On this beautiful Sunday, we’re going to talk about Will Smith.

But first, we got a pretty big reminder Friday that the pandemic isn’t over. The omicron variant was detected in Philly for the first time. A case was also reported in New Jersey. The good news is there are things you can do: Get vaccinated or boosted, wear a mask in public, and limit indoor gatherings.

We’ve got more below on what you should know about omicron and how to protect yourself.

First, let’s learn more about Will.

The fresh king of Philadelphia

Will Smith’s new memoir Will and his new film King Richard are part of his journey toward self-awareness. And he kicked off his book tour right here in Philly.

“This more reflective Smith — straight up — doesn’t owe us anything, and frankly, he doesn’t care if we’re checking for him or not,” our columnist Elizabeth Wellington writes. “The Will Smith of 2021 has boundaries. He’s identified and made peace with his demons.”

Learn more about how Will Smith is returning to his Philly roots.

The week ahead

  • Omicron has come to Philly. Officials said it was expected, and they urged residents to get vaccinated and limit indoor socializing. In New Jersey, a woman with the new variant who had recently traveled to South Africa was recovering.

  • Getting vaccinated is the best way to be protected from any strain of COVID-19. Here’s what to know about vaccination for kids.

  • If you have been vaccinated, it might be time for your booster shot. Here’s how to tell if it’s time for an appointment.

  • And Philly schools have a shortage of substitute teachers. Now the district is cutting ties with its sub-provider.

Last week’s most popular stories

Inside The Inquirer with William Bender

The Philly phenomenon known as “courtesy tows” happens for a variety of reasons. Regardless, having your car towed without a trace — sometimes from legal spots — is the start of quite the frustrating process. Our investigative reporter William Bender has covered a number of these stories.

  • In 2019, a man’s car was towed and the tow company, the parking authority, and police collectively forgot where they parked it.

  • In 2019, a woman’s car was towed to an illegal spot and racked up $300 in fines.

  • And Bender’s latest story looks at how the filming of an Adam Sandler movie turned into a pretty wild and expensive ride — sans car — for this Center City resident.

The list goes on. We caught up with Bender to talk about it.

You’ve been covering the drama involving courtesy towing for years now. Has anything really changed?

Not substantially, which is one of the reasons why I keep writing about it. My colleagues and I started out a couple of years ago by explaining the problem. Then, I moved on to all the various horror stories. You would think at some point, someone in [city] government would try to address it.

Why can’t they address it?

One obstacle is that it’s a problem that can span multiple agencies, including police, PPA, and the Streets Department. Then you throw in private towing companies that seem to disappear when things go wrong. No one really owns the problem or sees the big picture, so I guess it’s easy to shift the blame or look the other way.

Is the practice a common one or do you find these stories are just the worst of the worst of what could happen?

Most times courtesy towing — I mean, “relocation towing” — works perfectly well. Your car is towed from location X to location Y by either police, the PPA, or a private company, that information is relayed to police, they give you location Y, and you go pick up your car. But the cases I’ve written about are not just freak occurrences. The mishaps seem to be constant, and maybe getting worse.

How have they gotten worse?

I used to hear mostly about people just not being able to find their cars. Now there are more of these Kafkaesque scenarios where people are spending weeks or months trying to be made whole — not to mention the cases of people being pulled over in other states when their vehicles are mistakenly left in the stolen-vehicle database.

What’s the PPA’s involvement in this process?

The PPA sometimes gets an unfair amount of blame. While they might show up to write a ticket or impound or boot your car if it’s towed to an illegal spot, they’re usually not the ones who towed the car out of the original parking spot. The bigger problem is poor communication or no communication between private towing companies and police.

When you do these, does it open up the floodgates of people with similar stories?

Oh yeah. I just got another one. Perhaps the worst case I’ve seen. Which is saying a lot. So I’ll probably have to do that story this month.

Follow William Bender on Twitter: @wbender99.

🧠 Philly Trivia Time 🧠

For some, wrestling is a family affair. Especially for Drexel’s team, which has several sets of brothers. “It’s in line with how we feel our team is a family,” the coach says. Can you guess how many sets of brothers are on this team? Check your answer here.

Photo of the Day

That’s all for today, folks. I hope a great week is ahead of you!