked them where my car was. It had been moved to the Oak Street beach parking lot, I had to walk about 1 1/2 miles in freezing January weather to get to the car only to find it half buried in a snow drift (but with no parking ticket this time).... thanks guys.

anne / November 18, 2004 4:42 PM

On my birthday last year (or rather, the day before, when I was celebrating my birthday) I was towed from in front of my house. I had gotten a parking ticket that morning for being in a newly christened "construction parking zone" on my street, and had moved my car a few spaces back, out of the "zone", but the tow guy I guess had my (then out-of-state) license plate number or whatnot to look for, and towed me anyway several hours later. Luckily a neighbor saw it happen, and told me when I got home that early evening, so I didn't think it had gotten stolen (for long anyway). Then I had a friend drive me to the impound lot where I had to stand around for 2 hours while my car was processed (I actually saw it come in on the truck after I got down there), only to find out that b/c my mother was still the title holder (ironically enough, she was selling me the car for my birthday, but hadn't sent the title yet in the mail) I had to get her to find a notary public to certify a letter from her saying that I had permission to get the car out of hock, and pay the nearly $200 to get it out in cash. So, while my mom tracked down a notary on a Saturday night in Virginia, I waited at a Kinko's down the street for her fax, which came to me at about 10 p.m. Since I'd already told a slew of people to meet me at a particular bar, we went out to drink, letter in hand. I had some fine beverages, sobered up at Clarke's, then, at 3 a.m. decided to go get my car. So there I was, on my birthday, at 3 in the morning, wandering down a very dark and below-zero cold impound lot, trying to shimmy my way into my car, and giving the city all of my newly-arrived birthday cash. I thought about protesting the tow, since I had moved it, and even took pictures of the empty spot, the construction zone signs, etc, but figured out I'd probably lose more money just taking the time off of work to go to traffic court. Meh. I'm completely paranoid every time I go to get in my car, that it's not going to be there now.

robin.. / November 18, 2004 4:44 PM

oh yes. my girlfriend parked the car late one night in front of someone's driveway, and it was towed. we discovered this the next evening, while looking for the car to go out. (car gone! car gone!) anyway, we called the necessary numbers and grabbed the $10 predicted dollars for the cab ride to california and sacramento, or somesuch... the ride was $14 and we had to stiff the cabbie; a portentious start. it was the coldest night that winter--it was late feb. and it was COLD. we got to the impound lot 30 minutes before close on a sunday night. no lines, no waiting, but also no attention from the woman behind the glass in the trailer-office, the walls of which were covered in faux-wood faux veneer (faux veneer, you say? yes, faux veneer...) contact paper. the signs were all "NO CURSING," "NO CUTTING," "NO CHILDREN." the woman took my lady's license and credit card, and title and registration, and said nary a word to us. she passed the vitals to someone else behind a screen, gave us no hope that we'd see them or the car again, and kept yakity yaking on the phone. after this voodoo, she pointed us to the right, out the door, and said "J-8. the man with the truck'll take you." now, only the title holder is allowed on the lot, so i had to wait NOT IN THE OFFICE but on the stairs outside while my gf went for the guy in the truck, who was watching a small television. he pointed her in the direction of the aisle, but didn't bother to give her a ride as she'd been told to get. bastard. the car was not where it was said to be, and a 20 minute search ensued. it was found to be parked in, and a return to the laziest tow truck driver in the world grudgingly freed the car. my gf drove the car out, parked it in the limbo lot, paid the $150 bucks, and we made like a hockey team and got the puck out of there.

on the way out, driving through the beginning freezing rain, we discovered that the tow lot had stolen both of her windshield wipers. i hate them all so much.

however, if you need a tow, i highly recommend the friendly folks at family towing. great guys.

