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Daniel Eran

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photo City Tow Angels
Good morning angels! Your next assignment is to locate a missing vehicle in San Francisco and return it to its owner. The client has wracked up plenty of parking tickets, so spare no expense poking at the keyboard until you solve the case!

If your vehicle goes missing in San Francisco, it's possible that a sinister thug stole it. It's far more likely that the City did. Here's how to get your vehicle back from the City Tow. And yes, it helps if you have some hot, foxy angels on your side.

When I got released from the hospital at the beginning of February, my first goal was retrieving my motorcycle. My arm was freshly screwed and stapled together, and I was barely making it through the day on narcotics.

As it was, the police had towed it. Sheesh, I would rather have just picked my bike up from the sidewalk on Mission and 8th, where it only risked a possible street cleaning ticket. Now I had to go get it fast before the City could auction it.

Daniel Eran, Tow Expert
I know all about towed vehicles through personal experience. Cars get towed fast in the City. I was driving a friend's car once, and parked on Market Street downtown to run in a store and pick up a part. I left my friend in the car because all the scant parking on Market is marked as commercial loading. Unfortunately, I had earlier made friends with the wrong person. He decided he really needed a coffee. Within five minutes the vehicle had been towed and was gone without a trace when I got back.
Since I didn't learn from this experience, I later let the same person drive my own car and, after smashing it into an uninsured truck, he managed to leave it in the path of tow trucks again. It costs a couple hundred dollars to get a car out of tow, but that's often the cheap part. There is also the matter of paying any tickets on the vehicle.

In my case, even though I had only owned that car for a few months, I had to pay all the tickets issued to it over the last several years, from all its earlier drivers, including tickets issued by other states. Had I known the full cost of getting the vehicle back, I would have let it go. But since it was full of expensive equipment from work, I paid out the several hundred for tow and storage and a couple grand in tickets.
With my car's worth now at a negative number, I told my friend he couldn't drive it again. So instead he stole it, wrecked it again, and had it towed in another county. So I lost all my equipment anyway, along with my goofy Blaupunkt radio and CD changer I had bought in high school. I was somewhat nostalgic about that little Jetta, too. It was the first car I had ever owned that I had not totaled in an accident. I have not owned a car since.

Cars get towed, bikes are stolen
Motorcycles don't usually get towed, they are just stolen. Last fall, when my previous motorcycle disappeared from in front of my place, I figured it had been stolen because it had been stolen before. The thief had ran it around the City for nearly three years before I found it on the sidewalk in the Mission. I tracked down the driver, who had paid the thief in cash to use it. Since I had the title, she gave it back to me. Three years is a long time to ride a motorcycle around the City without a valid license plate.

Just few months after getting it back, I had to report it stolen again. But by the time San Francisco's finest called me to report that it had actually been towed, the City had already auctioned it off. I later found it parked on the sidewalk with a for sale sign on Market Street, then on the sidewalk in the Mission in front of the new buyer's apartment.

It was originally towed, ostensibly, for being parked on my sidewalk, but more likely, a DPT employee with a quota was just grasping for straws. With the amount of grossly illegal parking going on, they have better things to do than steal motorcycles from sidewalks when they are not even in the way.

Towed again?
So when the police told me in the hospital that they had towed my motorcycle from the accident scene, it brought back all kinds of memories. With all the morphine in me, I didn't feel like getting into a brawl with him right there in the General. I just gave him a questioning look.

He explained that had they not towed it, and just parked it on the street, it might have gotten ticketed and eventually even towed! I gave him another questioning look. It was about all I could do; I wasn't about to attack a cop with my arm being broken and all. I didn't even have to check to see if he had his gun on him.
I didn't even know how badly damaged my bike was. All I had seen of it from my awkward sprawl across the center line of westbound Mission Street was its smashed up headlight, so it looked like it was in bad shape. The paramedics said my bike didn't look too bad at all, but I didn't have high hopes. I kept thinking, "I can heal, my bike can't!" I have since discovered that it is much easier to pay to fix stuff than it is to heal.
How to return stolen merchandise
If the Department of Parking and Traffic knows you have more than five tickets when ticketing you, and you haven't parked badly enough to be immediately impounded, they will arrange to have your car booted with a giant lock. You have to pay to get the boot removed, and all your tickets, or they will eventually tow it. Booting is like house arrest.

