Towing and Booting in Provo

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[Note: “Booting” is a practice wherein a large steel clamp is put on a car’s tire, rendering the car immobile. Some booting is done by towing companies, while some is done by businesses who boot exclusively.]

I drive a 1987 Hyundai Excel named Pedro. It’s not so much a car as it is a monster from the fiery pits of the underworld.

Pedro has many faults, but the one that gets the most complaints from passengers is that the passenger door only opens from the outside. I think this is rather handy, because when ladies are in the car it forces me to be a gentlemen and open the door for them. Also, it keeps my dates from escaping when I stop at red lights. (A few plucky gals have tried breaking the glass with their elbows, but they usually just wind up with bloody elbows and a lesson learned the hard way.)

I used to deliver pizzas for a living, and so I have driven quite a bit in Provo (city motto: “Where Every Light is a Red Light!”). Naturally, I have had many harrowing experiences. But all my stories of long red lights, bad “Utah drivers” (and by the way, no matter which state you’re in, the non-locals always think the locals are bad drivers), lack of protected left turns — all these things pale in comparison to my experiences of BEING TOWED and HAVING MY CAR BOOTED!

Yes, gather ’round, children, and hear these terrifying tales. Please, if you are faint of heart or expect to give birth soon, do not read any further. These stories will shock and terrify you with their evil maliciousness.

People have been talking a lot about towing and booting ever since The Daily Universe printed several articles on the matter last semester. The true-life experiences discussed in those stories seem to have gotten bees in a lot of people’s bonnets, and there was even an episode of physical violence toward a booting company employee.

From what I can determine, here is how the business of “booting” began: Some high-ranking official in the towing business figured out a way to do less work and still make money. “Rather than tow the cars and get them out of the way of the people who are supposed to be parking there,” this person thought, “we’ll just immobilize them and make them stay there longer, and thus defeat the entire purpose, and make everyone really mad! Oh, and we won’t be very nice about it either.”

I don’t know if this is really their mind-set or not. All I can do is tell you what happened to me, and you can be the judge. Bear in mind that these true stories will make your blood run cold. Again I urge you — control the anger that you will be caused to feel in my behalf.

A few days after I moved to my apartment, I went outside to discover that Pedro the Hyundai had been booted. This is because I did not have a parking sticker yet, which can be explained by the fact that when I moved in, the manager neglected to tell me that I NEEDED a parking sticker. So I went to her, and she told me that oh, yeah, she should have given me a parking sticker, yadda yadda yadda. She called the booting company and told them that an accidental booting had occurred.

You can probably guess what happened next. That’s right, the bootman came out to where I live — how long did it take? ABOUT TWENTY MINUTES! The horror!! — and he promptly unbooted my car, for free, and went away. As you can imagine, I had a difficult time controlling my natural urge to beat this man to death with a crowbar, he having inconvenienced me for nearly a half-hour due to an honest mistake, which he fixed as quickly as possible. No jury in the world would have convicted me.

My personal nightmare with towing, which is even more terrifying — again, pregnant people, go away — happened a few months later. I was late for school, so I drove, and I don’t have a parking permit. My usual just-barely-off-campus parking spot was taken, so I had to improvise. Being no good at improvising, I wound up parking at the gas station next to Subway on 900 East. There was no sign saying “You will be towed if you’re not a customer and you park here anyway,” but it was certainly implied, and I knew it.

I came back two hours later and sure enough, my car was gone. I knew no one was stupid enough to steal it, so I went inside and asked where cars get towed to. The manager was very apologetic about the fact that they’d had their lunch rush and needed the parking spot, and he was left with no choice but to tow me. I told him I understood. He gave me the business card of Knight’s Towing, and I left.

I called Knight’s Towing from a courtesy phone on campus. I was expecting the worst, having read at least a paragraph or two of The Daily Universe’s extensive, unbiased coverage of towing in Provo. I expected the person I talked to to breathe flames through the phone and melt my glasses. I braced myself.

If you’ve been in this situation, you know what happened. It’s the kind of thing that makes you wonder how those towing people can live with themselves day after day. The woman answered the phone, asked what kind of car it was, and then put me on hold FOR NEARLY A MINUTE! Then she came back and told me where the impound lot was, and that it was $60, cash only, and that I could come in any time. My blood was boiling now, let me tell you!

So I walked home, stopping at the ATM long enough to discover that my ATM card was not working, no doubt the fault of the towing company. When I got home, I called a friend to come take me to the bank and to Knight’s Towing.

When I got there, I met the woman from on the phone face-to-face. She was a pleasant-looking young lady with a ring on her married finger. She took my $60 and pointed to the lot where the car was. Then she pointed to a man outside who could unlock the gate for me. I thanked her and she said — I still can’t believe the nerve she had — “Have a good day.” What’s worse, she actually MEANT it. I was seeing red, I was so steamed.

The guy who could unlock the gate looked like a real bruiser, but by this time, I was ready for a fight. I was all set to take the arrogant attitude he was going to have and cram it right back down his throat. I said, “Are you the fellow who can unlock the gate for me?” And he said, “Yep. Sure thing.” He unlocked the gate and waved to me in a friendly manner as I drove away. Frankly, I felt bad going to religion class the next day because of all the anger and hatred these dreadful people had stirred up in me.

These experiences have scarred me for life. I was once a dewey-eyed youth, full of hope and optimism. But these events have caused me to grow a hard, reptilian shell to block out the evil and anger that exist all around me. I only hope that no one I love will ever be forced to go through what I went through with the towers and the booters. May the heavens have mercy on them if they do.

This column is fairly dripping with sarcasm and irony. The real story is that The Daily Universe ran several articles about towing, and they were not exactly the most objective things in the world. Granted, there is little good to be said about the towing industry in Provo, and even less about the booting industry, but the articles were very unbalanced. I had these experiences about that time, and I realized that my stories were not nearly as horrific as everyone else's seemed to be. I wrote this column to poke fun at the whole uproar, and to show that maybe, believe it or not, there might be two sides to the whole thing. Everyone I talked to got the point, but I'm sure there were many who read this column and just got angrier at the towing and booting people.

This column was the first mention of Pedro, my now-famous car, by the way. I mentioned him every now and then after this, and believe it or not, people actually did come up to me and ask, "How's Pedro?" Some of them even continued to do so even after Pedro died, a fact made clear in this column).

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