Alice / November 18, 2004 6:09 PM

One day my mother drove into the city from the suburbs to visit my sister and I at school. We were both then students at a certain local university. There being no parking anywhere in the neighborhood, my mother parked in the lot across the street from the dorm. She came up to the dorm to retrieve my sister and, 10 minutes later, we returned to the car to go grocery shopping in the neighborhood. But the car was gone. Ten minutes. We went through the usual thought of thinking it had been stolen because it seemed preposterous that it could have been towed in such a short time. We were wrong. So we paid a visit to the campus security office, and my mother bitched them out loudly and at great length about what an outrage it was that a tuition-paying parent couldn't even visit her children. Not only did campus security end up giving us all a ride to Lincoln Towing, but my mother got her car back without paying a dime. She's the best mom ever.

paul / November 18, 2004 6:49 PM

I got towed by the city once and when I got to the lot, they told me I needed all my stickers in order, so I waited until the next business day, got my stickers and went back only to be sent away again because I couldn't produce a current insurance card.

By that time I had accumulated more 'storage' fees than I could afford at the time and had to wait another week for a paycheck, and so pay another week's worth of fees.

Same sort of thing happened with a rental car, it took several days to find, and so it was double hit with storage and rental fees.

I've heard many Chicago horror stories, but most of them pale in comparision to what happens in NYC. Walking to Brooklyn is no fun.

steven / November 19, 2004 7:20 AM

i made the mistake once of parking in the lot for spin cycle on broadway, across the street. we parked the car and while walking into a shop no more than 30 feet away a homeless guy told me that they'd boot my car. at this point i'd been away from the car for about a minute. i ran out to find some guy putting the boot on. he hadn't physically applied it yet...i told him i was about to move it, but he put it on anyway. i then had to haggle with him for 20 minutes to let me pay $60 of the $100 fee to have it removed. what a pain in the ass that was. my own fault though.

another time i had to convince the boot guy that i actually did enter the stores at the alley before he would remove it. they're like scavengers.

steven / November 19, 2004 7:27 AM

wow...just read the stories before mine....guess my experience wasn't so bad after all..

kate / November 19, 2004 9:13 AM

a towing company stole the spare tire but of course i didn't realize it until i had a flat ... and by then it was too late.

Suzanne / November 19, 2004 9:18 AM

Tired from driving a U-HAUL by myself six and half hours and after a thirty minute attempt to park ANYWHERE close to my new apartment in a strange city where I didn't know my way, I decided it would be just fine if I parked it on Foster Avenue. It just so happens I parked in in one of those wacky no- parking- if- there's 1.5 inches of snow on the ground zones that Chicago is so fond of. There was, maybe half an inch of snow on the ground,I measured. With the scientifically accurate method known as putting your finger in the snow. Apparently the city uses rulers cuz there wasn't U-HAUL truck when I woke up the next morning to turn it in.
Thankfully, Chicago citizens are pretty nice peeps for the most part and a stranger and her friend helped me figure out where the hell the city took the truck, drove me there, provided the moral support it took to fork over the $400 to get "my" truck back and drove me home again.
I learned two important lessons that day: You can always depend on the kindness of strangers (ok, well, you can USUALLY depend on the kindness of strangers) and Chicago is a corrupt, money-grubbing, greedy ol' city.

Eamon / November 19, 2004 9:40 AM

Remember that huge snow storm over New Years Eve a few years back? Yeah, I got stuck at a pal's sleepover shindig for two days while Evanston got itself together and figured out a plan to dig out their neighborhood. On the 15 minute drive home, exhausted and stinky, I got pulled over for plates that expired December 31st. I'd also not realized that I'd neglected to renew my license, so I got cuffed and stuffed to start the new year. My truck got towed, and not only did it take me a week and a half to get it out again, due to twisty bureaucratic passages that all looked alike, the $4000 video projector unit I'd borrowed from work to show movies and video games at the party was gone, gone, gone. No forced entry, and the doors were still locked. Plus, the projector was thoroughly hidden from view under a ton of blankets and such, but I'd made note during the impound process that it was in the vehicle. Evanston police just shrugged and said it wasn't their problem. Luckily, my company's insurance paid out for the loss, but my boss was furious with me for months thereafter.

Steve / November 19, 2004 9:47 AM

Never dealt with Chicago towing and parking authorities until *after* I sold a car, and by the time I found out that they had "my" car, I received notice that it had been crushed into a cube.

