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Tow Truck Drivers & Street Cleaning in Cambridge, MA

I experienced a very special start to the street cleaning season back in May 2010 - I’m posting my encounter with a tow truck for those of you who may not read the Cambridge Chronical… or are just gearing up for the street cleaning season. This is from the Opinions page:

Letter: ‘You think you’re the mayor of Cambridge?’ Posted May 11, 2010 @ 08:09 AM Cambridge (Massachusetts) —

It’s the fourth Tuesday of the month and dangerously close to 8 a.m. Cambridge residents owning a car might recognize this as the opening line of a street-cleaning saga. It is. I’m returning home from a before-work walk as I pass a tow truck positioned in front of a cab. My heart goes out to the missing driver. I am wondering how many hours and how many fares it will take to earn back his losses from this little oversight. I don’t know the driver or where in the nearby apartments he lives, but the company number is pasted right across the side of the cab. I reach for my cell, thinking perhaps I can rouse this guy in time to save him this hassle. My faltering step and phone motioning to ear catches the wary eye of the tow truck driver… he must have been peering through his rearview mirror. The driver leaps from his truck, head cocked, chest puffed, massive arms dangling menacing and wide. He then inquires with a big voice, “Are you calling the cab?” I reply, “Yes.” “Do you work for the cab company?” To that I reply, “No.” Easy questions, I think. Then, rather than appreciating me for being a thoughtful neighbor I get this, “Then what the %$##$*# are you doing?! This is none of your ##$%@# business! ”I try to explain that in our neighborhood we watch out for one another, reminding each other about street cleaning. To us this is normal, not heroic. We alert people we don’t know and visitors because the goal is really just clean streets, not tow company revenue. But as I begin to explain, he has taken a step in my direction and continues his verbal assault with well rehearsed and pointed questions. “You think you are the mayor of Cambridge? Mind your own business!” Clearly, I’ve struck a nerve. I get the feeling he faces neighbors watching out for neighbors all the time and we are his very biggest irritation. Driving about the city day after day, I imagine him preparing for these moments. It’s as if I’ve pulled a sizzling steak from has salivating mouth, snatched the TV remote from his hand, or threatened his child. Am I wrong? Should I leave my own car on the street just to support local business? At this moment, a disheveled cab driver scurries between us, hops in the cab and backs his vehicle away from the looming hook. Seems I delayed the towing just long enough. I turn, give a nod to the cab driver, who smiles and accelerates around the corner as if the tow truck might give chase. Next time you see a tow truck on street-cleaning day poised over a neighbor’s car, don’t hesitate. Ring their bell, whip out your cell phone, whatever it takes to save their day. But also be prepared with your own rhetorical questions. “What does it mean to live in community,” “What is the value of neighbors watching out for neighbors,” “Do I want to be a hero,” and, finally, “Is this my business?” #@$#%# YES!

I probaly couldn’t own a tow truck,probaly be wanting to let too many people off the"hook".but it is the TTs owners ,bread and butter.That being said,there are too many overzealous bureaucrats(who have had a bad childhood or something-jumping on the chance to “tax” the unwary) I say get rid of more of those ugly yellow curbs.Power to the people! Clover and Stoolie beware!, Kevin

Playing devil’s advocate, let’s look at the other person’s perspective. This tow truck driver knows all too well what it is like to try and get the car hooked up while an irate owner is berating him and trying to stop the impending hook up. Likely, it occasionally becomes dangerous work for both parties. Your involvement is likely to improve the odds of such an encounter. The tow truck driver does not harvest work by driving around looking for cars to tow, they get called from the ticketing authority and have to spend their own money in gas and operating costs for the truck to drive to the site. If (s)he doesn’t end up towing the vehicle, (s)he doesn’t get paid. In the end, you increased the risk to the tow truck driver and costed them money. Nice job.

You have absolutley no idea why the tow truck driver was there to tow the cab, but I can tell you that tow trucks do not waste their time and money towing vehicles for fun. He was there for a reason, doing his job. You interfered with him doing his job. You’re lucky you got away unscathed.

