On Campus at Penn State Berks – A Sunday Evening Adventure

This past Sunday the new student leadership team came to my house for a planning meeting.  After a tasty dinner of chicken and corn on the cob we spent time talking about what everyone did over the summer and what we hope to do on campus in the fall.

About three and a half hours after arriving, they left.  Then two of them came back…Brandon’s care had been towed!

Before they arrived I had sent them a text message saying “come around back”.  What I meant was park in the front and walk around back where I would be grilling.  That way they would not bother the dog or the baby by ringing the doorbell.  Unfortunately, Brandon interpreted this as “park in the back”.  So when he arrived, he parked behind my house.  In the alley.  Blocking the alley.

If I had known he had parked there, I would have told him to move.  But it started pouring down rain right when they arrived so we all ran inside.  And there the car sat, just waiting to be towed.

Upon learning the car was gone I called the Wyomissing police who gave me the number for KC Towing in Exeter.  I called the answering service there and they told me there would be no one in the office until 7 AM the next day.  Did I mention Brandon is a commuter who lives 45 minutes away?  I was all set to let him crash on our couch or even borrow Emily’s car.  But when Brandon told his mother the situation, she called the towing place and bribed them (literally, offered $20) to let him get his car now.

What bothered me about the situation was that whichever of my neighbors called the police, no one made an effort to find out where the person who owned the car was.  Do not get me wrong: the car was parked illegally and thus having it towed was perfectly fine.  But the care was parked directly behind my house.  If I came upon a car parked illegally I would at least knock on the doors of the closest houses to see if the person who owned the car was there.  That way, if I have to call the police to tow it, at least I am comforted in knowing I made an effort not to be a jerk.

I am not saying to knock on every house on the block.  But I am saying to at least knock on the 3-4 houses closest to the location of the car.

Maybe this just means I should, after one year of living here, try to get to know more of my neighbors across the alley!

I also thought it was weird that, apparently, the police officer sat in his car, watching Brandon’s car for half an hour.  I don’t fault the police officer, he was just doing his job.  But wouldn’t it make more sense to either just tow it right away (it’s no more illegal in half an hour) or to go knock on a few doors?

So Brandon, Josh (a student who lives on campus and was driven to my house by Brandon) and I got in my car to go to the towing place.  It should have been no problem, about a ten minute drive.  I got on the highway that takes you there and came upon a long line of unmoving traffic!  There have been an accident just a few minutes before and all lanes were blocked.

The guy at the towing place said he would be there at 9:15.  We were stuck in traffic at 8:55…and sat there as the clock pushed on close to 10 PM.  Brandon called the guy and he said he would wait (“s*** happens” were his exact words; I think Brandon’s mom must have offered a good bribe).

At one point, two tow trucks came up behind us on the shoulder, going to help clear the accident.  We freaked out!  How come those tow trucks, coming from the direction of my house, were not the ones to tow the car?  If they had towed the car, the tow trucks in Exeter, closer to the accident, could have been on the scene sooner.  It was like two log trucks passing each other on the highway.

Eventually the fire police came by and told us they were going to start having us turn around and go back the way we came (thus, going west on the eastbound side of the highway to the previous exit).  I had been tempted to do this anyway.  There were only about six cars behind me as the highway was closed only minutes after I drove past.  Also, there was a large gap, at least fifty feet, between me and the line of traffic.  Making a u-turn would be easy.

Then the fire police told us that instead of allowing us to u-turn, they were going to open one lane.  So we waited kept waiting.

Until I saw it.  A solitary pickup truck must have managed to do a u-turn and he drove past us on the shoulder.  That was all the motivation I needed.  I turned around and began driving back the way we had come.  Driving the wrong way on a highway for the first time (and hopefully only time) in my life was quite invigorating.  Also invigorating were the four cars that followed me.

When I got to the exit (well, on ramp) the fire police person there gave me this look as if to say, where did you come from?  She asked me what I was doing and I mumbled something.  The policeman had a small grin, as if there comes a point in every line of traffic stopped for an accident when the people at the end begin turning around, and waved us through.

Finally, about 10:15, we got to the towing place.  

I drove home on the same highway…and naturally by the time I got to where the accident was, it was clear.  There were no traces of it!  They had not opened one lane to let cars through, they just opened them both.  In the 25 minutes it took me to u-turn, go another way, wait to make sure Brandon had his car, and head home, the traffic was cleared.

A lesson is: If you are stuck in a long line of traffic due to an accident and you know the road behind you is closed, just make a u-turn.  The longer you wait, the more likely it is that when you finally do a u-turn you will not actually be gaining any time.

Another lesson: when working with college students, give very specific instructions about where to park.  Don’t leave anything to chance, or they might park in an alley.

With that exciting evening, let the semester begin!

In case you think I made light of an accident, I did hear on the radio the next day that no one was hurt.  Apparently a street sweeper ran into a car that had stopped on the side of the road.  One last thing, apparently Brandon almost hit a deer on the way home.  Thankfully, he avoided it.  Praise the Lord.

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