The Marine View Driver: More on Living With Car Thievery, Part II

In which the author stumbles through efforts to gracefully conclude his good deed.

by Mike Smith

As I wrote last week, my car was lost… and then it was found. Oh, hurray. I had preferred it stay lost.

In any event, the towing company and construction company have coordinated enough to let us actually see the vehicle.

I should probably back up a bit.

My friend (the non-legal owner of the vehicle) had reported the car stolen to the police. When it was found, he was given a phone number to call to pick it up. He called. They would not talk to him because he was not the legal owner. I had to accompany him to the office to sign a form giving him legal access to get into the car. They gave us an address, which we assumed was where the paper signing, etc. would take place. We wanted to see if the car was drivable and to retrieve any of the valuables that might still be there.

This was the first magic question we had to learn to ask properly. That question is: “How do we find your office to sign the appropriate papers?” Instead, we asked, “What’s your address?” The address we were given was ***** NE 56th, Suite 5, Redmond. So armed with address and misconceptions we drove to and around Redmond, looking for the address and suite. There are lots of strip malls and warehouse rows in Redmond so we figured we would have no trouble…

We had trouble.

We did not know at the time the provided address was actually for a construction company, cleverly disguised as an empty lot hidden from the street… with a suite number. We stumbled, as promised, upon the location. We were distracted by looking for something, like a building, that might house someone who answered the phone. What we found was an unmarked dirt lot behind a building. There in the dirt lot was a temporary fence and a color-crayoned sign that said, “5.” Sweet. Um, suite.

“This must be the place.”

CheefulJust behind the “5” was the Honda, tightly crammed in between two other vehicles that had probably at one time been automobiles. We were later told this was the auction yard. We called the number we had been given on our correspondence and got a cheerful voice that said, “Yes, that is the yard.”

I asked where she was so we could sign the release forms. “Oh, I’m in Bellevue. You need to go to our Redmond office.” Suddenly I was getting the oblique picture, so I asked, “Where is the Redmond office?” We were given an address down the street.

We drove to that location. On the office door there is a sign that defines the hours of operation: Monday through Saturday, 7:00 to 5:30 pm. When I drove up to the office, the office was closed. This was a Thursday, mid-day. I called the number on the door. A cheerful gal answered and said, “Oh yeah, they are at lunch.”

PlatinumI said, “Well, they are entitled to a lunch break. I’ll just wait.” So I hung up. Ten seconds later an angry platinum blonde with half a sandwich in her hand was opening the door and complaining that I was ruining her lunch. What did I want?

I explained that I was waiting for her lunch time to end so I could sign the release papers to have my car relocated to a scrapper. I don’t know how she did it, but she exhaled loudly and didn’t lose any of her mouthful of sandwich. She, um, allowed the door to close quite securely and went back inside. After a bit of rummaging around and a bout with a very noisy printer, we had the forms and I signed them. Once I signed the papers, she jumped into her private vehicle and said, “follow me.”

So I did.

She took me to “5” and opened the gate. We rummaged through the car and found very little that was worthwhile, but at least now the car could be salvaged and we were satisfied that nothing of value to us was still in the car.

The car had to be towed to another location because this was a retail towing company. Not a salvage yard. They did not do that sort of thing. They only auctioned the cars when their dirt lot, suite 5, was full. Since we did not know how long that might be, and it was going to cost us sixty dollars a day to wait, we had to work out a way to have the car moved to another site. This information was only gleaned through the glares and silent stewing of the platinum blonde in her car, on her phone, with her friend, who was getting a fairly skewed play-by-play. What she lacked in information she gave us in smelly cheap perfume and a long look down her nose at us. So I asked, “How do I get the car out of here?” She said I’d have to call someone. I decided not to ask “who.”

I called Cheerful again. Safely tucked away in her Bellevue office. She gave us the name and number of the wrecking company that knew the drill, so to speak, on just how to come and get our car out of their yard. “We work with them all the time. They know just how everything works.”

I’ll bet they do.

