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Happy Thanksgiving — Your car has been towed!

By Kaye Griffin

I am in shock!

San Francisco authorities went out towing cars on Thanksgiving day. Who could possibly have ordered the Department of Parking and Traffic or the police to send out their brave officers on a search-and-destroy mission to tag and tow on Thanksgiving day! To hunt down petty infractions of the parking code — while probably collecting double-time holiday pay, while not chasing drunk drivers or clearing up hazardous conditions. Out victimizing people who are spending time with family and friends. Giving thanks for what we do have in these hard times, taking respite from the everyday stresses.

They went out with the knowledge that every office is locked down tight for the four days until Monday because of the holiday, knowing that the fees will keep rolling upward as car owners are helpless to act.

On Friday after Thanksgiving I went out to have coffee, with the thought of doing some grocery shopping now that the crowds would be better. I walked by where my car had been legally parked on a small residential street around the corner from my West SOMA apartment. In shock I realized the car wasn't there. "Oh no," I thought, "what kind of low-life criminal would steal a car on Thanksgiving?" I called the police to report the theft, and was told that it had been towed, at 6pm on Thanksgiving day — disabled placard and all. "But why?" I asked, "I was legally parked, it was a holiday from street sweeping..." For expired registration I was told. I called the towing company and got a list of things I had to do — all at offices that were closed until Monday — and a list of fees that were increasing even as we talked. The mantra of "cash only." I called all over town hoping some office would be open. No — just voicemails telling me they were closed until Monday for the four-day holiday. Wishing me a happy holiday.

I am a 60-year-old disabled woman, a 40-year resident of the city. This is where I worked for years before becoming disabled, in this city we care about as if she is a person, where friends are. In sadness and fear I try to keep participating in the social, artistic, and political life of our city as my health declines, as my friends move away, as I lose social services and medical care with the endless cuts. The institutions decline into impossible bureaucracies which demand more time, more effort, more long lines. Even as I have less energy for those lines, even as I have less help to deal with them. As I get older and broken down, as my trusty 82 Subaru wagon gets older and broken down, as my computer gets older and broken down... I fear for what the future holds. Now must I additionally fear heartless stealth attacks by our public servants? What else will they do during the coming holiday season?

I try so hard to comply with the regulations. I have a current drivers license (with great difficulty, since that one too disappeared into the black hole of Sacramento bureaucracy). I have insurance; I was parked legally. I paid the registration fees when due but can't register the car until I hear back from the smog agency. I called their 800 number to figure out what to do when I neither passed nor failed the smog test. The woman said I could make a prepaid $50 appointment with a referee on the peninsula (the closest one to SF) but that she didn’t know what they actually did there, and I could not have the number to call there to find out if it was even the right place to go. I was sent around in circles. I tried again and this time failed the test. I sent off the papers and waited, and waited. I have been protesting the parking tickets I'm getting because I can't fix the problem. I have gone to the constituency offices of legislators to get things moving so I don't lose the car. I am exhausted, and I am still waiting. And now this!

How can this city that just covered the town with heart sculptures to great fanfare be so heartless! Mayor Newsom (554-6141), is this the city that you want to preside over, a petty cruel place? What will we have next? The Department of Stealing-Candy-From-Babies? Supervisors, please help: These are neither humane nor fiscally responsible policies — the overtime pay will surely eat up any ill-gotten gains from the fines. Mr. Bond M. Yee, Executive Director of the DPT (554-9811 or 554-9800?), SFPD Chief Heather Fong (553-1551), Auto Return Towing (621-8605), have you no shame, was it you who ordered this, who initiated this?

On Thanksgiving evening I had dinner with friends on Shotwell in the Mission district. A woman, a schoolteacher, left to go home and then came back, practically in tears. Her car had been towed! She had looked when she parked, but had not seen the damaged and unreadable sign. Little did I realize this was not an aberration. How many more of us were towed in this holiday assault? Someone should call and find out.

I don't know what to do. If I cannot afford to get my car back, will they steal the disabled placard, papers, and personal belongings that are in the car? Who can help me straighten this out? I am furious. I am already exhausted and must go wait in multiple lines. How can I pay for this? And I'm still stuck waiting to hear from the smog bureaucracy and DMV...