Thursday, January 7, 2010

"Lost and Found" by Gary

Last week, a few nights before Christmas, our daughter's 1994 Black Honda Accord was stolen from its parking space in front of our house.  I hate when that happens!
Its absence wasn't immediately alarming, or even noticed--any other time the car had been missing it was because it had been borrowed or left at a friends house overnight.  However when our daughter called us in at school in the middle of the day asking if we had taken it for our morning commute, we realized something was definitely amiss. We suggested she file a police report right away.

The Petaluma police officer was polite and efficient. He reported that Hondas were frequently stolen due to a forgiving entry key and ignition system and a strong demand in the secondary parts market. Ours was one of two hondas reported stolen that night.  Most likely, he told our daughter, the car was in the East Bay being stripped of it's parts. In my mind I imagined our honda perched on a carving board like a Thanksgiving carcass. I cringed inwardly to think of "Black Beauty" (all of our cars have names) ending it's existence in this way. The reported loss included the contents of the car: yoga mat, ipod charger, clothing, etc. Fortunately our daughter's product display table wasn't in the car; she had taken it out to make room for a 5 gallon pail filled with persimmons from her uncle's house.
The idea bothered us: car thieves driving up and down sleepy little Westridge Place, our cozy abode of more than twenty years, in the middle of the night????  Our consternation turned to anger a bit later. How low would someone go, to steal a car just days before Christmas? The loss was bad enough, but who needs the police report, insurance calls and alternate ride schedules at the busiest time of the season? 
The first call, to our insurance company felt like a sucker punch to the gut.  The honda was not insured comprehensively for theft. Chalk up another denied insurance claim for the O's,  completing the trifecta that went with last summer's botched drapery cleaning by the house cleaning service in Tahoe and Alyssa's Mustang, totaled by an uninsured driver in 2007. This has not been a good couple of years for us insurance-wise... Oh well, we decided to move on.

A friend offered unlimited use of a spare miata that she was selling, for as long as we needed it. It was a kind and generous gesture and we accepted.  Teresa was enamored with the little sports car and took to it quickly as she enjoyed  quick jaunts around the neighborhood. And when our daughter disclosed her uneasiness with driving a stick-shift,  Teresa became the logical driver of the miata. It would make sense for us to buy it. Our daughter would gladly take the old CRV.

Over the next few days, we adjusted to our new transportation assignments. The CRV was reliable, safe transportation for our daughter; and the little miata was a lot of fun. Teresa enjoyed the responsiveness and manueverability of the cherry-red sportscar. After trips to the DMV and insurance companies, we were back up to full speed and over the loss of the stolen car.

Then the phone call 3:15 am, a time when calls are never a good thing. It was a Twin Cities police officer. The Honda had been recovered in Greenbrae.  We had less than an hour to come down and claim it, otherwise it would be towed and stored at our expense. I didn't quite understand why all this couldn't wait until a more reasonable hour. Weren't we the victims here?? Dazed, Teresa and I looked at each other and started to put on some sweats. "But I like Bing!" was all she could say.
The drive to Greenbrae was sureal. There were practically no other cars on the road. I remembered that we took the exact same, middle of the night trip to the hospital 18 and 21 years earlier when our daughters were ready to come into this world.

We pulled into the gas station where the car had been recovered. It was surrounded by three police officers, like a SWAT team, although instead of holding drawn guns they had donuts and coffee. The youngest, shortest officer of the group came forward to greet us, as if it was his duty as the 'rookie' while the more experienced officers watched.  He was very professional as he retold the recovery story and signed off the paperwork. Teresa blurted out her first and foremost  question: 'Did they recover the big pail of persimmons from Uncle Tommy's?!!"

The car ended up being in fine running condition. All the contents were gone, replaced by numerous cigarette butts and a seemingly absurd number of clues that the police overlooked or avoided (filed down keys, matchbook with phone numbers, prying screwdriver, and later, three toll evasion violations showing the precise time of trips back and forth over the Richmond bridge). Yet it was evident the police department's role was complete and this was a 'closed case'. We drove home, and the unspoken question lingered....somewhere between Terra Linda and Ignacio,  I looked over at  Teresa and said, yes, we could keep "Bing". Her smile told me I had read her mind exactly...Back at home, the return to a deep sleep came surprisingly easy.  And in the morning, we celebrated by slicing up and enjoying the only remaining persimmon from Uncle Tommy's tree. 

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