If your vehicle was towed because you parked it somewhere really sketchy, you first have to go to the DPT and pay your sketchy-parking ticket and then any other tickets they can dredge up that might be connected to your vehicle. They then give you a release that you have to schlep down the hall to City Tow, where you wait in line to pay to actually get your vehicle back.
If like me, your vehicle was towed by friendly cops for your own protection, you just need an approval letter from the SFPD. All three agencies (the cops, the robbers, and the extortionists, as I like to think of them) can be found in the County Jail building at 850 Bryant between 6th and 7th Streets. You aren't really going to jail, just visiting. It does cost more than $50 or three doubles to get out however.
Specifically it costs $121.00 for the tow (large things cost more), $50.00 to have the them look up your record, and at least another $25.25 for storage. If you don't pick it up the first day, they charge $34.75 in storage fees for each extra day. You have a couple days to get it while it's still parked at the County Jail under the freeway. After that, they bill you $21.50 to move it to the long term storage at Pier 70 on the Central Waterfront, just south of whatever they're calling PacBell Park now.

When the DPT was merged with the MUNI, this cartoon appeared in the SF Weekly's PUNI strip by Dan Siegler. I remembered peeing my pants reading it back then, but forgot how funny it was until I wrote Mr. Siegler asking when the cartoon was published, since the Weekly's archives are so hard to search. He forwarded it to me with permission to print it (click for the full glory version). Wow, I feel so grown up.


Angels to the rescue!
Fortunately, since I was so battered up and my bike had been towed through no fault of my own, my case was handled by three smart, sexy, dangerous and curvy bombshell hotties, while I was asked to recline at the private VIP bar, fed oysters and cognac and my feet were massaged.

Okay, I'm making some of that up. Still, everyone involved was sort of hot, and all in all, the experience was better than reliving the actual accident again.

I was given a bit of hassle by the high security anti terrorism army of one on entering the building. That was mostly because I had a backpack, which is a device known to be used by many terrorists to harbor bombs, weapons of mass destruction, and other evildoing, anti-American materials. I struggled with the zipper one handedly for a bit, then laid it down with all my coins and extensive collection of things that set off security.

He glanced at my bag and then pushed it back at me with a simple, "zip it up" before returning to his slouch. After going through all that unzipping trouble with one arm, I kinda wanted an extensive search of my empty bag. If they aren't fulling searching me, what about the terrorists behind me?
For the rest of my visit, I was all concerned about the County Jail being bombed, since it is such a high profile target representing, as it does, the kind of freedom this country enjoys through, and only through, the occasional slaughter of a given generation of young people.



I picked up the play telephone to talk to the cops. It turned out that my personal cop happened to be there, and was able to write up my vehicle release. That was fortunate since my bike wasn't in the computer yet. I headed to City Tow, where magically there wasn't even a line. I was helped right off by the next window person. He was an angel. I'm kind of guessing about the 'he' part; I wasn't really sure and it didn't seem to matter.

Definitely angelic though: a radiant, almost gleaming sort of white mullet, a larger than life presence, and I guess I just got the impression that God would probably kick him out of heaven if he ever had sex.

Also like an angel, he delivered some bad news. First off, the cop had not specifically written a reason for release on the release form on the line after the "other" box that he had checked. Apparently, the reason for release is a very important statistic that can only be verified by a peace officer, so my explanation that it was towed following my accident was not sufficient. I had to walk back to the police to have the cop write in the word "accident."

When I got back, I found the long line I was accustomed to waiting in when visiting the City Tow. Since I already had my angel, I just bypassed the line. The next bit of bad news was that since I had a motorcycle, they had fast tracked the whole towing situation and sent it down to Pier 70 right away. They automatically charged me the additional fees required to provide me the extra inconvenience of traveling down there to get it back.
This all would have been so much easier and cheaper (and less of a personal inconvenience) if I had just ran a huge SUV through a red light and ploughed over a bunch of people in the crosswalk. In San Francisco, this costs nothing and doesn't even incur a ticket, let alone being treated like some kind of criminal.

I paid the $221.50 for the second release paper and the map to Pier 70. I'd been there before.


Out on the boondocks
I called the company that owned the tow truck that broke my arm to see if they would rather send a driver to pick it up for me than have me do it and charge them for it. They advised me to get a truck and do it myself. So I rented a pickup and headed south. It was rainy funeral weather. I picked out my bike from the small circle of motorbikes in the yard. Not only was my bike looking pretty decent, but there were plenty of vehicles in way worse shape that made me feel glad to be alive, let alone able to fix up my bike.

The yard sent out a fork lift and picked my bike way up in the air using a sling. It fit in my pickup pretty well. If I'd had rented a larger truck, it would not have stayed upright. I drove it over to the shop to get an estimate. Its been sitting there for the last month.

The insurance company hasn't called me back yet, so I suppose I'll just have to pay for the work and sue them. I've suffered so many damages from various people that I haven't sued, that I think it's about time I did a massive lawsuit undertaking and sue for some monumentally mad piles of cash.


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