Letters: Experience retrieving car turns traveler off Hammond

I’ve heard of rolling up the sidewalks at night, but I never thought they would roll up the parking lot with my car in it in Hammond. I chose Hammond instead of New Orleans to leave out of for my trip by Amtrak to go to Kansas City.

I arrived early Wednesday, July 2, to do a little shopping and eat at La Carreta Restaurant. I asked the Amtrak clerk where was the long-term parking and was told the lots on both ends of the depot, so I parked in the lot to the south. When I returned Sunday, July 6, I discovered other cars parked in the lot, but mine was gone — in fact a white van was parked where mine was supposed to be. I called the police department and was told they towed 20 cars away by the orders of the Mayor’s Office. When I asked why, they said they had a Fourth of July event and were told to remove the cars. They said the “no parking” signs were put out Thursday, July 3, and to remove all cars for the 4th. There weren’t NO PARKING signs when I parked there the day before. I wonder if the merchants know this is how the Mayor’s Office treats out-of-town guests who visit their city.

The police told me to call the towing service to get my car. I was told it would be $180.00, plus $19.00 per day, plus $45.00 if he had to go to the impound lot to meet me there on a Sunday. I had to have my car, so I called a cab and told him to meet me there. I told the cab to leave me there; he is on the way. I found some shade and waited for at least 15 minuets before calling him again to find out if he was coming. His wife said he was on the way. After another 10 minuets or so, he comes walking out of the impound lot. When I asked him if he lived there, he said no, that this was the impound lot. After paying him in cash that he demanded, I went to my car and found the front end was in a mud hole of a rotten tree stump up to the axle. When I told him to get me out, he went next door to get his truck to winch me out. He lived next door. If this whole business is not extortion, that $45.00 to meet me there on a Sunday is. It cost me more to get my car back than the cost of the round trip ticket to Kansas City. He hauled off 20 cars that day, so you figure what he made that day. I’m sorry I had to ruin his Holy Sunday. It’s not over.

On my drive back to Baton Rouge, I was overrun by a fire ants nest that got up in the car from the rotten stump. It’s a good thing I’m not allergic to fire ants because I’d be doing a lot more than writing this letter.

I thoroughly enjoyed my brief trip to Kansas City by train, even though it was a 24-hour trip both ways. My only other train trip was out of Hammond on a 4-H trip to Chicago. I am now 73 and really liked riding the train. You also meet interesting people. It’s awful that it had to end on such a bad experience back in my own state and in a city in which I’ve always had good experiences. The merchants are great and were very helpful with my situation, but I’m going to definitely choose New Orleans to catch Amtrak again and avoid patronizing Hammond.

Jim Jeansonne

artist

Baton Rouge