There's nowhere to park legally by the city tow yard on a Tuesday night. Seriously, you just beach your ride somewhere in the general vacinity of the traffic circle and get out saying, "well, at least they won't tow it very far . . . "
The tow yard is like stepping out of the city and into backwoods Arkansas or somewhere like that, only cold. Backwoods Siberia?. It's quiet at night. The lot itself is a fenced off, secure yard with automated gates. In order to get access, you need to go up the rickety wooden stairs to a building that looks like a collection of aluminum trailers welded haphazardly together. It's one of these "temporary" facilities thrown together 50 years ago and then never replaced, or maintainede, or noticed unless your car gets towed. Or stolen and lit on fire, which was the case with Trope's old Civic.
The crowd was interesting. Mostly Latin, including three or four sullen men who looked like they were usually asleep at this hour ahead of early morning shifts at horrible mind destroying jobs, and a gaggle of giggling girls with brightly colored cell phones. Also ahead of us were two young, angry Eastern European cab drivers, an enormous, heavy lidded black man, a couple Pakistanis and a lost, yuppie looking white couple. The line was held up for a while as the cabbies argued with a bored looking Puerto Rican woman barely out of high school about various reasons why he should be allowed to pick up his car without paying for his parking tickets. Eventually they stormed out, stormed back in again, and finally were issued a yellow card to get on the lot.
When it was finally our turn, about 45 minutes on, we told the uninterested young woman why we were there: the Arson Unit had called us to let us know that what was left of our stolen car had been located at the scene of a fire on the West Side, about a week after it vanished from the street in front of our house, and that it was towed here. Trope showed the woman her title and she signed and stamped some papers disinterestedly. Then she told us we couldn't see the car.
Apparently, she said, they didn't really know it was ours because the VIN number on the dash board was no longer readable due to fire. They wouldn't let us near the car until a police officer had been out to read the VIN off the engine block. I didn't understand the issue.
"They know it's our car. They called us," I said. She said no, the car had just been identified by our plates. Apparently there was the possibility that it was someone else's car, with our plates on it. Until they were sure, they couldn't hand the car over to the insurance company so we could get paid.
"Well let us look at it, and we'll tell you if it's our car." But if it wasn't ours, it wouldn't be appropriate for us to be poking around the remains. The only way to tell was to wait for the police to find the VIN.
"But why the hell would somebody put our plates on an identical car and light it on fire?" [Antisocial personality disorder?] Another rhetorical question I would never have imagined I'd have cause to ask for real. Ah, the stimulation of city life.