Apparently, writing a playful rhyme about how pleased you are with yourself for successfully parking your car in D.C. is too big of a temptation for the parking gods to ignore. Three days after I wrote my last post about parking in D.C., I became an involuntary member of an exclusive (though perhaps not exclusive as it should be) D.C. club: those whose cars have been lost by the District.
To be fair, I am the one who lost my car first. That is, I made the mistake of parking it in the wrong place. It was late one night, and the spot seemed too good to be true (I now know the truth: so for parking spots as for anything else…if it seems too good to be true, it probably is!). Before deciding to park there, I even got out of my car and read all the parking restrictions I could see, but I wasn’t totally convinced I had correctly interpreted the block’s half dozen signs with their multitude of arrows indicating different restrictions in different directions. Walking away from my Civic, I texted the friend whose house I had just come from: “Home safe, though may have just parked where I’ll get towed. Really hope not.” Mistake #1.
The next day, I intended to go out and move my car in the evening, but I ended up out late after work, unexpectedly, and didn’t make the trip to my car when I got home. Mistake #2.
Two days later, I went for a walk along the street where I had parked my car.
No car. Plenty of other cars, but my car was gone.
I knew it! I huffed to myself. I should have listened to my instincts about not parking there. Wondering how much this mistake would cost me and where the impound lot would be and how I’d get there, I found the phone number to call if your car gets towed in the District. After about ten minutes on hold at 9:30 p.m., I was told that there was no record of my car being towed.
“Can we check again?” I asked. I provided all the identifying information I could think of for my car.
“No record,” the operator repeated. I asked what I could do next. She told me to call the police. Apparently, sometimes they tow cars without updating the records checked by the operators at the tow hotline.
“We have no record of that car being towed,” said the man on the other end of the police line.
I asked him to check again. Still no record. I asked how I should go about finding my car.
“All you can do is report it stolen.”
As hard as it was for me to believe that my car had been stolen from a major avenue literally across the street from the National Cathedral, I Googled information about the most commonly stolen cars in the country, and the results weren’t promising. Vehicles of my exact make, model, and year are the #2 most stolen cars in Virginia, #3 most stolen in Maryland, and #3 most stolen nationwide. Thieves like older Civics for their parts.
Now that I learned enough to actually start to believe my car could have been stolen, it was finally time for the happy, we’ll-all-laugh-about-this-someday ending:
I didn’t report my car stolen, not just yet. I found a blog that described how the District had lost plenty of other people’s cars while towing them in the past, and all of those people were told to report their cars stolen only to eventually discover that their cars had simply been towed.
So, I called the District tow line again the next day. They told me exactly where my car was. Why that information was not available sooner, I’ll never know. It had been moved just five blocks away! And while I would have liked to spend that $100 ticket fee on something else, I have a lot to be grateful for: my car wasn’t stolen, my car wasn’t taken to some impound lot miles and miles away, and the ticket wasn’t nearly as pricey as I feared it might be.
$100 for that lesson and that story? I’m always telling myself that what doesn’t kill us will only be a good lesson and a good story. In this case, the price tag might even be considered an initiation fee for an exclusive club: I am now one of the elite few whose cars have been lost by the District.
I’ll take that fact partially as an honor and mostly as a sign that I should never again use a nursery rhyme or children’s song as a model for a blog post about parking, lest I again tempt the parking gods!