See, I learned a valuable lesson back in Spring of 1997: when you sell a car, it's not enough to transfer the title; you must also make sure to remove your old plates (even when they're rusted on). Otherwise, even if you prove in traffic court that you did not own a vehicle at the time it was receiving hundreds of dollars in parking tickets, if your expired plates are on the car, you can and will be held liable for all fees incurred.

Whack, but true.

Brian / November 19, 2004 9:48 AM

Cars are such a pain in the ass. Easiest way to avoid all these problems: take the bus.

Towing is one industry where I would prefer religous nutjobs to the regular people that work in it.

Benjy / November 19, 2004 9:57 AM

When I lived in Atlanta, I had to park at this private parking lot about 2 blocks from my office. While on their waiting list for a monthly spot, I had to pay $2.50 daily into a big box with little slots for each numbered space. One day after work, I get out there and my car's been booted! And about 5 or 6 others' cars, too. We were all standing around trying to figure out what was going on. Somebody had already called the company, who was sending a truck out and had the info on getting the boots removed --$75 in cash to get the boot off! But I'd paid my $2.50 that morning. So had the others, they all said. When the guy arrived, all he said was, "Show me $75 or don't talk to me." Well, since we'd all paid, we sure as hell weren't going to give him the money. We argued with him, even flagged down a police officer, who when he saw our numbers and passion made the guy call into his company. Ultimately, it turned out that the guy who was supposed to empty the box at 4am didn't get to it until around 7:30am! So those of us who'd parked earlier than that had our money collected and when the mid-day collector came it looked like we hadn't paid. After that, I called the owner of the parking company got a monthly spot right away and three free months parking for myself and a co-worker who was one of the others involved.

Carly / November 19, 2004 10:07 AM

My best friend had her car stolen. She reported it to the police and lost hope after several weeks. She left for Germany for the summer and while she was gone, they found her car. Somehow her mother was contacted (insurance?) and they were able to recover it. However, the car had been collecting parking tickets where it was parked and was towed. Since it was past the time to claim the car, my friend had to cough up the $500 to get it back, even though she had filed it stolen.


Hobbsie / November 19, 2004 10:20 AM

Unfrigginbelievable is about right when referring to what I see as one of Chicago's premier scams.

Most of you guys' stories at least end with you recovering your vehicle. I was a victim of the your-car-is-now-a-cube phenomenon long before it was trendy.

Mine was parked near Cornelia and Broadway. I went to use it: gone. I called and was asked to go try to find it by the Montrose clock tower as it may have been "relocated". It had not, though loads of cars had.

I reported it stolen. From then on, every few days, a Chicago Police detective would call me to give me updates. He had no new until the last call. He said, "I've got good news and bad news". He said that he finally found my car by its VIN number. Unfortunately he found it as it appeared on their "crush list". He further claimed that it had mistakenly NOT been logged by its VIN number when it arrived at the lot; therefore it was left long enough to be considered abandoned and resultantly made into a tidy cube.

Naz / November 19, 2004 10:22 AM

Sorry - no car horror stories per se though I hear about them all the time. In the end it doesn't feel worth it to own a car in the city (admittedly, I bike everywhere). Unless you're commuting to the burbs or somewhere rather far, why not public transport or some other means?

Certainly, having a car has it's advantages but after reading all these stories and knowing how fickle Chicago's rules and regulations are, I'm probably never getting a car in this city.

tony / November 19, 2004 10:48 AM

My car was st0eled this summer; a month later, the city recovered it and I had to spend ~$300 to get it back. Needless to say, I thought that since my car was reported stolen when the car was towed, I was not responsible for the towing fees--I think the car was parked by a hydrant when it got towed--and I went so far as to get a hearing to challenge the fee. The very pleasant man representing the city pointed out to me before the hearing began that when I filed the police report, I agreed to pay any fee incurred by the recovery of the vehicle by the city, and on top of that it was a city ordinance that if you want your car back, you have to pay for it ("do you /really/ want the taxpayers of Chicago to have to foot the bill?"). So I withdrew my challenge and just stuck my insurance company with the tab.

Shylo / November 19, 2004 11:08 AM

Although I take public transit quite often, sometimes, you just need a car. And you should be able to trust that it won't get towed erroneously, that it won't be crushed into a cube, that the city won't fuck you.

