He introduced himself as "a businessman from Atlanta." He said he used to love Washington, D.C. But he was calling to say that D.C. was forever on his hit list after what had happened to him five minutes earlier in the parking lot of the Washington Monument.
His rental car had gotten booted. By the D.C. cops. For tickets that a previous renter had gotten months before, and had ignored.
It's easy to understand how this must have happened. Some prince of impatience must have rented the car, driven to an appointment, had trouble finding a parking space and said, "Oh, what the heck, I'll park in that NO PARKING ANY TIME space. So what if I get a ticket? The friendly folks at Hertz/Avis/Whoever will eat it."
But they won't.
"According to our contract, all fines incurred by our customers are the responsibility of the customer," notes Russell James, vice president/corporate communications at Avis headquarters in New York.
Avis (and the other biggies in the business) have clear understandings with local police departments that tickets should be sent to the local headquarters of the company. Then the local office will chase down the customer who incurred the ticket.
What if that customer refuses to pay? "We turn him over to the local police and they make sure he pays," said a Hertz spokesman.
Wonderful. But what if you're the guy who has a boot on his rental car and you're about to miss the meeting you came 2,000 miles to attend?
Call immediately, say all the major rental companies. They'll deliver you a replacement car on the spot.
By the way, Mr. Atlanta Businessman, it never should have happened. Fred Caponiti, chief of the Bureau of Parking Services at the D.C. Department of Public Works, says that "normally, we don't boot rental cars."
Reason: Most of them have special, easy-to-identify rental car license plates. Instead of booting, DCDPW staffers will alert the car rental companies and/or the police. The companies will retrieve the car and attempt to chase down the miscreant(s).
So come on back up north and check out the cherry blossoms, Mr. Georgia. And check them out in the favorite Washington tourist manner: on foot. They've never put a boot on a pair of legs.
Not all the pummeling of Our Fair City is taking place in Our Fair City. Penny Pennington of Arlington reports a virulent outbreak of Disrespect for D.C. in, of all places, a Falls Church pizzeria.
Like me, Penny is an inveterate reader of the paper placemats one often gets in restaurants. But imagine Penny's surprise when she took a close look at the mat she was given in the Pizza Castle on Wilson Boulevard.
The map purports to show the 50 states and the capital of each. But Washington, D.C., is shown as the capital of Maryland -- and Annapolis isn't shown at all.
"Where was The Washington Post while all this was going on?" demands Penny. "Seems something like this should at least make the Metro section, if it doesn't qualify for the front page!"
The comics page is going to have to do, Penny. So is the following abject explanation from A.A. Gottlieb, president of Brooklyn Lace Paper Works, the company that manufactures the mats:
"It's just a graphic artist's error. It's obviously not meant to be a road map or an informational conveyance. It's basically a typo."
You're forgiven, A.A. So is Pizza Castle, especially since Penny reports that "they do have good pizza, even if the placemats are a little off."
Here's another Idea Whose Time Has Come, a series of brainstorms from Levey's readers without which the world simply can no longer spin. Today's IWTHC is from Mrs. J.S. Irvine of Bethesda.
"My husband travels in many foreign countries as part of his job. When he returns, he tosses leftover foreign coins on the dresser. International airports, it seems, will exchange paper money, but not coins.
" . . . .The thought occurs to me that international airports could have collection boxes from charitable agencies so that these coins could be kept in circulation in their own countries and put to good use feeding hungry children."
I like it, Mrs. I. I like it so much that I say: Why not begin at Dulles International Airport -- tomorrow?
Got an IWTHC? Please mail it to Bob Levey, The Washington Post, Washington, D.C., 20071.
Gene Brown in the Danbury (Conn.) News Times:
The nice thing about a July vacation is that it fills up half a year. You get your photos back in September, your bills in October, your health in November and your luggage in December.