Whoever rented a tomato-red compact car from a company near Baltimore-Washington International Airport the other day and parked for a time on 15th Street NW probably got the shock of his or her life on returning to drive it away.

The car was booted and ultimately towed to the D.C. government's impoundment lot. Later that day it was bailed out by the car's owner, Value Rent-a-Car. A city parking enforcement official said the car, which bore license tags from Value's headquarters state of Florida, had racked up six tickets here between May 1984 and March 1985.

Bob Russell, Value's suburban Baltimore manager, said the tickets apparently had been issued to customers who threw them away, leaving the company holding the bag and the current customer without wheels. He said he'd check back records and try to track down the miscreants.

Major car rental firms, such as Avis and Hertz, that operate offices in Washington and its nearby suburbs take part in a fleet listing program under which the city provides a monthly printout of outstanding tickets that are paid off. That prevents booting. An Avis spokeswoman said the company then bills the customers who rented the cars at the time the tickets were issued.