Sometimes Advocacy & Public Safety Lessons Come When Least Expected

I had toyed about not writing this, but I felt compelled to possibly do this to help someone who might be in my position one day & may not be as fortunate as I was to have friends help me sort this mess out…

I have a friend who I often have Sunday or sometimes weekend brunches with.  Today she offered to treat me & I met her at this unique spot that has amazingly fresh & hand-prepared food.  One of her other friends joined us & we were having our usual great time we do when we get together; enjoying some cooler weather lunch specials & of course swapping stories & happenings.

(Preface & RULE #1 – NEVER distrust your gut. I had a nagging feeling that maybe I should park on the street but it was cold, I had a bigger oxygen tank & was fighting a bit of inflammation from the weather.  I opted instead since there were no signs in the lot, to park across the street in the first space closest to the restaurant.  My disabled placard was in plain view from my mirror.  I had a spare D tank in the backseat & a backpack with a smaller tank on my front seat.   There were no signs anywhere in the lot. )

I took my big tank into the restaurant because I wanted to be able to enjoy my time there without having to worry about switching out tanks.

Please tell me when you see these views of the parking lot, where it indicates it is a tow-away zone or parking is NOT allowed?

The first picture has a 2 hour parking on the outside for weekdays. I was parked on the other side of the truck.

The third photo is the sign, that according to police, is the number I should call to find out which towing company has my car, but as you can see it’s not readable….

The others are basically different areas of the lot in question. NO signs anywhere.

I guess I’m supposed to be a mind reader & know that the lot across the street on the other side of this one, which did have a sign is connected somehow??? I didn’t park there, because obviously it said it was a tow-away zone.  Not much parking available on the side streets either.

IMG_0807 IMG_0806 IMG_0805 IMG_0804 IMG_0803 IMG_0802

So tell me, what is a girl with an oxygen tank who is clearly disabled supposed to do on a blustery day? Or even someone else from the area but out of the neighborhood, or an out-of-towner?

I came out from my meal to find my car gone. My friend I was with noticed at the same time & of course is the type who said right then & there that “There was no way she was leaving me until my car was found”.   Our first call was to the police, who were sympathetic but couldn’t tell me which towing company it was.

The next call was from the other friend who was with us who ran across to the other lot across the street to get the number just in case they were connected or owned by the same entity. She did that while my friend & I went to the salon on the back side of the lot to ask if they knew of where I could call.

The kind lady at the salon suggested the parking authority.

I called them, but they are only there Monday-Friday.

By that time, we got the number to the other lot. Dialed it. Sure enough it was towed. They gave me the address.

My friend took me over there.  No tow truck was waiting.  Knocked on the door.  No response.  A car was pulled up there so I kindly asked a gentleman who seemingly had a friend in the same position how long they had been waiting & if they had a number.

I called the towing company. Yes, they had it.  They said $X (too ridiculous to put the fee here) in cash to get my car back. I explained there were no signs & that I was clearly disabled and this could have caused me a medical emergency. Indifference would have been nice. Less than indifference was what I was given. I was told to wait 15 minutes.  Knowing the gentleman I had asked had already been there a half an hour when he was told 10-15 minutes, my friend & I opted to run back to my house to get a spare tank, since I was empty & my other spares had been towed with my car.

On the way back, we swung by the ATM, got the money.  Called while we were in route, “Yes, they were there now and waiting for me,  again bring $X”.  Click.  Before they hung up I said, “Do you realize there are no signs in that lot? I am clearly disabled from the oxygen in the backseat & the placard in clear view & that had I not had a friend with me, it could have caused a medical emergency? ” *Click* was my response.

I go over there, again was asked for the cash. Asked to verify my car, fork over my driver’s license.  Again stated since I had a large tank that I came close to running out of oxygen since my spares were also towed. I received a rather cold & terse response from the tow truck operator, “Don’t take it out on me, I just work here & am following instructions”.  I said, “I doubt you would be this indifferent if it was your sister, mother, or grandmother in this situation. Is there someone I can talk to contest this?”  The snarky retort of, “Yes, the number you called to get your car is the number to call.”

So he let me into the lot, made me drag my tank to the farthest end.  My car was wedged on one side so I had to load everything to the other side including the tank I had with me (with no assistance).  While he stood outside the lot, (again offering no assistance whatsoever) yet still in plain sight. Thanks!

The lesson I learned today though is, if I have friends (and I’m lucky to have more than one) that give up an afternoon or drop everything to help me in this situation that is much more than what many people have.  Support & friendship like that cannot be measured in dollar amounts.  I’m lucky I not only have people I live with who would have stuck by me through this & I could have called, but also someone I was with in close proximity who was empathetic & who cared enough to help me navigate this situation much more quickly & just committed right then & there to see it through with me.  Friends like both of these are hard to come by.

