Today was one of those days when the news brought quirky reports of things going wrong. But they were little things, no more than irritating sand in the roller track of life. And luckily, bigger things were going right enough to allow us to laugh at these smaller nuisances.
Park And Steal Part I: Three parking lot attendants at the Udvar-Hazy Center (an adjunct of the Smithsonian Institution which houses the "large animal" collection of the Air & Space Museum) stole some $400,000 by the simple expedient of unplugging the machine that was supposed to keep count of the number of vehicles that entered the garage. Then all they had to do was pocket the money paid by those cars that weren't registered, at $15 a pop. It's sad. Sad that we spend so much money just to park our cars; sadder that the system was so poorly designed that the means to turn off the controller was so readily at hand to those who could benefit from it.
Park and Steal, Part II: I suppose it happens in all big cities -- parking is tight, merchants and apartment owners who have lots want to keep them for their own customers/residents. The latter hire companies to monitor lots and tow cars that try to use them. But the tow companies effectively go rogue, towing people who shouldn't be towed. Profits can be high: In Montgomery County, Maryland (suburb of Washington DC) towers are permitted to charge $168 per tow, and sometimes other fees are assessed. For those who get caught up in it, these unfair practices are costly and extremely inconvenient.
Still, I see a system failure here. Is it really impossible to fix this problem? Businesses need to hear from customers who park legitimately to patronize a place, then come out to find their car towed; local governments have the power to set an upper limit on how much the towers can charge -- why on earth would it be as high as $168?; and frankly, it's surprising that some of these tow companies' trucks don't experience retaliatory damage.
On Morning Fog today:
When Things Go Right