Column: Does the FBI have to move their car for the street sweeper? A case study

Life asks some pretty big questions. BIG. Questions about purpose and meaning and whether the FBI has to move their car for the street sweeper.

While I can’t really help you on the first two—beyond encouraging you to hydrate regularly—I believe I can speak with some authority about the FBI, having hosted two of their agents and their car at my home the other day.

Why was the FBI at my home? Look, if I had to explain each time why the FBI was showing up at my door, I’d have no time to do the stuff that makes the FBI show up at my door.

Suffice it to say, they pulled into my neighborhood in a black, American-made car that screamed Federal Bureau of Investigation and immediately started asking my neighbors some questions about me. As you can imagine, this caused a good deal of excitement and a few shouted comments from the neighbors such as “I knew it!” and “Is this about the trash cans?”

When the agents finally ended up on my porch, we had ourselves a lovely conversation. So lovely that I felt bad about interrupting our chat to warn them that Wednesday was a street-sweeping day in my neighborhood and they were parked on the wrong side of the road.

You see, I’m a simple man—something I stressed repeatedly to the agents—and like anyone else, I fear the street sweeper and its preceding, ticket-writing meter maid of misery. I have seen stalwarts of the community, adult people, cower and run before this tandem, terrified and pleading, seen them engage in arguments with apathetic sweepers and maids that were doomed to failure.

We all fear the sweeper. Is it any wonder that, a year ago, while the city was looking to ease the stress on citizens during the early days of COVID, one of the first and most popular things it did was suspend all street sweeping violations?

I warned the agents not once, but twice about the sweeper. They acknowledged what I had to say and went about their business, their car remaining exactly where it was. I thought to myself, how stupid can you be? Of course, their car is outfitted with some kind of transmitter that alerts other law enforcement vehicles that this is an FBI car and you should just move along.

And so, it was with a good deal of disappointment that when the meter maid pulled up, he didn’t veer away from the FBI vehicle, rather, he yelled at us “Whose car is this?” to which the agents responded like some undergrads who’d overslept, running contrite toward the maid.

Frankly, I was embarrassed for them. But then I thought, Oh wait, they’re going to whip out their totally cool looking FBI ID, flash it to the meter maid and tell them the Feds had everything handled.

Nope. Like anyone else, they offered up some lame excuse to the meter maid who gave them that vice principal that’s not buying any of it, look.

“You’re going to have to move it,” he said.

“Sure,” said the agent, obsequious as a cocker spaniel. He then ran into his car and attempted to park it across the street in a neighbor’s driveway before I informed him that the neighbor would definitely call the cops on him. I then guided him a few blocks up where he would likely find some parking space.

Now, I guess it should make me happy that no one is above the law, even the top law enforcement agency in the country. But I guess it’s a measure of how traumatized I’ve been by the street sweeper over the years that I wanted, just once, someone to tell the sweeper to, you know. But no. I can see now that no one is more powerful than the sweeper, in fact, the agents told me they had a backlog of street sweeping tickets they still had to pay.

Who pays those tickets? Does it come out of their own pocket or some kind of tax-payer funded pot?  I’m not sure. I guess I’ll have to ask them the next time they come over.

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Steve Lowery began his journalism career at the Los Angeles Times, where he planned to spend his entire career. God, as usual, laughed at his plans and he has since written for the short-lived sports publication The National, the L.A. Daily News, the Press-Telegram, New Times LA, the District and the OC Weekly. He is the Arts & Culture Editor for the Post, overseeing the Hi-lo.
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