I recently had a big a problem. I live Upcountry, so like most of my neighbors, I drive 45 minutes to and from work. I have driven cheap Maui junker cars all my life. I know them, I’m comfortable with them.
But somehow, due to circumstances completely beyond my control, I accumulated three junkers. They sat in my front yard and driveway, collecting dust and rust. I needed to get rid of them, and I had no idea how to do it.
Now, I’ve always said that I wouldn’t abandon a car. I’ve always said that I would get rid of it the “right way.” I mean, the abandoned car problem on Maui has become unconscionable. Around every country road, main highway or hidden in the cane fields, there seems to be a local pick-n-pull.
One day you see the car, sitting there all innocent. “Oh, perhaps the owner went to get a spare tire and they’re coming right back,” you say to yourself as you drive by, hoping that it’s true but knowing it’s not. Then the next day, you pass the same car and see it’s now missing tires. The next day the window is shattered and the following day it’s been spray painted with a seasonal theme. It sits there forever, literally forever, slowly returning to nature right before your eyes like one of those National Geographic films showing a dead rodent decompose in the wild.
Who would do this and why? Everyone likes to blame the crack heads. Surely no respectable citizen would do such a thing as simply dump a car on the side of the road and walk away.
But here I am, a taxpaying, non-drug taking private citizen who works for a nationally respected company. I recycle everything I can, even if I don’t get a nickel back on the return. And yet I spend too much time dreaming about pushing my broke-down ‘94 Ford Festiva and my boyfriend’s two trucks over a cliff. Are there support groups for this kind of thing?
At first I thought, “Let’s just get these things towed.” Simple, right? I heard Kitigawa’s was the cheapest. And by “cheapest,” they mean $400 to tow a car. I threw up after I found that out. If a person like me can only afford junker cars, how the hell can we afford $400 to tow it away?
I’m getting desperate, so I start thinking of desperate solutions. I could rob a bank. No—I’ll call the tow truck, and once he gets my cars I’ll just run away and lock myself in the house until he gives up and leaves!
No, that wouldn’t work either. But the more I drive around, the more every spare stretch of highway, cliff, gulch and cane field looks to be a way out.
I can’t do that. So I called the county. Surely my tax dollars are going to something that can help me right now. Surely there has to be some program for people like me, who can’t afford to tow their own broken mess away.
“Call Kitigawa’s,” the clerk said before hanging up.
Now I’m mad. So I called back.
“WHO IS IN CHARGE OF THIS ABANDONDED CAR PROBLEM?”
This time she connected me to Mike Miamoto, the Solid Waste Division’s director. He was friendly. He told me that once a car is left somewhere for a specified amount of time, the Maui Police Department tags it, then faxes a report to the Solid Waste Division, who in turn passes the buck to the Towing Coordinators who select a tow company that will tow the junk car to a lot for future auction. If the car’s a derelict, then it goes to a processor for disposal.
Miamoto said they’ve been towing “about 1,200 cars a month” and that they’re going to ask “the system” for more money to keep going.
That’s a lot of cars, but what about my problem? What are the options for people like me who, through no fault of their own, ended up with three junk cars on their front lawn?
“They are working on it,” he said.
I told him that there should be a program for people who are trying to do the right thing, which is get rid of the cars before they end up on the roadside where they can decay into a public endangerment and environmental toxin.
After all, the animal shelter gave me a coupon so I could neuter my cats, because the county doesn’t want little kittens everywhere. Why isn’t there some incentive like that so we don’t have little cars everywhere?
Miamoto said he understands. He’s got six cats.
As it is, the county gets a discounted contract price with a couple of local tow companies. I told Miamoto that if they could pass this savings onto us, then I bet the number of cars on the side of the road would diminish. Miamota said he would share this with the person they’ve hired to focus on this problem, and that was that.
Then I called the mayor’s office, but all I got was the exact same runaround.
I was back to square one. I couldn’t afford to tow, or wait for the county to do something. I had to get rid of the cars. So I took a breath, swallowed my pride, and did what I should have done a long time ago.
I put an ad in the paper. “FREE Ford Festiva, Toyota 4-Runner, Nissan Truck! For parts or maybe you can fix it,” it said. And at the bottom were the words “YOU TOW.”
You know what? It worked, and now I have no junk cars in my driveway. MTW