It all started last summer, when Philip Corsano, a Navy-contracted ship’s mate, got word when he was working in Wales that his Jag had been towed from the street at his Seattle home for parking more than 72 hours. Now, "my car is haunting me from beyond."
Philip Corsano misses his car. It was a Jaguar Vanden Plas XJ8 sedan, from 1998, described in reviews at the time as “like sliding into an English gentlemen’s club.”
But he doesn’t want to hear any more about it. Not this car, anyway. No more letters about it in the mail. No more collection invoices. Definitely no more notices from the court.
“I’m in some ‘Twilight Zone’ episode,” says Corsano, 61, of Green Lake, “where my car is haunting me from beyond.”
It all started last summer, when Corsano, a ship’s mate who contracts with the Navy, got word when he was working in Wales that his Jag had been towed from the street outside his Seattle home. It had been tagged for parking for more than 72 hours.
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Long story short: Because he was out of the country, he couldn’t get the car back. He says he signed power-of-attorney to a relative who went to the tow yard, but the towing company refused to release the car. The company, Lincoln Towing, has told the Attorney General’s Office that Corsano called from Wales and explained his predicament, but nobody ever came.
“We regret Mr. Corsano’s situation, but are not liable for the vehicle not being redeemed,” the company said.
So about a month later, the tow company did what they do best: They auctioned off Corsano’s car. While he sat stewing on a ship 5,000 miles away.
There’s a provision in state law that tow companies have to hold on to cars if the car’s owner is “an admitted patient in a hospital.” But there’s no exemption for “serving on a ship for the government.”
But here’s where it really gets weird. When Corsano got back to the states, his lost car began communicating to him. First it was in the form of toll bills, for crossing the 520 bridge. Then, a parking ticket. When he called the state’s tolling office and Seattle’s municipal court to tell them it wasn’t his car anymore, their answer was, effectively, “tough.”
“My car is sold against my will and someone’s out there joy riding around in it, but they all say ‘doesn’t matter, you have to pay,’ ” Corsano says.
Then his old car parked in a disabled spot up in Greenwood, drawing a $450 ticket. That’s when he lost it.
“What kind of an insensitive moron parks in a disabled spot?” Corsano says.
When he appealed this Sept. 17 ticket to the city, providing proof that Lincoln had auctioned off his car Aug. 5, the city again said “tough.”
“Whoever was driving your car stated to the parking officer that they did not have a disabled placard in the vehicle,” a court compliance officer wrote Jan. 8. “Since you were the registered owner on the date of this ticket, you are responsible for payment of this ticket.”
Amazingly the court file includes this administrative note: “CAR WAS SOLD WHILE IN ENGLAND, SOMEONE WAS DRIVING IT & CAUSED THE (INFRACTION).” So they know exactly what happened, yet they’re still sticking Corsano with the $450!
“I’ve called the city on the phone eight, 10 times, I’ve filed documents proving it’s not my car anymore,” he says. “But I don’t think there are actually any humans in there. City Hall is simply a box that sends out cash collections.”
Corsano pointed out to both the city and state that his Kafka-esque story means somebody is driving his car around illegally, without registering it. Both did the bureaucratic equivalent of staring at him blankly.
“What if the car kills somebody; will I be liable for that, too?” he wonders.
I ran a search through the city’s court database, using Corsano’s license-plate number. A few days ago his ghost car racked up yet another ticket. This one was for “expired plates,” a $47 fine. So now Corsano is being billed for not keeping current a car he doesn’t own.
This ticket was given out in north Ballard, so I drove out to the listed address. Lo and behold, there sits Corsano’s Jaguar, expired plates and all. I texted him a photo — he’s now on a ship in Norfolk, Virginia. But the sight of his old friend, now menace, languishing in another’s driveway didn’t exactly cheer him.
“Wow that pisses me off, you have no idea how much,” he texted back.
Hmm. If the police say he still owns the car, and the city and state insist he remains liable for all of this car’s wayward actions, then maybe we should just go over there and take it back, I suggest to Corsano. Technically it wouldn’t even be stealing, right?
I’m just kidding about going all repo man. But I do have the house’s address if anybody in city government is interested in setting this fiasco right.