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by Ron Cruger
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Sorry, your car's on fire.
Will that be VISA or MasterCard?
     The sirens screeched their warning, waking up residents in the modern condos along the main boulevard. Two cars had smashed into each other at the City’s main intersection. Seven police cars had formed a fence around the accident. Suddenly flames began spewing from under the silver SUV involved. Three minutes later two fire trucks arrived at the location of the accident. There was a frenetic scene. Fireman raced to the burning SUV, dragging thick fire hoses behind them. Reaching the vehicle, the lead fireman saw the driver of the SUV energetically attempting to lower the window of the auto, with no success. The fireman, fire axe in hand, yelled to the driver to cover his face and with one swing of the axe broke the window. The fireman shouted to the driver, “Are you okay, sir. Can you undo your seat belts and open the door?”
     The driver answered, “I, I, I, don’t think I can make it. Please help me.”
     The fire under the SUV grew, slowly spreading towards the gas tank in the rear of the vehicle.
     The fireman threw his fire axe on the ground, reached in the SUV, patted the anxious and frightened driver on his shoulder and said, “Sir, we can have you out shortly, now did you want this put on your Visa, Master Card or American Express, we’ll need your signature on this form. Your total should be approximately $3650.00. $2000 for your rescue from a wrecked vehicle, $750.00 for a car fire, and $405.00 an hour for each fire truck that responded.”
     The driver, feeling the heat from the flames below, screamed, “What the hell!”
     Only caring to be removed from the vehicle before the flames reached the fuel tank, the driver said, “Gimme that form, I’ll sign, I’ll sign. Now get me out of here.”
     Meanwhile, at the other auto involved in the crash, a light blue, Mini Cooper, with a female driver and a young female passenger, the police cautiously approached the small sedan. The driver and the passenger were both crying and unable to open the car doors to escape. Two burly policemen grabbed the car handles and attempted to pry them open, with no success.
     “The elder of the cops told his partner, “Get the Jaws.”
     As the younger officer ran to the patrol car to retrieve the “Jaws” the primary cop on the scene leaned in to the open window of the Mini Cooper and said, “Don’t worry, ladies, we’ll have you out in a minute or two, but first we need to know how you want to pay the tab for being rescued from a wrecked vehicle.”
     “The driver, screamed, “What the hell!”
     The officer explained, “The official City charge for being rescued from a wrecked vehicle is $2000.00 and as there is no fire involved. You won’t have any fire rescue charges. Of course, there are two of you, so the fee will be $2000.00 each or $4000.00. Do you want to pay by check, or charge. We take Visa, Master Card and American Express.”
     The driver, obviously traumatized, screamed, “Visa, Visa, we’ll use Visa, here’s my card, get us the hell out of here.”
     Upon receiving the driver’s signature and reporting the card number, the officers, using the “Jaws of Life,” pried opened the Mini Cooper’s doors and rescued the driver and her passenger.
     The accident had caused no serious personal physical injury to drivers or passenger. Tow trucks quickly came to remove the smashed vehicles. The fireman and police left the scene. The main boulevard returned to normal. People in the nearby condos returned to their beds.
The Reason
     Huntington Beach, California is known as Surf City, USA, but there are some other names people will be calling it soon.
     The Southern California town’s City Council recently approved the emergency services cost recovery program which could bring an additional $100,000 annually to the city’s coffers. Huntington Beach residents won’t be charged the fees because they already pay city taxes.
     So, if you’re from another city and you’re traveling through Huntington Beach and your car catches fire and a fire truck has to come rescue you from the burning auto you will be charged $405.00 an hour for each fire truck that comes to rescue you. Plus you’ll be charged a flat $750.00 for the firemen to put out the fire.
     God forbid you get into a Huntington Beach auto mishap and the metal surrounding you gets crushed to the point where you can’t extricate yourself from the automobile and the HB rescue guys have to use their handy “Jaws of Life” or some oversize can opener to get you out of the twisted wreckage you’ll get a bill for $2000.00 from the City.
     So far there’s no explanation of how much the Huntington Beach officials will charge you for attending to your heart attack or responding to a mugging. Stay tuned and be extra careful when driving through Surf City, USA.