We have great benefits at Microsoft. One category of benefits involves commuting which includes free bus passes, Connector buses, and designated parking spots for carpools/vanpools. For example, I take the bus to work a couple days each week using my free bus pass. TB and I are registered carpoolers for the times we ride together.
Carpoolers share a single parking badge which must be displayed whenever a vehicle is parked in one of the designated spots. On several occasions when we both drive, I have admittedly broken the rules by parking my car in a carpool spot without the badge. Four or five times over the past 10 years I have received parking violations from Microsoft Security reminding me that I cannot park my car in a carpool spot without displaying the badge. Nothing more has ever happened but each citation stated the violation would be recorded and my car is subject to immediate towing.
Well, yesterday, Halloween, a Friday when I was at work until 7:30 PM, the big payback hit like a sledgehammer. A security officer with the initials JH had the 626 towed, y’all. My baby was in lockup for the first time.
I was tired and ready to go home after another long week so I made my way to the parking garage to the area I normally park. I don’t normally park in carpool spots but I had parked in one Thursday morning to carry a monitor into the office. Not an excuse but that’s the reason. I decided to be a good commuter and caught the bus home from work on Thursday evening. As a result, when I got ready to leave work on Friday evening, I didn’t remember exactly where I left my car the previous day but I always park in roughly the same area. Well, last night I couldn’t find my car. I walked around and around for about 5 minutes. The garage was relatively empty—it was Halloween Friday after all.
“No one would steal the ‘97 626 sitting on 14s,” I thought. I walked to the phone just near the elevator entrance and dialed security. The dispatcher asked the location and the make, model and color of my car. I could hear her punching everything into a computer and, after a few moments, she said, “Yes, your vehicle was towed from building 40 at 10:31 this morning. It says here it was due to a carpool parking violation.” “Are you serious?” I bellowed incredulously. “I mean it’s Friday. Halloween. That’s just mean-spirited. You couldn’t send me e-mail or something to let me know I’d been towed so I could make arrangements? Who can I contact about this policy?” Not one of my finer moments, I admit, but I was completely taken aback by the sheer irony of being a registered carpooler, doing my commuter duty catching the bus and, of course, being a good worker by staying in the office late on Friday.
There are two things you don’t want to happen to you on a Friday evening: 1) Getting jailed and 2) Getting towed. Although I had never been towed, I have heard about the exorbitant impound/storage fees and knew my car sitting in some lot was costing me some serious coin. After I made it home—by bus, of course—TB cut me no slack (as usual) but did suggest I call the tow company immediately to see about getting my car back as soon as possible. The dispatcher claimed the Isben towing is closed outside normal business hours and I would have to wait until Monday to get my car. Thankfully, TB wasn’t buying it. I called the company and they took my information which was relayed to the on-duty truck driver, Morgan. He called me back a few minutes later and said he could meet me at the facility in 30 minutes but I would have to pay an after-hours fee if I didn’t wait until Monday. The daily storage fee is $60 (billed in half-day increments) so after doing some quick math, I could save $60 and get my car sooner. I agreed to meet him in 30 minutes. It was 8:15 PM.
On the way to the facility, I received a second call from Morgan asking where we were. We were still about 7 minutes out which meant we would be a couple minutes late. He said he had another call and if we didn’t get there in the next 5 minutes he would have to leave and meet me back there in an hour. What that really meant was he had already left—towing is big business on the weekend—and, sure enough, it was a ghost town when we arrived. I could feel TB’s anger in the cool, damp evening air. She wanted to wring someone’s neck and I was the only one around. Luckily we both had our iPhones. I read blogs and surfed while she played Sudoku for the next hour sitting in her car in front of a non-descript facility on a Friday night. Happy Halloween.
Morgan, arrived almost exactly an hour later. I posted the $335.18(!) to free my baby and off we went. It was just after 10 PM.
Thank you Microsoft Security, JH in particular, for showing me so much love. I sent a strongly-worded message to the appropriate team regarding the parking policy for not notifying me I’d been towed despite the requirement that employees register their vehicles with security. I fully expect them to respond along the lines of “Do the crime, pay the fine.” Guess who won’t be parking in the carpool spots without displaying a badge from now on.