Last night, sometime between 6:00 p.m. and 7:00 a.m., my car was stolen. It's rather hard to believe that someone wants a fifteen year old car that runs like a lawnmower in a rock quarry, but there it is--or isn't I guess I should say. (According to this website, my make of car is the third most frequently stolen, and so is the year, and the color. Third place all around! Here's fun, try a find if your car is on the list! Yay! I kind of wish I knew this beforehand.)

Initially, I was stunned and stood stupidly looking for it in the gravel lot where it had been parked. Although I feel I am a rational person, I had to admit that I felt some initial self-doubt. Could I really trust myself that I had parked where I said I did? Did I drive home yesterday, or did I take the bus? Slowly, the details came back to me. No, I remember checking to make sure that I locked it, even circling the car to check the doors.

When I called the police, I said: "I can't find my car." The shock had not yet sunk in. They, being used to the bad behaviour of individuals, quickly helped me realize that it was stolen, and not merely missing or inadvertantly towed. Apparently, there's a State (or city?) database that tracks all of the tows that had been made within a certain period. If it had been towed, then they would know. My car was not on that list.

They said they were sending an officer over to talk to me. It took forever for the cops to show up, like they always do when you've been the victim or witness to something like this. While I waited, I tried shutting out the rest of the world so I could grasp the reality of my stolen car. It was hard for me to concentrate on other things. Consequently, I needed to go back inside my apartment and sit on the couch.

When the cop arrived, he introduced himself and asked if he could have a seat. "How are you doing today, sir?" he said. "I've had better days" was my depressed reply. He sat at the kitchen table and began filling out a form (a police report?) that was on goldenrod paper. I gave him my identifying information and my driver's license. He asked: "Does anyone have permission to drive your car?" Immediately, I thought of a COPs show scenario where they have pulled over some guy in stolen car who is mildly complaining that he was a "friend" of mine and I gave him permission to drive the car. He asked me if there was anything distinguishing about the car, and I told him that I couldn't think of anything off-hand. (I should have said something like: "Distinguishing how? You mean other than the fact that it is fifteen-year-old piece of crap?")

He asked me for the VIN#; I couldn't find my title, and the theif, of course, had my registration. Fortunately, I dug up my insurance policy which had some information on it. I sat at the table and listened to the cop tell me stories about how they almost always recover the car. This was heartening. "I personally," he said, "found twenty four cars myself. There was a car stolen from a lot near here that we found just recently." I asked him how long he thought it might take to find my car. It seemed a reasonably, if overly hopeful, question to ask at the time. He said, "You can't tell. I could drive out of here right now and find it in five minutes." He said that many times theives don't drive the ill-gotten cars very far, perhaps only a few miles or just a few blocks.

After more clear-headed reflection, I realized that I unconsciously supposed that the cop was going to automatically fix the situation and that my car would magically return by his very presence. I wanted, needed, to believe him about recovering the cars--and partially, I did. Of course after he left, I realized that he did not leave a copy of the police report, nor did he leave a business card. Hell, I didn't even know his name. I took this as evidence of the fact that such happenings are routine for him, and his offered assurances were perhaps more mechanical than genuine.

And then, once the cop was gone, I was left with the decision about what I should do for the rest of the day. Obviously, I was going to have to call my insurance company and make some kind of claim. And obviously, I was going to have to call the Police department for the police report. Once I had time to think more clearly, I recognized that there were a lot of others things I could have told the cop about my car--there are scratches on the windshield from the time I tried to shovel snow off the front it with a broken shovel, there are student parking stickers on the bumper, there are (as my girlfriend reminded me) a couple of ancient and petrified french fries underneath the seats. My decision was that I was going to do what I originally planned on doing. There's nothing else I really could do.

I'm still angry about this (although not as strongly as this morning when I first discovered my car was gone.) I should have the right to park in any legal space. Hell, I should have the right to park in an illegal space with the expectation that I'll be fined heavily and towed, but that my car will not be stolen. Although not much money to some, I paid about $6000 dollars for that car. I spent countless hours working at a job I hate to get it.

Briefly, I had a contradictory feelings: I want to get my car back, and I somehow want my car to rise up against them. Will the steering go out at a critical moment, or perhaps the brakes will stop working. If they use as a getaway car for a crime, perhaps the car will not start when they are trying to effect an escape. Mostly, I suppose I really want justice. I want whoever did this to stand trial, and if proven guilty, to go to jail. I want them to feel bad about taking something that wasn't theirs. So far, I've decided to take meager consolation from the fact that along with my car, they've also stolen a couple of ancient french fries and an empty McDonald's bag. It's not much, but it's the only thing I've got at the moment.

21 May 2004
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