TOW-TRUCK DRIVERS don’t expect hugs. Nobody likes having their car towed after getting caught breaking the rules, and nobody likes making their way to the storage yard to bail their pickup out of prison.
But here’s the difference between now and 30 years ago when Cheryl Parker got into the business: People think the towing company is to blame.
Not only that, but they feel entitled to hurl abuse at those they deem culpable. “They come in here screaming and swearing at us. It’s always our fault.”
But holy smokes, she and her drivers have never been on the receiving end of as much self-righteous invective as is spewed at them now. “Within the past five years it has progressively gotten worse,” Parker says. “We’re taking a lot of heat, and it’s not fair.”
Bad enough to get ripped in person, but now they also have to deal with being shredded on Facebook, with the facts twisted to match the narrative the poster wants to tell. “They can say whatever they want and people believe it.” That’s the way it is with social media, particularly when people are already predisposed to seeing towing companies as predators and towees as victims.
That’s true even when it isn’t the towing company’s decision to tow. The company has contracts with the City of Victoria and Victoria police. It isn’t allowed to haul cars from a public road unless asked to do so by someone from one of those bodies. (Private lots are another matter; don’t roll the dice on the Customer Parking Only sign when the tow truck driver is watching.)
Typically the police will call if someone is found driving without insurance or with an expired licence, or has been slapped with a 30-day roadside drinking-driving impoundment. Or the city will call if a vehicle is parked in a taxi zone, or in the Douglas Street bus lanes, or in the stretch of Quadra Street where parking is prohibited during the morning and evening rush hours.
It’s not cheap. The towing fee for a two-wheel-drive vehicle is $84 plus tax. It’s $119 plus tax for four-wheel drives, as dollies must be used to avoid damaging transmissions and transfer cases. Then there’s a $25-a-day storage fee.
So, yes, Parker knows owners won’t be happy. “We expect people to be upset.” Really, though, they should be upset with themselves for getting behind the wheel without a licence, or after drinking, or whatever.
“We didn’t stand there with a gun forcing them to drive,” she says, “but they still come in here screaming and yelling and blaming us.” Remember, these are the same tow-truck drivers who pull you out of the ditch when it snows, who clean up after car crashes. They’re just doing their job.
The question is: Why now? What has changed to make people behave so badly?
Parker blames social media, and she might be right. Some people’s default setting has become a Trumpian howl, a holier-than-thou, fact-free, self-benefiting judgmentalism that compels them to act like wieners, both online and off. (This weekend, while waiting for my order to come up in a coffee shop, I was talking to a uniformed police officer who was showing me the welts she got while rushing through some stinging nettles to an overdose call that morning. “You’re hardly in the way at all,” muttered a woman who shouldered past. Did she feel better about herself after that?)
While this shift might not be new — it has been nine years since Jean Twenge’s book The Narcissism Epidemic was published — it is not getting better.
“It is way worse,” Parker says. “They come in here blazing and expecting us to do what they want.”
If it weren’t for a sense of entitlement, some people would have no sense at all.
Jack Knox is a born-and-raised Kamloopsian who once worked at the Kamloops Daily News. He is now a columnist with the Victoria Times Colonist. Since joining the Times Colonist in 1988, Jack has worked as a copy editor, city editor, editorial writer and editorial page editor. Prior to that he was an editor and reporter at newspapers in Campbell River, Regina and Kamloops. He won the Jack Webster Foundation’s City Mike Award for Commentator of the Year in 2015.
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