Dude, where’s my car?

A decision to park illegally in downtown Yangon leads to an unexpectedly enjoyable morning.


“Isn’t this where I parked my car?” I thought, staring at the empty kerb.

I kept staring. Downtown Yangon’s morning rush hour whizzed by. My car didn’t reappear.

I noticed a Myanmar family standing next to me, apparently looking for their car too. “Must have been towed,” they said, gesturing to the red and white paint on the kerb.

We walked together to the nearby 51st Street traffic police office and soon learned that towed cars weren’t the responsibility of the traffic police.

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The tow trucks drive around in convoy, the officer told us. When they have a full load they deposit the offending vehicles at a lot on Shinsawpu Road in Sanchaung Township.

I had two options: find the tow truck before it arrives and the car is processed, and pay a K25,000 fine; or head straight to the yard, wait for it to arrive and pay K75,000.

Given I had no vehicle and no idea where the tow truck team had headed, I quickly ruled out the first option and hailed a taxi to Sanchaung.

It was already 10am so I emailed my colleagues. I’ll be late, my car has been towed. I’m not sure where it is but I’ll come in as soon as I can. No problem, one of them replied. We’ll do the morning meeting without you. Take your time.

And just like that, I was free. I caught a taxi. The traffic was terrible as we crossed town, but I didn’t mind. I looked out the window and thought of nothing.

Eventually, we drew up to the entrance to the lot, where an official with a ledger sat at a table inside a small tent. The tow truck convoy hadn’t arrived yet, so I parked myself in a plastic chair nearby. The family I’d seen earlier turned up after a while. As the minutes ticked by, a few other people wandered over and asked if their vehicles had arrived. They all took seats and waited patiently. There was little frustration, let alone confrontation.

But then one began explaining that his relative was a somewhat important person in the police force. The mood changed imperceptibly. We were all trying hard to pretend we weren’t listening in.

“We towed the vice president’s car once,” the man behind the desk responded cheerfully. “Even he had to pay the fine.”

This seemed slightly less impressive when we realised he was talking about Dr Sai Mauk Kham, but it still made for a good comeback. No deal.

And then he went on, his grin widening. “We towed an ambassador’s car, too. The driver was still inside. I think he was asleep.”

He may have been joking but, wanting it to be true, I believed him. The complainant got the hint. He stood away from us, talking at length on his phone.

I took out my book and relaxed. At some point the convoy arrived, dropping off half a dozen vehicles. I paid my fine and quickly found my car at the back of the lot.

After an unexpectedly enjoyable morning, it was time to get back to work.

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