Thursday, June 6, 2013

Towing the Line

I see where New York City is planning to reduce its dependency on towing illegally parked cars in favor of booting them, forcing scofflaws to pay up on the spot to release their cars from incarceration (

Did you ever have your car towed? I did. In the spring of 1977 Gilda and I were living in New Haven, Conn. I had recently joined Nation’s Restaurant News as a field editor in the New York office. Based on the success of “A Taste of Chicago” the previous year, New York restaurateurs decided to support “A Taste of the Big Apple” on May 22 in Central Park. Chefs would show off their culinary talents to the hungry masses who would be inspired, they hoped, to reserve tables for complete meals at some future date at the respective fine-dining establishments. I wasn't assigned to cover the extravaganza but couldn't resist a chance to frolic in the park and nosh on some gourmet delights.

We drove down in our 1973 Chevy Vega hatchback, arriving at West 66 Street and Central Park West around noon. I couldn't believe our good fortune. A parking space. I read the posted signs and determined the spot was legal. We crossed into the park.  It was a spectacular spring day, full of sunshine and the aroma of delicious food. Around 4 pm we decided it was time to head home. 

As this is a story of being towed there's little reason to make our discovery of no-car-where-we-parked any more suspenseful than a Mister Rogers episode. I quickly discovered the “tow-away zone, no parking Saturday” sign I had missed in my earlier reconnaissance. All we could do was flag down a passing policeman to find out where the redemption pound was. 

Over near Chelsea Piers along the Hudson. In other words, a cab ride over. We had to pay a $75 towing fee and the illegal parking ticket before they'd release our car. By now it was close to 6 pm. Normally it took almost two hours to drive back to New Haven. But the towers had done something terrible to the Vega. I couldn't get the car to drive faster than 40 miles per hour the entire ride home. We crawled along the Connecticut Turnpike with our flashers blinking away, arriving home close to 10 pm, uncomfortable in the knowledge that the next morning I'd be chug-chugging along to my mechanic in Seymour to fix the Vega. 

He did a good job. I kept that Vega until 1986, reluctantly replacing it only after a teenager mistook his gas pedal for the brake and slammed into the rear of my car with such force the bumper collapsed into the back tires. All in all, the “Taste of the Big Apple” took a big bite out of our finances.