Steve / November 19, 2004 11:32 AM

At my previous place, I had a garage space, and life was good. Unfortunately the garage in my new pad was built into the old basement, so it has a wicked steep slope (nearly 30 degrees by my reckoning) that only SUVs can get over without bottoming out.

So this winter, I look forward to many misadventures in parking for the first time in a few years....

Thurston / November 19, 2004 11:32 AM

All these stories prove what we all already know: Mayor Daley is as crooked as they come. Despite that, I still like him and give him my vote - it is incredible how much he has improved this city. But part of his ruling bargain is that in exchange for support he doles out city contracts, shapes ordinances that benefit those who have those contracts, and usually lets them operate with impunity. Towing is no exception. Nor is anything else - every year another scandal comes out about shifty Chicago contractors who are always linked to the Daley political machine in some way. However, his lack of ethics notwithstanding, it is a testament to Daley's political genius that he always emerges unscathed by these scandals, and that he wins mayoral elections by a landslide - he got 81% of the vote in the last one, and without any significant campaign. It is because of this massive support that he is able to strong arm his way to a lot of good things, like increased biker-friendliness, 'green' roofs, cleaning up the river, Millenium Park, etc. I'm not so sure it is the best bargain that we have to deal with thieving tow truckers and so on in exchange for these things, but it isn't a totally raw deal either, and it's kind of part of the Chicago mystique, for better of for worse. Now if he can only get some money for the CTA and score some good bands for the Taste of Chicago!

eliina / November 19, 2004 11:40 AM

I've had the pleasure of being towed twice, and both time my ex-bf (then bf) was involved. When I was living in Massachusetts he came to visit me and we drove to Boston for the day. We made the mistake of believing a parking attendant who told us that we could park for free in a grocery store parking lot. When we returned the car was gone and we had to take a cab to a sketchy part of town to retrieve it. After paying a $150 to get it back (big bucks when you're working for a loy-paying non-profit), we drove a block and discovered that we had a flat tire. The towing company said it wasn't their fault, but they did give us directions to a repair shop. The place was just closing when we got there, but the repair guy took pity on us and stayed late to fix our tire.
A few months later when I was visiting him, we went to see a matinee in Evanston on New Years Eve. We happened to park in one of the few blocks that Evanston uses for their family-friendly First Night celebration (there was about one sign posted per block , and we didn't see it), and when we came out of Lord of the Rings the car was gone. His dad came and picked us up, and took us to a sketchy towing place on Touhy. After we paid a very unfriendly woman for the car we were told that we had to wait for another towing company employee to come back to get the car out of the lot. It was blocked in, and everyone was out towing other unlucky folks. We sat around for about an hour. Happy New Years.

I've since learned to be a vigilant sign-reader, and I've pretty much stopped using the stupid car for things other than out of state trips, picking people up from the airport, and transporting things that I can't carry more than a few blocks.

Leroy / November 19, 2004 1:10 PM

Thurston - be careful of praising Caesar. Daley financed most of the growth (read: spending) of the last decade via borrowing cash.

He is getting desperate. He just sold the Skyway to Europeans for over a billion dollars, yet he is leaving the CTA to flounder over an $88 million budget hole. He despretly needs the casino and its projected $300 million a year in revenue. These towing scams are just another desperate attempt to forestall the inevitable.

If Daley can't spend money (either revenue or borrowed) quality of life in the city is going to go back to what it was like in the 1970s-1980s when little money was being spent.

Maggie / November 19, 2004 1:18 PM

Are they any towing places that are not sketchy, and has anyone come across a friendly person working there? (I did, but I think that's because she was REALLY excited that I had my tow number and I was sober.)

T.C. / November 19, 2004 3:53 PM

Homer: “Here are your messages Mr. Burns..
Let' see....
Your car is illegally parked....
Your have 15 minutes to move your car...
You have 5 minutes to move your car...
Your car has been impounded...
Your car has been crushed into a small cube...
You have 15 minutes to move your cube...."

*phone rings*

Homer: Yeeello...

Mr. Burns: “Is it about my cube?”

(Sorry, I couldn't resist.)

