Monday, March 22, 2010

My Work . . .

. . takes me behind the closed doors of various government offices across the city.

I was at 400 W. Superior waiting on my contact. 400 West is an unusual place. At once it's an office of the department of revenue, a traffic court, the courts leg of the administrative oversight unit, and a payment facility where people spend hours waiting to pay (literally) thousands to get their car out of impound.

If ever you get pulled over and arrested for possessing some kind of substance (something this blog has no need to worry about), or for blaring your radio, or even so much as the cop thinks your car smells suspicious - you're immediately told to step out of the vehicle where it's then taken to any of the five auto pounds. (The owner gets to spend the night playing the fun game of trying to figure out which one.) Even if you're not arrested, it'll be weeks before you have a trial where you can contest the charges being brought against you. You can wait until that trial to fight the charges, but your car is sitting in a lot somewhere, running up storage and tow fees. If you're cleared, they give you back your car. If you lose, you have to pay for the tow fees, as well as thirty-five bucks for each day it was in. Out of necessity, most will pay to get their cars out the day after it was taken in - and hope that they'll be returned their money at the hearing (which is rarely the case.

The worst is when it's the boyfriend or girlfriend. They borrowed the car. Messed up. Now the person whose name appears on the title has to take off work to clear their own name and get their car back.

They were a young spanish couple. She was in the black slacks and dirty polo of a waitress. He had jeans matched with a double xl that swallowed his frame whole. He held a cell phone to his ear the entire time they were in line, but never spoke a word. She stood with the silent sad frustration of someone who lacks that component which allows them to lash out. They reached the head of the line. The girl offered her title and state ID. The cashier responded with a total due reaching just north of $1,400. The man asked the cashier to repeat that amount. He nodded and stepped away. I didn't see him again. The young girl had a hundred in wrinkled bills no larger than a ten. She spread the remaining balance out across three cards. "I bought that car three weeks ago. Everyone that gets in it says it smell that way. That's what the cop smelled. The car always smell like that. He wasn't doing nothing in it." The cashier pulled out her calculator to divide the balance by three.

I watched her staring at the cards as they were each swiped. And here I thought I was a terrible boyfriend. I could and should be doing much worse.

Later, in the morning I had to run a report from a computer located in the cashier's station. I hate having to do this, as the people in line now assume I'm a cashier and/or that I have some sort of idea what happens here. Someone will always approach me and start in with how this is all some kind of misunderstanding. I nod politely then slide down in my chair and hide under the desk until they leave.

The cashier next to me called the next in line. Two guys, mid-twenties. The cashier eyes them for a minute. "Weren't y'all here getting your car out yesterday?"

The taller of the two. "Yeah. Police took it again last night. It's like they out looking for me . . ."

His friend says, "This nigga gets pulled over, tells the lady he bangin' louder than her and turns his radio up!"

They laugh at themselves. I wish these guys were my friends.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

very funny stuff. reminded me of "parking wars" (series on cable) please keep posting, i check you every work day of the week.