If your car hasn’t gotten booted lately, you should know the good news is that the process of dealing with the agony has gotten a lot easier; the bad news is that it’s now a lot easier to get booted.
This is a topic on which I’ve become more of an expert than I cared to become. The latest incident was on the evening of Labor Day, a holiday in the eyes of every government agency in America – except for the booting people, who know when folks will be vulnerable. The location was the French Quarter, a happy hunting ground for those in search of cars parked in bootable public spaces. (I can imagine the parking bureau’s Director of Citizen Harassment has such holidays circled on the calendar and holds morning pep rallies for his corps of booters.)
Time was that a car was booted only when there was a long list of unpaid violations. Now, in the age of the traffic cameras, offenses amass at a clip greater than the violated speed limits. (The start of the school year must be a High Holy Day for the traffic camera people, knowing full well that many people haven’t yet adjusted to the new hours and rules.) For those who had other ways in mind to spend their three-figure fine, such as paying for school tuition or buying groceries, the unpaid tickets mount quickly. We have become a city of scofflaws playing into the hands of the evil booters.
A sheet attached to the driver’s side window gave a phone number where an operator, who was amazingly pleasant considering that virtually everyone she talks to is angry, took my debit card number. Then she gave me a code that was to be punched into the boot’s keyboard. Since the boot was on the tire, and the tire was on the ground, this required my getting on hands and knees while hoping not to be either mugged or hit by a passing vehicle – all in the name of justice. The code unlocked the boot but the contraption remained stuck on the tire. It took a passerby, who obviously had plenty experience with boots, to help wrestle it off. According to the conditions of getting the code, I had to agree to keep the boot in my trunk, not in the backseat, and return it to the booting station within 24 hours.
That station is located beneath the Claiborne Avenue Overpass at Bienville Street. A sign outside a locked gate instructs arrivals to blow their horn for the attendant. Meanwhile my waiting car was, in the name of justice, a target for speeding, turning vehicles. The attendant eventually sauntered to the gate. She seemed totally paranoid. The gate was unlocked only partially, just wide enough for the boot to be slipped to her. There was no conversation, just grunts when needed.
When I had awakened Labor Day morning I thought the greatest threat to my peace that day would be a tropical storm; instead the city government did more damage.
Nearby a painter’s truck had suffered a similar experience; so much for the profit from putting in a day’s work – on Labor Day.
I continue to love New Orleans. I just wish its policy makers would not make it so hard to do so.