Benjy / November 19, 2004 5:44 PM

I just thought of another shady towing story. When I was in high school I was driving in Highland Park and while stopped at the intersection of Lake-Cook and Skokie Blvd. my car stalled and wouldn't start. I went into the Shell station at the intersection and asked for some help pushing my car into their lot. While one guy came out with me to my car, another pulled up a tow truck, hooked my car up, drove it around the block or who knows where for 10 minutes, parked it in their lot and charged me $55 for towing services! Guess they couldn't very bill somebody for a 100 foot tow, so they had to put some milage on the odometer. I had AAA which reimbursed the towing fee, but come on! What a scam!

Ben / November 19, 2004 6:18 PM

I parked in a what I knew to be a bus stop on Clark one day. However, since the sign was down, I figgered I'd get away with it. Whadya know, my car gets towed. So, I pay the cash to get it back, then take some pictures, protest the ticket and protest the tow. Well, I talk to Chicago's finest a few times, and it doesn't seem as though I'm going to get my tow money back, so I chalk it up to gambling losses. Then, about a YEAR later, I got a check in the mail from the city! I felt so lucky, I considered spending it all on lottery tickets.

waleeta / November 19, 2004 8:17 PM

T.C. - that episode was on last night!

I ran down Granville avenue once chasing my car and yelling at the towtruck guy "The building manager told me I could park there! THE BUILDING MANAGER TOLD ME....!!!!" and watched the guy speed off with my car, while I stood in the middle of the street, fist shaking in the air. My poor little Kia Rio was never the same again.

Leelah / November 20, 2004 10:50 AM

One time my car died on 90. The city sent a tow truck (I don't know why the giant yellow tow truck couldn't take me) which pulled in front of my car, stalled, could not restart, and the company had to send another tow truck for the first tow truck, then re-started that, and had the stally tow truck take me back to wherever the hell I had them tow me. What a fun ride the driver, his skanky blonde girlfriend and I all had crammed into the front seat of the still stalling truck.

Another time, I got the boot... at work. I'm a teacher, and once a year, the city sends out its devils to school parking lots to boot teachers' cars. (No, they don't even go in to the student lot.)

I was literally in my classroom when a student came tearing in, yelling, "Ms P, they're in the parking lot putting the boot on cars and yours has a sticker on it." I threw her my keys and told her to give them to a friend of mine (another teacher) to move... yes, we're very professional at my school. Well, it was too late.

I was irate, knowing that I only had three unpaid tickets, but the other boot victims and I got someone to transport us to the nearest office, where I discovered that the last time I had paid my tickets online, I had mistakenly typed in the same ticket number twice, so rather than apply my payment to another ticket, the city in its infinite wisdom had given me a $50 credit on my "account" while the ticket I had meant to pay had doubled to $100.

Another ticket, one for not having a front license plate, which I had protested, with pictures... I did have a front license plate that was semi-smashed into my grille at the time... and which I thought was taken care of, was not, so I had to pay for that one, too.

Dayley. I hate his sorry ass.

Jen / November 20, 2004 1:59 PM

I have a nice tow truck story. My best friend parked downtown right before christmas because she had to run into her office to do some last minute work. She parked in an area she thought was legal but apparently wasn't. Luckily, her boyfriend was walking to her office to meet her and saw the tow truck guy starting to hook up her car. Fortunately he ran up and after giving the guy the "come on man, it's christimas!" line he got the car back and didn't have to pay a dime. some tow-truck guys do have some holiday spirit.

elly / November 20, 2004 6:03 PM

It was May, I woke up one morning to go to work and found my car had been stolen. Later in July--when I was out of the country--my roommate called my parents to let them know I had received a notice in the mail informing me of a parking ticket. Obviously, 'they' ditched my car (four blocks from my house). Of course the officer didn't bother to see if it was a stolen vehicle. So a few faxes and a few hundred dollars later--I got the car back. I had to pay the ticket and the towing fees. Why? Supposedly, on the police report it says that I am responsible for towing fees on a stolen vehicle, because the City of Chicago is "keeping the car safe" for me. Thank you for the flippin' favor, City of Chicago.

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