I walked into the graceless gray square and realized my feeling had been right: I was in the right place. I could tell by the line of bored looking people, the absence of enough chairs, the bullet-proof glass and the lack of restrooms.
I walked up to the first window to the left that I saw. In Manhattan this was where I had needed to stand to start the process.
"NO!" shouted a woman from behind the bullet-proof glass. "Not THIS one!" She then gestured to another line. A sign said that I needed to line up at the "T" shape in the floor. I looked down. As advertised the floor had a white "T" made of tiles in the floor marking where I had to line up. There were about seven people in front of me. I looked at my watch. It was 6:30 p.m. I got in line.
As you probably already have guessed the line moved slowly. There were two clerks behind the glass, one of whom wasn't even tending to the public, and the other that was, but only on her own, very slow, terms. Her butt was enormous, like two butts, and she would in due time shuffle from one window to another, getting some papers, making some copies of documents. It happened, but it didn't happen in any sort of quick way. And why should it? She worked for the State. It's almost enough to make a committed union man think that maybe Wal-Mart got it right with its union busting ways. I imagined what it might have been like in the former Soviet Union, where every line was like this one.
Over the better part of an hour I finally inched my way to the front. Despite the tedious nature of the wait it still was more pleasant than Manhattan's depot. People in Brooklyn are just nicer, which is a big reason to live here. Even one lady who's car had gotten towed because of something her idiot son did didn't seem all that upset.
"I guess I'll just have to sell the car to pay off all these tickets! Ha!" she said, sharing a good laugh with the clerk. God, in Manhattan that Type-A dickhead had gone on a screaming rampage because he had to wait an ENTIRE HOUR. Sometimes it's good to be an outer borough kind of guy.
Eventually it was my turn at the window. When my car had been towed initially I'd had a few moments of outraged indignation. There must be a mistake! I'm innocent. They'll pay! Or at least I won't pay! But then I realized that this lady really didn't care. Just like how there are no guilty men in jail--just ask them!--nobody can understand why their car was towed. I didn't either. I had paid up all my tickets, etc. But from the look on her face I could tell she not only didn't care, but was powerless to affect any change.
I handed her my license, and told her the license plate number. She looked it up, and told me what I owed.
GULP! That's for the tow and the two nights of storage. Then she instructed me, once I handed her my well-worn credit card, that I was to go outside and get in the shuttle van and it would drive me to my car.
So I paid up, and walked back outside into the storm. I saw the shuttle van, it was hard to miss, being the only blue police van in the parking lot. I walked up to it, and tried to get in.
"No! STEP AWAY FROM THE VAN!" Out of nowhere these two aggressive female cops yelled at me for having the temerity to try to get inside the vehicle and get out of the rain. "It is not ready for you to enter!"
Whatever, they sat in a nice dry police car. Both middle aged, one looked Irish and one looked Latino, but they united in their strong desire to get me to conform and beat a hasty retreat away from the van. Such brashness on my part.
Another cop walked up, and told me that I could stand under an overhang while the van gets ready. I took him up on it, and shivered pointlessly in the rain for another four minutes until the van did a three point turn, and was now ready, apparently, for the citizenry. Still cautious, I walked up shyly to the passenger door.
"Get in!" the driver, another woman, yelled. Get in I did. Soon three more people entered and we drove down a relatively long strip of tarmac until we were in the lot of towed cars.
My car was the last to be found, after ten minutes of looking. But find it we eventually did. The van waited for me, as I put the key in the ignition. Because, heaven forbid I should just hang out there, and thumb the eye of law enforcement by loitering in their lovely parking lot.
On the windshield where two tickets. I picked those up, although they were soaking wet. There was also the card for the place that had towed the car wedged in the driver's side window. No thanks! I took that and flung it on the ground, afraid I would get arrested for littering. I looked through the passenger side window, which was covered in white grease-pen writing from the police. What it said I couldn't tell but I would have to wipe that off later. For now it just screwed up my visibility.
But the ticket, crap, those I would have to read. Ugh. $60 a piece! So now my bill was $345. It was too painful to think about just then.
I warmed up the car for a minute and then started to slowly drive out, because the visibility was horrible. Once outside the lot I had to get out of my car and hand my green notice from the state--saying I had paid--to the cop guarding the entrance. While this happened I stood outside my car in the rain, with a strong light shining down from somewhere, and felt like I was escaping some kind of extra pointless and retarded jail. Finally he okayed my note and I was allowed my grateful egress. I felt like I was getting away with something, though I hadn't done anything wrong.
I made a vow to fight all my tickets, no matter what. Then I drove to Ikea.