If you happen upon a crime in progress, call the police. But of you see someone doing his job, mind you own beeswax. What you did was wrong. For all you know, the cab was probably stolen and was to be returned to the cab company, or it was probably identified as having neem involved in a crime and you let a criminal get away.

Street cleaning towing is a little less dangerous to the driver, as all that is needed is to move the vehicle BEFORE * the driver hooks up.
–BUT I’ll bet you that driver works reposessions too and THAT is dangerous business. So he’s well armed with all the retorts and answers for all the guff he gets on a daily basis.

  • If the truck is hooked to your car and THEN you show up , keys in hand, that’s a whole other can of beans. Because now you ARE a part of his business…will that be cash or charge ?

You did right. Towing is big business not only on the east coast but the midwest too. I used to watch those guys at the U of Minnesota line up and salivating to start towing at promptly 4:00 (or even a little before-who would know?) when the no parking became effective. Even worse in the winter after a snow. It was discovered that some of these cars went right to the crusher instead of the impound lot and the cash in the tow company’s pocket. There’s a reason why they all drive shiney new trucks witht he latest accessories. The driver was lucky another tow truck didn’t tow him in while he was yelling at you.

Thanks for weighing in folks - Here is a clarification: I arrived BEFORE 8am which is when towing begins. The driver was poised and waiting for the clock to tick 8 when I pulled out my phone to alert the driver. Since I made my call before the appointed time, I was in no way interfering with his work or access to the vehicles which would not begin until 8.

I hope this helps out Twin Turbo and the same mountain bike whose objections/comments I understand based on the information I had provided

I have watched “Parking Wars” and often it seems that the tickets are quite petty and the owners are victims of punitive, poorly thought out regulations. Sure, the show often features scofflaws who have $thousands in unpaid violations being towed but often the car owners are trapped by circumstances they have no control over. How can a plumber clean out a plugged sewer without parking his truck near the sewer clean out? What can a Fed-Ex driver do if his truck blocks the sidewalk while making a delivery? The lack of good sense is overwhelming.

@thesamemountainbike You have absolutley no idea why the tow truck driver was there to tow the cab, but I can tell you that tow trucks do not waste their time and money towing vehicles for fun. He was there for a reason, doing his job. You interfered with him doing his job. You’re lucky you got away unscathed.

As the OP stated…it wasn’t 8 yet…so the tow truck driver was NOT yet working. If the cab driver was a neighbor of mine I might have called him too. If the cab driver got in his car and drove away before 8 then so what. The whole idea of them towing in the first place is to remove vehicles that are parked illegally. Since it wasn’t 8 yet…the cab wasn’t parked illegally. So I don’t see what the problem is. Wouldn’t it be nice if we didn’t need tow-truck drivers for this type of towing???

You did the right thing, especially because it was before 8am. Around here there are 100X the cases of overzealous/crooked tow truck drivers, even corrupt Dallas county officials mixed in. Just google ‘Dallas constable towing’ for an eye full.

All things considered, especially the cost involved, does “street cleaning” really accomplish anything? Or is it just a big revenue generator for everyone involved…

“does “street cleaning” really accomplish anything”

For one thing it reduces the amount of leaves, trash, dirt, etc. going into storm drains and clogging them up. Especially important to prevent street flooding. Improves the looks of the street too IMO.

Street cleaning in my area does a lot in my town. The cleaning removes a lot of debris from the roads which plugs the storm drains. I’ve seen some of these streets with 2’ of water on them and the DPW frantically cleaning the storm drains.

Yeah I’ll third that one. In Minnesota where sand is applied to icy road, even in residential areas, the sand that accumulates over the winter is really slippery for drivers, walkers, bikers, etc. Plus it clogs the storm drains. I’ve been watching for the sweepers and they are just starting now. I’ll give them a thumgs up when they go by.

The highway dept. around here finally got a street sweeper,they use it mainly on the " showey" parts of the county(chuckle) and bridges,helps out.What I wish they would get, would be a snowplow and powerful magnet for the the superintendants truck,to clean out the driveways the snowplows block and pick up the nails and metallic debris (ferrous) laying in the roadways.-Kevin