Have you ever wanted to castrate a man with a dull spread knife?
On one of my last days in Los Angeles, I parked my bike on a street under a sign that read “tow-away zone from 4-7”. I was thinking of moving it the whole time but one thing led to another and by the time I got around to it, it was 4:30 and the bike was gone.
I called the city and they said that bike was impounded and they gave me the towing company’s address to go and get it. Since this motorcycle is my only transportation, I called a cab and got there 45 minutes later in the rush-hour traffic of L.A.
I walked inside a mall size towing company called Keystone Towing where my motorcycle was supposed to be stored. I was already angry and blaming myself for the stupid parking zone violation, but that’s just one side of the story. They told me that the towing fee was $217 plus an $80 citation to the Los Angeles police department.
I told the clerk to show me the bike so I can inspect it and see that everything is ok before I would pay the charges. He walked me through the storage lot and when I got to the bike, I couldn’t believe what I saw. The tank was ripped off the frame and hanging from the two bolts under the seat. The cable lock was wrapped up around my rear wheel from them pulling the bike. The forks were bent with a slight arch in them, the seat was bent back and ripped, and finally, the gas tank rubber bushings and a 10mm bolt sitting under the bike.
As calm as I could be (which is probably not what you imagine the word calm would mean), I asked for the manger to come over. The operations manager walked out and I told him I don’t care how it happened, just tell me loud and clear what you are going to do about it and tell me now.
With utmost insolence and unprofessional disrespect, he countered with “how do we know it wasn’t like this when it got here?” At this point I wanted to demolish his face right then and there but I stepped away and called 911 to send out a police officer.
While I was waiting, the manager went on with taking pictures and telling me that I have two options: A) pay the fee for the bike and get it out of there or, B) they would charge me an additional $45 every day for storage if I choose not to pay the fee now. The cops got there and they refused to make a damage report on the grounds that this was a civil dispute and not criminal, and if I have a problem with it, I can go to court and request a hearing.
Since I’m constantly traveling, have nowhere to stay in the city, nor have the time or patience to pursue a law suit against a city-contracted towing company, so knowing all that, I said to the manager “you know what; just give me something…, drop the towing fees and I’ll be on my way.” After a long conversation, he said that $100 of the towing fee goes to L.A county and they can’t wave that and all he can do is to give me a discount, and for that, I had to sign a waiver that I am OK with everything and will not sue the company!
As I assessed my options to settle the damages given my travel situation, I told him to let me try to crank the bike so I can see if it even runs, and that there might be other damages that I can’t see in the dark warehouse with a flash light. If it at least moves, I can make my decision then.
Not only was this guy rude and arrogant from the start, this time he said: “Take it or leave it. I won’t let you see the bike until you pay for it or get out because we are closing right now.”
At this point I paid the full amount so I retain the right to sue them when I get the bike out. They ran my bank card and then, they wanted me to sign a paper saying that “I have received the above vehicle in satisfactory condition”. I told them “Hell no. I’m not signing that. I already paid for your ‘service’ and I want my bike NOW.” They said if you don’t sign the paper, you will not get your bike.
So I called 911 again and asked for yet another visit from the police which took 45 minutes. With police intervention, a segment was added to the paper that the bike is in a damaged state and I listed all the damages I could see, made two copies and I finally got the bike out of there.
I bent the tank back down but it’s only holding on with the back bolts, the paint is chipped and cracked on the tank(this tank was in immaculate shape, see the older pictures on my website) and the seat is bent and ripped and it won’t stay on without moving to left and right.
I am seriously thinking about suing the United Roads Towing Co. and its division the Keystone Towing. Maybe the damage is not worth the trouble, but it is a matter of principle. Paying the traffic fine is one thing which I don’t have a problem with as it was my own fault, but getting raped by the city and their contracted towing company is something else.
I am grateful to Dana Onel for hosting me at her place in Sherman Oaks and like to thank all those who called, emailed and offered their help to get me back on the road. Wrong doing of one company does not alter my perception of the good people of California and in particular Los Angeles.