I wondered if they offered classes on how everything works. It was becoming apparent that the only person who didn’t know how “everything” works was me. I called XYZ towing and they said, no problem, we will be up on Monday to pick up the car. I guess they get a commission from my storage fees. Since it was Thursday, it seemed that Friday or maybe Saturday might be a reasonable time frame. But I thought (nay, assumed), “Finally, I am going to stop the bleeding.” Everything was set up.

Non-legal had forgotten to bring his keys so on the following day after my morning shift we drove from Renton back to Redmond and brought the keys up to the office so they would have them to give to the expected wrecking company on Monday. The office was again closed and locked. I called Cheerful again and she said: “Oh, yeah, they’re at lunch.”

LunchI waited ten seconds.

No one came out with a sandwich and I didn’t smell anything.

I did not hang up. It seemed like a time-waster. Cheerful told me to leave the keys with John next door. Guess who drove away as she was telling me about John.

Yup, John.

There was some kid doing some computer work in John’s office and he said I could put the keys on the desk and he would give them to Platinum when she got back from lunch. I’ll cut to the chase: he did. Good boy!

The week was over and it was looking like we’d gotten things resolved.

The following Wednesday I called to square up with the towing company. “Did XYZ wrecking come and pick up my car?”

“No.” Note the lack of detail.

Here I began to understand that not knowing which questions to ask was going to be costly. I was going to have to assume they are expecting me to assume common sense, which was a handicap. So I asked, quietly: “Why?”

“There was no title, and you still owe $1250.00 dollars in storage and towing.”

Now, the title was supposed to be in the car. And no one asked for money while I was there the first time. In fact, they said that I could apply the salvage price to the towing bill. Which made it sound like a nice little arrangement between the two-tiered tow truck system.

I drove back up the next day, which was now a week later. I checked for the title. Nope. I called Cheerful and said that I was beginning to think that we may be a while if she is waiting for me to somehow ask all the right questions. She finally relented and said that I had made a good effort over the last week, so she mercifully reduced my fine to $800.00. (My ignorance was beginning to pay off; it was now worth $450.00 in rebates.) I paid it.

I followed the in-house tow truck driver over to the car and he pulled it out onto the public street parking where XYZ could grab it the next day, hopefully. Without the title, however, no one was going to come and get it. And no one volunteered any helpful information. But in an inspiration powered by frustration, I called XYZ and asked if I could get an affidavit of lost title and bring it to them.

“Why, yes, you can do that!” I know it is small but that little exchange was very rewarding.

Without boring you with too many (further) details, I said a quick prayer that my car would not get towed again since it was going to be parked on the street over night. I then drove to the nearest DOL office; this happened to be in Renton. I stood in line for 20 minutes and got to the counter and discovered that affidavits must by purchased in cash.

So with the indomitable craze of a rabid animal, I drove to the nearest cash machine and got my money for the affidavit. When I came back the lady at the DOL saw me and helped me right away. (Imagine, a privatized government function that has better service than a private towing company.) Then I drove to XYZ wrecking company, in Kent, and gave them the affidavit. I went to the wrong office first but they pointed out the proper location. This was performed with what looked like a distributor. Whatever it was, it got me to the right office. I handed my title to the dispatcher and he gave me a redemption receipt of ONE HUNDRED DOLLARS. I had to take this back over to the guy with the distributor and he handed me the cash. It had grease on it.

Done deal. Elapsed time, from my arrival in Redmond to pay my bill to pay dirt in Kent: Four and one half hours. Not counting the many days prior while I learned the ropes.

If you read last week’s Part I, you’ll remember a quote from my lawyer. “No good deed goes unpunished.”

Good deed decisively punished. End of story.

P.S. I did get a bit of ironic fun out of the deal. While rummaging through what was left of the car, I came upon some paperwork that must have belonged to the car thief. I am pretty sure of this because it was a court summons for… car theft.

Calen Cox, you missed your court date. If you’re reading, I just thought you’d like to know.


2 Responses to “The Marine View Driver: More on Living With Car Thievery, Part II”
  1. Rosanna says:

    I was waiting all week for the rest of the story. 🙂

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