Sunday, August 26, 2001
Editor's note: Jane Greig answers questions Fridays-Tuesdays; on Sundays, she takes a closer look at one subject. The one-line reader question "Can you unlock the mystery of the abandoned BMW at Bergstrom?" does not have a one-line answer.
`I t was a dark and stormy night . . ." Well, maybe not dark and maybe not stormy. Truth is I have no idea what the weather conditions were when someone parked a 1985 BMW 7 series sedan on the second level of the close-in, covered parking garage at Austin-Bergstrom International Airport. But the dark-and-stormy-night shtick seems suitable for this quirky mystery to begin.
Here's what I do know:
The BMW has been parked in the same space since September -- parked longer than some dot-coms were in business. The same short-time space for almost a year. At this point, the owner who picks it up will owe the facility $6,480. That's $18 a day for 360 days. Of course, finding the parking ticket may be a challenge.
Among frequenters of the Austin-Bergstrom garage, the vehicle has become a cause célbre. Messages scrawled in the surface dust dot its once pristine paint job. (Take a look at air travel chat Web site www.flyertalk.com/airports/ftairports--forum/Forum65/HTML/000002.html to read what people have to say about the dark-blue, dirty sedan.) One flier, using the Web name Nugget, says, "You can still see the 'cows are cool' I put on the rear window back in February or so, although others have written on top of what I wrote." SuperSlug replies, "I've seen it, too. Figured it might belong to the general contractor on the Intel building downtown, who probably can no longer afford the lease payments." Hardee har har.
Clever guess, SuperSlug, but incorrect. Was it foul play as chat room moniker Dbaker opines? "I assume that the owner had a fatal accident." No, nothing that Kafkaesque.
Through the magic of an electronic search, I found the owner of record. Jimmy Hoffa? Nope. Russell Erxleben? Wrong again.
The BMW once belonged to San Antonio resident David Frank (don't even try getting his number through information. I had to super-sleuth it out of . . . well, someone). Seems Frank sold this BMW and a 1974 BMW Bavaria to a Maryland consultant on assignment in Austin. Six weeks or so ago, Frank was notified that the Bavaria had been towed from an apartment complex and was racking up $15 a day in impound fees. "I notified the man I sold it to, and he was concerned about the charges." Oh yeah? Wait until he hears about the $18 a day the airport parking garage is tallying for his 7 series.
Frank has his paperwork on the sale and yes, the check has cleared the bank. Seems the buyer has not put his name on the title yet. I have called the buyer, Joshua Phipps, repeatedly but got no reply.
What is the 7 series worth? Well, the license plate has expired, and it will definitely need detailing, but somewhere in the $3,500 to $4,000 neighborhood, says an area car consultant. That's about half of the airport parking sum.
What does Austin-Bergstrom have to say about all this? "The airport takes a cautionary approach to formally possessing a vehicle that has been on airport property for a long time," says spokeswoman Jackie Mayo, who contends 30 days of parking is a good gauge. A rare occurrence, adds Mayo, but if you plan to leave a vehicle parked for more than 30 days, notifying airport officials is a good idea. Well, that gauge has been missed by a mile.
Care to take odds on whether owner Phipps will dash here to claim the car? If you want to see this icon of the Austin economic slowdown, hurry. The legal process has begun to declare the now-legendary dust catcher officially abandoned. The sweet parking spot on the second level will be vacant before the fall travel season.
Some locals will miss the mysterious BMW. Austin travelers have become rather proprietary about this orphaned vehicle. No vandalism, no rude notes. Chat room member Swise notes, "There were some not-too-nice things written on the rear window one day. I wiped them off."
Gotta love this town.
Write to Jane Greig at P.O. Box 670, Austin 78767; call 445-3697; e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org or fax 445-3968.
There are some pictures of the car taken August 2, 2001 on this website:
I have to pick up friends at AUS on Monday. I'll have to look for it. Has anyone else traveling into/out of AUS noticed this car?