I really feel for people who are older, who may not have anyone to call for a situation like this or friends to rely on how they would feel if they had just gone out for a nice weekend meal by themselves. Then come out to this & been left completely stranded.

That’s why, I’m going to get help contesting this. Not just for me, but for those people who don’t have what I have & who are made to feel like they are 2 inches tall in these situations because it’s a personal & public safety issue, disability or no disability…

So, when in doubt…if you are alone, disabled & something like this happens to you – maybe this is a feasible action plan to get a resolution or at least headed down the right path…

1.  Take pictures of the lot.  Show clear proof there are no signs.  (You can use this to contest it later.)

2. Look for a business near the lot. Ask them if they know the towing company or the number.  If they don’t, call the local police.  They can at least help you narrow it down.

3. Find the towing company number, if it’s not clearly posted or the business doesn’t know. Look for an adjacent lot that has one, the worst they tell you is no.

4.  Note your cross streets in both instances.

5.  If it’s during the week, try to call a parking authority. They might be able to help locate the lot’s towing company of choice.

6.  Once you have the location & number to the towing place see if there’s any friend or family member you can call to have you run over there. (But since it takes awhile ask them to see if they can also run you home for a fresh tank if you’re low or home to take your regular medicine).  The stress level will come down considerably if one is not worried about running too short on oxygen or any other issue you may have that makes you medically vulnerable.

(If you have no one with you or anyone you can call, it might not hurt to call the police back again & say you’re in distress & need an escort to a certain location because this is causing you a medical emergency & endangering your welfare.  This is not the time to be proud.)

7. Call the towing company number enroute & tell them you are disabled & need a firm time of when you can expect to be able to get your car back along with the fee out front & terms.  Then you can plan your runs accordingly & you’re not wasting time sitting in an empty lot when you can be doing other things to make it easier to take back possession of your car.

8.  Verbally ask (even if they tell you a b.s. answer like “It’s on the release form” or “The number you called” where you can contest this.  If it’s a number, that’s fine just get confirmation from the person you’re making the transaction with.

9. However, if you have a friend who is a lawyer, or someone that knows one even better. Try & pick their brain to get feedback on how to go about contesting it. They might be able to help you, but if not, they surely might know who could.

Hopefully, just absorbing this in the back of one’s mind for future use might save someone some very tense & panicky moments because there’s an actionable, reasonable path to troubleshooting it.

UPDATE 10/5: Thanks to another local blogger I enlisted for help, he found a news article on this very intersection. He also provided me with the contact information to the property owner so I can send a written complaint to get this addressed at the source.

Keep in mind, I took more photos as evidence to display the clear lack of signage in the lot I parked in & to also to prove there are ZERO designated disabled spots anywhere in the vicinity on either side of that one way street or the attached side streets.  I also contacted a few local media outlets to bring some attention to the issue because it is a public safety concern that needs to be addressed by more than just the lot owner, but by the city and/or Parking Authority. I know I can’t get my money back going through the towing company, but I’m taking it above them to try to effect change & call attention to the unprofessional manner in which this was handled by the towing company they contracted with. I am hoping they agree that it could have been dealt with much more reasonably & safely than it was.  I’m doing so not only for me, but for others so no else is left stranded with a potential medical emergency.

UPDATE 10/7: After a bit further digging with the help of some friends, I was able to find the email address & an alternate contact for the lot owner.  I sent them a copy of the letter I sent originally to the development office to try to advise them of the situation in an email, as well as a brief summation of the issues at hand, & requested a meeting to discuss this further.

UPDATE 10/8: called lot owner’s office & asked to confirm receipt of email sent yesterday & provided brief synopsis of situation to his assistant.  Explained lack of signage & lack of disabled parking within designated distance as well as unprofessionalism of the towing agency.  Awaiting call back.

UPDATE: 10/22:  Sometime during the week I was in Anderson Hospital after my car accident on 10/8, I received a call from the Director of the Parking Authority.  An apology, but also let him know about lack of designated disabled parking that lead to this in the first place.  Said he was forwarding the issue to the city, and agreed it was of concern.  Yesterday, I received a call from someone from the city.  Explained to her too & she said they were looking into it to see if there could be a designated spot made available on the block or the side street.   No response yet from the lot owner or his assistant in regards to returning the message I left & the email I sent to him directly. But maybe at least at minimum the city will take action on that block & some designated spaces can be put in.

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2 thoughts on “Sometimes Advocacy & Public Safety Lessons Come When Least Expected

  1. Should I guess that the PPA were involved in this debacle? I feel your pain and agony!

    Like

    • I’m not completely divulging details of that nature but I was told I could try to contest with the parking authority to find out who to absolutely contest this with outside the towing company but just in case someone somewhere else has this happen hopefully they’ll have the framework of an effective action plan

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