I want to tell you about something that happened to me. But first, let me frontload my sad tale with a giant dose of self-flagellation to ward off the criticism that I know I probably deserve.
I know that getting a parking ticket is bad and wrong and not paying that parking ticket is even badder and wronger. I was a bad and wrong person, specifically in the area of parking tickets. If my dad is correct, and getting parking tickets is a sign of bad character, then I am truly rotten and probably deserve to go straight to Hell.
So, a few weeks ago I parked my car on Gold Ave. and caught the 10:37 a.m. train to Santa Fe to attend the Legislature. I was in an extreme hurry to catch the train (chatty neighbor; long story) and so I parked my car in the closest place I could find - a two hour, metered spot. I figured I would eat the ticket when I got back in town at 5:30 or so.
I ended up having to stay in Santa Fe later and got back on the train around 9:30. As I walked in the dark from the depot I saw my car and I saw a ticket. Then I saw the bright yellow boot and a giant notice taped to my window telling me I couldn't get my car back until Metro Court opened Monday morning at 8 a.m.
The giant notice said Albuquerque Parking Enforcement booted my car for outstanding unpaid parking tickets. Parking Enforcement booted my car a few minutes after 5. Even if I had been in town, there would have been no way for me to get the boot removed before court closed for the weekend.
I checked around with everyone I could think of - the after-hours parking emergency number (ha!), the police, 311, local towing services, the Downtown Action Team - and found that NO ONE could help me. But not just that - no one I talked to knew that the city was even doing this.
If it would have been a normal Friday night, I might have been okay with not having my car for the next two days. But it was APS spring break and I was supposed to drive to Phoenix with my family IN MY CAR first thing Saturday.
After a brief spell of hysteria followed by a lengthy bout of catatonia, I became resigned to the fact that I was going to have to upset my young sons DEEPLY and postpone our vacation.
I was angry at myself, sure. Like I said, parking tickets are very wrong and bad. I mean, according to the giant notice, I had four of them, dating back to 2005. I was obviously a hardened criminal worthy of the most severe punishment.
But seriously, it seemed a little harsh for the city to effectively seize my car for more than 48 hours with absolutely no warning and no recourse. I never got any notices about the tickets, probably because I moved around a bit since 2005. Once booted, I had no chance to rectify my horrible mistake until the cold light of Monday a.m.
And I have to say, I wasn't at all thrilled about leaving my nice shiny car down on Gold all weekend. Because of all the booming cruisers jamming the avenue, I could barely get across the street to hop into my friend's car for a ride home. I didn't feel safe down there - what about my car?
Long story short, I jumped through all the little mazes on Monday morning and paid all my fees - including $50 for the boot removal - and I got my beloved car back, unscathed. I made my trip to Phoenix later that week.
But as I shared my story with people, I was struck by how many other hardened criminals I ran into. Lots of people in Albuquerque, it seemed, had unpaid parking tickets. But nobody had any idea they could get booted.
So it seems to me the city of Albuquerque needs to get busy with some kind of - dare I say - "promotional effort" to let people know the city can actually deprive them of their car for an entire weekend. I consider myself quite an avid news consumer and I never heard of it in the news nor saw any written notice of it, anywhere.
I guarantee more people would pay up if they knew.