tyler butler

April 16, 2002

What follows is the account of Tyler Butler’s amazing transformation from ordinary university student to super-sleuth…

Saturday, April 13, 8:30pm

While on the way to get food, Tyler’s beloved 1986 Nissan Maxima gives out at the stoplight at 35th Street and Wallace Ave. in Chicago, IL. The engine emits loud squealing noises, sparks, and black, burning-rubber-smelling smoke. Fearing the worst, Tyler calls his friend Tom Hennigan, a Chicago native, to come pick him up and figure out what to do with the car. Tom arrives, and the two decide to push the car into a parking space and leave it – it is already too late to call a trustworthy mechanic and tower, and they won’t be available until Monday anyway. The safest and best course of action seems to be to push the car into a parking space and wait until the weekend ends.

Sunday, April 14

Tyler goes to church in the suburbs, as per usual. He can’t really do anything about his car until Monday, anyway.

Monday, April 15

Tyler discovers that Tom Hennigan has broken his foot, and needs to go to the hospital, and that his parents are in Arizona until next weekend. He can’t remember the name or address of Tom’s family friend, the mechanic that worked on the car last time. He finally reaches Tom about 5:30pm, and gets the name of the mechanic’s shop. Consultation of the Chicago-land Yellow pages reveals the phone number of Southwest Auto; a quick phone call to them and arrangements are made. A number to a towing company that is trustworthy and works with Southwest is given to Tyler, and he promptly calls them to make arrangements. Because it is 6:15 by now, the tow driver is on his way back home from his final tow for the day. He is willing to come out, but would rather not. Tyler figures his car has already been there for two days, and it’s not going to matter if it’s there for another night.

Tuesday, April 16


Tyler calls the tower, and arranges for the pickup that day at noon. He finds a friend to drive him to the location to meet the tower with the key and information. They arrive where the car is supposed to be parked, and it’s GONE. Uh-oh. Dan drops Tyler at the corner to do some investigating, and goes on to run some errands. Since the car was parked a block from the local police station, and in a safe residential area (safe – relatively speaking…), Tyler doubts very highly that it has been stolen, and has instead been towed by the city. A visit to the police station confirms this. It seems that the seemingly legal parking spot was not-so-legal, and that the car has indeed been towed by the city. Tyler calls the Southwest tower and explains to him that he is no longer needed at 35th and Wallace. The tower says to call him back when Tyler finds the car, and that he’ll pick it up at the pound. Tyler thanks the man and calls the number for the pound that was given to him by the police.

The pound tells Tyler that without a License plate number, which Tyler doesn’t have memorized (but does now!) or the 17 digit Vehicle Identification Number (VIN), they can’t verify whether they have the car or not. Tyler thanks them and goes home.

Internet research suggests that the Tennessee Department of Motor Vehicles will probably have the License plate number on file, so Tyler calls them. Unfortunately, the woman who would be best suited to help him is out on lunch break. Tyler thinks for a moment, and then remembers that the University parking services should also have a record of his license plate number. A call to them confirms this, and Tyler gets the plate number.

He calls the pound back, and they say they don’t have record of a car with those plates being impounded. Great. More internet research indicates that while it is possible to get a VIN from a plate number, it is time consuming (10 days) and there is a fee involved ($10). Tyler’s roommate, Jacques, overhearing the situation from Tyler’s phone conversation, picks up the phone and calls his mother in Iowa. She works at a local Sheriff’s Office, and at Jacques’ request, runs Tyler’s license plates and secures the VIN and Title number. (Amazing – it took less than 30 seconds, but don’t ask me if it was legal or not…)

Armed with the VIN, Tyler calls the pound back. To his disgust, neither the VIN nor the plate number yields any results. Tyler takes a break and goes to lunch.


Tyler tries to get a ride back to the 35th street police station, but everyone has class. He finally text messages Tom Hennigan’s cell phone, since Tom is in class, asking what police district IIT is in. Tom messages back, and Tyler does more internet research to find the correct phone number for the station. A call to that station verifies what Tyler suspects – he was given the wrong pound and phone number.

Tyler calls the new pound and gets the address and pound inventory number of his car. He is told that he can pay the $180 tow and storage fee by either credit card or cash. He calls the Southwest tower and asks him to meet him at the pound at 3:00. The tower agrees, and Tyler asks his friend Aaron to drive him to the pound.


Tyler finally finds the pound – after walking five blocks in circles. He walks in and stands in line. The tower calls at 3:15 and says he has arrived. Tyler still hasn’t gotten to the front of the line. He tells the tower he should be done shortly. The tower says he’ll wait.


Tyler finally gets served at the pound. However, because the car is titled under his mother’s name, he is unable to pay using credit. He has only $70 on him. The pound people direct him to an ATM, but Tyler is unsure whether he has enough in his account to pay for the car. He walks outside, meets the tower, and explains the situation again. The tower agrees, in infinite patience, to wait while Tyler gets the money.

The instructions to the ATM yield no results, and Tyler is forced to walk two blocks to the Sheraton Hotel, where the Concierge directs him to an ATM. Luckily, the monthly rent check has not yet been deposited, and Tyler does indeed have enough money in his account to pay for the car. He makes the withdrawal, and runs back to the pound. The tower is still waiting, and Tyler goes, once again, to the end of the line.


Tyler finally gets served at the pound again. The man signs his form, and explains that he will have to go to the cashier now to pay. Gee. How nice. What a smooth operation. He is second in line to the cashier, but she is “busy” doing something else at the moment, and he is forced to wait for 15 more minutes.


Tyler finally gets the necessary paperwork done, and meets the tower outside to go get the car. The security guard explains that he cannot admit a tower to get the car without an additional signature from someone inside. Tyler, not surprised at all at this point, heads back inside, prepared for another 30 minute wait. How the tower manages to maintain his patience is beyond Tyler. Luckily, one of the men who can sign the tow form is outside, and signs the form almost immediately, negating the need for Tyler to go back inside.


The car is finally found in the lot, and the tower puts it on the truck. Tyler tests it before it is put on the truck, and surprisingly, it starts and doesn’t seems to have any problems. However, he’s come this far, so he might as well get it checked out. He tells the tower to go ahead and put it on the truck, and the tower goes on his way – finally.

Aaron has returned home already, so Tyler decides to decline his offer to come back in and pick him up, and instead walk to an El station. Tyler doesn’t realize he’s far away from an El station, and it takes him another 10 blocks to find one. Finally, though, he makes it home.

And so, as you can see, with the proper amount of internet knowledge and Sheriff’s Office Worker connections, anyone can be Sherlock Holmes. If only Arthur Conan Doyle could see me now…

Tyler “Sherlock” Butler