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!