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The Truth About the Fact: An International Journal of Literary Nonfiction

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Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Benefiting from Misery: A Case Study

There are few enterprises that take as much pleasure in your suffering as towing companies. The towing business openly prides itself on its singular ability to lawfully turn your pain into their profit; and boy do they do this with nauseating grace. This past Friday, I saw Black Rebel Motorcycle Club, The Whigs, and Mini Mansions play at the Echoplex over on Glendale Boulevard. Little did I know that in addition to the $25 ticket, a $200 towing surcharge would be making its way onto my bank statement by night’s end.

 

My fellow concertgoer and I arrived at the venue with little time to spare before the show. Bad form, I know. I have been to enough shows to know full well that Rule #1 is “arrive early.” But for whatever reason (I know the reason, just not at liberty to disclose it) things were rushed that night. We methodically patrolled the avenues in search of roadside parking, going up and down each street in hopes of chancing upon a blacktop nugget we could lay claim to for the evening. But luck was not on our side. And once Lady Luck lined up on the opposing team, I knew she was unlikely to make her way back onto our side without spear tackling us in the gut first. Such was the case. We rolled snake eyes all night and by the next morning felt the sting that invariably accompanies a hearty bite out of the ol’ checking account…

 

…but I’m getting ahead of myself. As showtime neared, we knew we had to leave the 89’ Chrysler New Yorker somewhere, and so made the fateful decision to park at Walgreens. Now judging by the commercials, you’d think Walgreens’ employees are a friendly and accommodating bunch. Not true. You know how they say the camera adds 10 pounds? It also adds a veneer of niceness that disguises a diabolical interior.

 

But thinking only of the impeding musical jamboree, we failed to detect the snake in the bushes, or in this case, the Walgreens’ employee patrolling the lot, and so left the vehicle without cause for concern.             

 

The concert was incredible. The Exchoplex is the kind of venue that attracts the heart and soul, the dirt and grime, the essence of the Los Angeles music scene. Strangers discuss openly and intelligently the subtleties of Iggy Pop’s brand of sadomasochism as well as the merits of including a bridge in every modern song: “It’s become so formulaic man, so patterned—verse, chorus, bridge—1, 2, 3. The bridge is the most contrived offspring of the music industry. It’s Backstreet Boys rearing its ugly head in the 21st century.” I said they were intelligent, not geniuses.

 

We left the show with an acute case of post-concert amnesia, a curious little disorder that causes its sufferers to forget all things unrelated to the afore attended show. Victims can recall set lists with remarkable accuracy but lose any and all recollection of pedestrian concerns, like for instance, where in the hell they parked.

 

All we could say for sure (or so we thought) was that we parked on a hill. In affluent southern California residential communities, hills are about as rare as nerds at Stargate conventions.

 

But then, in a recollective flash, I remembered where we had set up shop earlier in the evening—Walgreens. We walked to the store, and on arriving, stared with mouths agape. The lot was empty. Our first reaction? Disbelief. Our second? S***, F***, A**, Q******, X***** (the English language proved insufficient in expressing our anger and so we got creative). 

 

Now you may think we deserved to get towed for our idiocy, BUT allow me to preempt your reprimand by relating an important piece of evidence: there were no signs indicating that our protracted presence (30 minutes, according to Walgreens) would cost us twin benjis. In America, if it’s not in writing, it doesn’t exist. Apparently Walgreens doesn’t feel obliged to abide by this patriotic imperative. Terror watch list anyone?

 

Once composed, we called the towing company. They told us their price: $215.58.

           

If you just stop to think about it, the whole premise of towing is sheer insanity. Someone takes your property, holds it captive, and forces you to pay an exorbitant fee to get it back. I’m no legal expert, but in any other context, these hoodlums would be doing 6 months in LA County.

 

The towing company’s property was something out of a b-grade Hollywood horror. A chain-link fence, barbed at the top, marked the perimeter of the compound. Two obscenely large canine specimens (I presume the product of many generations of large breeding) ran down to scare the piss out of us (their primary function). Behind the dogs, a shadowy figure approached from 20 yards away. At 10 yards he asked us what we wanted. “Hello, we’re here for the tour,” I said. No I didn’t. But really, at 3:30 in the morning, what else would we be doing there besides reclaiming our mode of transportation?

 

We played it straight and told the man that we wanted to get the car and be on our way. He opened the gate and led us to his office, wherein he presented us with the bill. 

 

As we got to talking to the guy, we realized he meant us no harm. He didn’t own the place. He worked there for an hourly rate that just barely exceeded minimum wage.  He even offered us a cookie. The stale confectionary creation was little consolation for the bill that preceded it, but it was a kind and unnecessary gesture nonetheless.

 

Moral of the story? Walgreens sucks—unless you like chicken poop. Then it’s a hell of a joint.


~Ian M. Johnson 

5 Comments:

Anonymous Jessica said...

You make me laugh!

March 16, 2010 at 1:35 AM  
Anonymous Alex M. Mead said...

I'm gonna have to agree with Jessica. You are one funny dude. And I really appreciated the anecdote at the end with the nice guy and his cookies. Cookies always make things better and you always find something good in every situation!

Alex M. Mead

March 16, 2010 at 9:48 AM  
Anonymous Courtney M. Myers said...

I wasn't aware you had a car...

March 17, 2010 at 4:54 PM  
Anonymous Ian M. Johnson said...

i don't, but as of monday i will! it was a friend's car. we split the bill.

March 19, 2010 at 11:20 AM  
Anonymous Courtney M. Myers said...

I just realized you, Alex and I, all have the same middle initial. :)

March 22, 2010 at 12:07 AM  

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