To Tow or not to Tow


root - Posted on 31 December 1969

by Tony Robles/PNN

The voice coming over the walkie-talkie is a raspy mixture of static and baritone. “Unit one to unit two…we have an illegally parked car in garage B. We need to get the towing company out here”. I fumble with the walkie-talkie, placing it close to my ear. Silence. Security officer Scanlon is a man of few words. A car has to be towed. That’s that. His voice reminds me of Dizzy Gillespie. The folds in his neck jiggle when he laughs. He doesn’t laugh. “10-4” I blurt into the radio while heading for the vehicle in question.

I have been a security officer for a few months. In that time I have stood guard in a supermarket, watching out for the so-called thieves, while trying to keep the poet in me alive. It’s easy to lose yourself in this kind of work. Most lose themselves and hardly notice. I wear the security officer uniform but not the badge. The badge is a shield that deflects empathy and reflects hegemony. I take in the gleam of the sun above me. That is enough.

I was fired from the supermarket. It was inevitable. I was to function as a deterrent to the “undesirables” (code word for landless and poor folks written out of history and media). On one of my first days, I inadvertently aided a man in stealing a half dozen cans of Rosarita refried beans. There I was, shoving cans into a canvass bag and walking with my comrade, side by side, out the automatic door and into the light. I smiled, he smiled and Rosarita surely smiled. Life was paradise.

A month later I was fired, not for the Rosarita incident, but for telling the manager to kiss my ass. I’d had enough of the attitudes of the managers and some of the workers who seemed to believe they owned the store. They thought they owned the community instead of being what they actually were—guests of the community. “Watch that guy” they’d say, “He’s stealing from us”. Us? They certainly weren’t referring to me. Standing witness to that for 8 hours a day was deadening to the spirit, not to mention my lower back. Getting fired was a relief.

My employer sat me down and lectured me about my behavior, warning me that I’d be terminated upon reoccurrence of another such incident. I was informed that I would be transferred to a new post. I was to report to the “Land ‘O Lakes” Apartment Complex the following Monday.

I reported to the “Land ‘O Lakes” security officer’s shack to be trained by an African-descended elder who reminded me of my stepfather—pleasant and full of detailed stories between swallows of diet soda. The shack was interesting. A mahogany desk sat majestically near a windowsill where plastic figures of a stegosaurus, army man (with rifle) and Jesus Christ stood side by side. I sat and listened as he talked about keys, this key goes into that hole and that hole goes with this key, etc. The apartment complex is large and I felt like a rat in a maze, getting lost at every turn. I have finally settled in. I was to patrol the parking garages where GPS navigation systems have been stolen. The thefts have dropped and now the only thing that happens is noise complaints, mostly bad music being played too loud by guys with bad beards.

“You need to call the tow-company right away!”

I approach the car in question, a late 80’s Pontiac with faded paint. The tires were stripped of rims and the license plate looked as if it had been kicked. It sat in a space next to a newer car. I touched the side of the car. “Do that again” a voice said. I looked around. The lake across the street looked like a painting. Some birds flew overhead not bothering anybody. I thought about my old car, a candy apple red Chrysler Cordoba. It got towed a long time ago. I never got it back. I remembered going to the towing place. I didn’t have the money to get the car out. The employees behind the bulletproof glass played dumb while the clock ticked. Somehow the thought made me feel alive.

I pulled a stack of blank parking citations from my pocket and began to write.

Dear owner,

You are parked in an illegal zone

Your car will be subjected to toeing

If it is seen on the premises again

It will be toed (or was it "toad")

Sincerely,

Security

I signed the flimsy slip of paper and placed it on the windshield. I looked at the expanse of the lake and the freedom it whispered in the evening sky. The owner of the car might be visiting an elder. Maybe he or she is in a friend’s apartment and are looking out at the lake, just as I am. I snatched the citation from the windshield, crumpled it into a ball and stuffed it in my pocket. Forget the towing company. Why help them? I walked away with my walkie-talkie turned down low. I still have my job (and the lake). For now.

PNN RADIO

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