Milk Crates in the Road

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Saturday night, a couple of friends and I agreed to meet on Calle Uruguay, a popular area filled with restaurants, bars and clubs.  I arrived around 9:45 pm, before most partygoers arrive, which means I can take advantage of free street parking rather than pay a valet.  However, a few *industrious* men have another idea; they’ve blocked a number of rockstar spots and are charging folks to park there.  I think this is BS and park without paying, which upsets the man who works this part of the block.  As I walk away, he shouts, “Joven!” and recites the unwritten rule of milk crates in the road — that everyone pays, that I owe him $4 for parking there, that in exchange he will watch my car.

I’m sufficiently miffed by Schiester and decide to find a police officer.  At the other end of the long block, I spot four of them together.  I explain my experience to them — that as a woman alone at night, I don’t appreciate aggressive Schiester coming up to my car window, hovering when I don’t immediately exit, and demanding that I pay him to park on a public street.  The officers ask me a few irrelevant questions — like what kind of car I drive and where I’m going.  They don’t seem that interested in helping me, but finally give in and two of them walk with me back to my car.

Once there, I identify Schiester.  The officer jots down his ID number and asks him what happened.  Now Schiester’s story has changed; he claims he doesn’t obligate anyone to give him money, that they can freely choose to do so in exchange for him watching their car.  Of course, I’ve encountered people doing this before, but I really didn’t appreciate Schiester’s bullying and shouting; it was simply too much and robbed me of any compassion I may have otherwise had for him since this likely how he makes a living.

As we leave Schiester promises nothing will happen to my car.  I head back to the bar, meet my friends, and stay out until 3:00 am.  When I finally return to my car, Schiester is still there.  Again, he asks me to pay him.  I remind him I’m the one who called the police and that he should leave me alone.  I drive away with him shouting, “Joven, un dolar!”  Gotta hand it to Schiester — he is relentless.

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4 responses »

  1. Yes, this has happened to me many times in PTY city. Definitely extortion. If you don’t pay, you are always wondering what condition your car is going to be in when you return. One thing you might do is let them see you snap a pic of your car with your cell phone. That might help deter some mischief. But I usually end up paying a couple of Balboas ($) to the extortionist “car watcher.” I just rationalize it as being a form of cheap insurance.

    • Richard, you are brilliant! Will definitely snap a pic next time — since I don’t intend to call an office over each time. PTY car watchers, I mean, auto insurance specialists, await your return. It’s a good life!

  2. I feel for you. This happens every weekend evening outside of my place in San Francisco too…must be a universal phenomenon.
    Since I don’t own a car, if I do drive one its a rental and I don’t have as much of a vested interest in keeping it vandal free. When my friends visit from the burbs they pay $20 to park in the monitored lot so their windows don’t end up broken.

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