MANCHESTER — With her car on a tow truck Thursday, a Manchester woman couldn't get the driver to drop the car and leave it at her Elmwood Gardens parking lot. The issue: she was $10 short of the full towing fee.
The result — a lost shift at her $9-an-hour janitorial job, a $110 tow fee, and angry words for Manchester Housing and Redevelopment Authority, an agency that she wished would have intervened on her behalf.
"I said 'I'm going to work, please make them put my car down,'" said Awur Bok, a 45-year-old single mother of two. "He wouldn't do anything," she said of the tow truck opertator.
She tells a tale of a public housing resident caught between an unyielding tow truck driver and public housing officials who say they do the best they can to avoid towing, but will send in the tow trucks if they must.
"We're very patient because we know it's a significant amount charged by towing companies," said Dick Dunfey, executive director of the housing authority. Before lots are plowed, the housing authority honks horns to let residents know they have to clear lots, Dunfey said. On occasion, residents will even knock on the doors of fellow tenants to tell them to clear the lot, he said.
"It's always done. No one would ever get towed without a warning."
Bok said she's lived at Elmwood Gardens for about 14 years and has had her car towed twice before. She said it's impossible to hear a horn from inside. She's used to having someone knock on her door. The only knock she had Thursday was from a neighbor to tell her car was being towed.
She said she was just waking up; she sleeps late because she works a second shift. She also said she didn't think her lot would have to be plowed because a portion was cleared when she came home late Wednesday night.
Dressed in her bathrobe, she offered the driver all she had — $100, she said.
Rick Slyvia, general manager of Performance Towing, confirmed the $100 offer. But he said "there were some words" between the resident and the driver. He said the proper fee is $110, and the driver would have dropped the car if she had the entire fee.
As for a lower amount, it's up to the driver. "They're decent, they're good people, I'd probably do it," he said.
Bok's biggest criticism is with Elmwood Gardens management. The manager was on hand but didn't stop the driver despite her pleadings. Dunfey said the housing does a lot to avoid towing, but managers won't get between a car owner and a driver.
"You never know how it's going to play out," he said. "Sometimes, people get angry."
Bok said she missed a shift cleaning Central High School. Later in the afternoon, she picked up her car.
"They should understand there are poor people here," she said. They need a car to go to work so they can afford medicine and food for their children. "If they come and take the car, what do they do?"