With a week that was incredibly busy and having our car stolen on Sunday morning, I didn’t feel too much like blogging this week.
Our security had been breached. Our sense of safety was zeroed out. I thought that whomever stole the car was going to use any paperwork in the car to identify us, what we did, and break in.
We don’t keep all our gear at our home, but still. No one else knows that.
Pssssst … Except you.
And in what felt like a movie script, we got our car back.
Let me fill you in on the details that I was apprehensive to admit. Tina and I finished a job on Saturday evening with a beautiful couple. Because we were running and gunning, Tina drove and I would get out quickly with the couple, snap shots and jump back in the car.
It’s not too uncommon for us to put miscellaneous pocket items in our glove box. Miscellaneous includes wallets and keys.
I’m sure you’re not exactly different. But maybe you are.
Tina put her keys in the glove box that day, and my keys were in the ignition since I was the first to drive.
We finished the job at around 8. The couple was still with us, and the girl wasn’t comfortable around dogs. So Tina grabbed the keys (mine) and ran upstairs while I unloaded the car of my cameras and a flash or two, waiting for Tina to stow Talulah in our bedroom. I had no idea Tina’s keys were in the car, but I made a mental note to lock the car after getting upstairs.
We all got upstairs, squared away payment, expressed thanks and niceties, and the beautiful couple went on their merry way to sip a margarita with friends.
I immediately grabbed my CF cards, a beer, a glass of wine for Tina and we started going through some of our favorite work to date.
All the while forgetting that we left the car unlocked with Tina’s set of keys inside.
The next day — anticipating a long work week — we got our bathing suits on and headed to our gym to soak in the whirlpool and steam bath. When we left out condo, our car was gone. Tina fell to her knees in the agony of tears.
We felt violated. immediately changed our locks. We slept like shit, thinking some asshole was coming for us next. I considered buying a gun. Getting security cameras installed. All that.
After the seven steps of loss, we figured out what we had to do next, juggling filing paperwork and tying loose ends while doing our job this week.
We hoped that the car was gone, sold for parts and that the insurance would cut us a check after a 15-day waiting period. If the car was found while we were in France, the city would impound the car and charge us inordinate amounts of money to house it till we got back.
Fast forward to Thursday. We had squared away many of the details of our insurance and were flying through editing the photos from our job. We still had not gone to the gym, and we decided that after lunch, we’d go soak and steam.
That’s when Tina’s phone rang. The voice on the other end was a guy who identified himself as an insurance investigator. He asked Tina, “Have you gotten your car back?” He had a thick Chicago dialect. Think, “Da bears.”
Tina said, “No, who is this?”
The guy explained that our car was spotted by police over night and which neighborhood it might be in. Suddenly, the guy blurted, “Wait, your car JUST drove past me! Oh my gosh. It just went by … I gotta go! I’ll call you back.”
The insurance investigator followed our car to a residence in one of our most unsavory neighborhoods. He called Tina back, told her he was sitting nearby. That he got a picture of the guy driving, and to come meet him immediately.
“Whatever you do, do NOT get out of the car! This neighborhood is not safe,” he commanded Tina.
Our drive over was filled with conversation about the car, its condition, what we had to do now that it’s found, thankfulness that it was found while we were in the country. Our hopes for a new car were squelched.
We entered the neighborhood where the car was, and Tina found herself ducking. As if a gun shot would go off any second.
We turned down the street our car was parked, saw it and an SUV with blinking lights. We pull up next to the car and the guy in it says, “I’m on another call. I’ll be right with you.”
We pulled our car right behind his, and I snapped the shot above. The investigator was smoking a cigarette wearing a bulletproof vest.
While we sat there waiting for the cops to show up, a little boy on a bike (seen in the picture) with his dad trailing behind him in the middle of the street, tried avoid a car driving toward him and he slammed right into our back tire.
The investigator showed us a picture of the guy who was driving. He took it on his cell phone. He was wearing white t-shirt, white shorts with a red stripe. Basketball shorts.
There was a tall African American man standing in the entry way of the three-floor apartment he went into. There was a woman in the next yard hanging some clothes to dry. There were about seven people sitting on stoop nearby shooting the shit. There were people on the sidewalk all around. But as outsiders in this neighborhood, there’s no amount of will that removes the racism and the anguish of fear.
Thank goodness it was daytime. If we had to drive down there under cover of night, I would have shit my pants.
After about 10 or 15 minutes of waiting for the cops, who had been called at least 45 minutes earlier, our guy said, “We’re sitting ducks out here. You have the key, right?”
“Let’s get the fuck out of here,” said the investigator.
I couldn’t agree more.
I got out of our rented Beetle, carefully walked over keeping that bulletproof vest between me and the building that our robber was holed up in. I got up to our car, opened it with my key, and it looked drivable. In fact, it looked exactly like it did when we left it. Even the change in the drink holders was there.
I could tell that all the stuff in the back was still in it.
Apart from it wreaking of Swisher Sweets, the car was tiptop.
I started the car and I followed Tina and our investigator friend to the police station. By the way, no one said anything to me as I opened the car. No one screamed, “Hey Rodney, your ride’s leavin’!” Or, “Hey Bobby, some white boy is takin’ yo car!”
See how racist it is to write in African American dialect, