10 Oct The Guy Who Wants to Tow My Car

I park in a neighborhood adjacent to the university where I work. It’s a tony neighborhood, with houses that are worth a million or more. My university has negotiated a number of agreements with the neighborhood in order to diminish the hassle of having so many college kids in the vicinty. The college kids are not allowed to park in the neighborhood, for example.

Such agreements do not apply to university’s faculty, of course. So we faculty park wherever we can, as long as we observe the city’s signage. But there’s one guy in the neighborhood who thinks otherwise. And every day he finds my car and puts a warning under my windshield. The warning, on a full sheet of typing paper, reads:

“To whom it may concern: If you insist on parking here, your automobile will be ticketed and towed at your own expense. The Guilford Committee & The Loyola Campus Police.”

I know this guy is an idiot. Still, every day, as I approach my car, I get a little anxious — because I don’t want to see that piece of paper under my windshield. I don’t want to have to pull it out from under the wiper blade. I don’t want to think about this guy peering out his window (with satisfaction) as I sigh and, yet again, toss his note – which hasn’t varied in two years — onto the floor of my car. Life is too short for this kind of petty harassment.

I found the guy staring at my car one afternoon. As I approached, he retreated to his yard, across the street. As I had suspected, he is a retiree — a man of middling stature, with silver hair and close-cropped silver beard. He was wearing a buttoned-down shirt, blue blue jeans, and white running shoes. I said, “Is there a problem?”

He said, “You’re not supposed to park there.”

I said, “It’s a city street. If you want to prohibit parking across the street from your house, then petition the city for no parking signs.”

He said, “You’re not supposed to park there.”

I said, “I’d love to control the parking in front of my house, just a mile from here, but, guess what, I don’t have the authority — these are city streets. Anybody can park here.”

This went on for a while longer and ended with me not quite shouting, “Stop leaving notes on my windshield!”

I know that nobody is going to tow my car from this street. I am, in fact, parking in front of a municipal pump house, beside the reservoir. I know that the university is not going to say a word about faculty parking in this, or any, neighborhood. Ever. I know that this guy is not going to slash my tires. Still, as I encounter his note every day, I understand the kind of little irritations that might drive an otherwise reasonable person to shoot a neighbor.

The irritating element here is that the guy wants what he wants. There’s no logic involved. He’s not demented, he just has no life. Maybe he’s frustrated by the multitude of things he can’t change, including his social security payments. And here, across the street from his front yard, is something he thinks he can or should control.

I like to believe that, with the exception of the mentally ill, all of us in the tribe of humanity are reasonable — that, given a chance, most of us will do the right thing. But Mr. Parking Patrol embodies a kind of narcissism that thoroughly corrodes civility because his selfishness defies reason. More irritating is the fact that the man is lying: 1) He does not represent the Guilford Committee. There is no such committee. 2) He cannot speak for the university I work for. And 3) nobody but the Baltimore City police can tow from these streets. I am sure that if, in a court of law, he were confronted with his lies, he would insist that they were justified, viz: a tax-paying American has every right to expect that he can gaze out his picture window and enjoy an unobstructed view of the municipal pump house.

I have thought about saving all of this man’s notes until I had a pile of them, then dumping them in his yard or just inside his storm door. But see what’s become of me? I’ve been drawn into the ugly little puddle of his life. Okay, it’s funny. I laugh about it every day. But just in case, one day, I stop laughing and do something drastic, like dump a truckload of No Parking signs on Mr. Patrol’s front yard and end up doing sixty hours of community service, picking litter from the shoulder of I-95, you’ll know why.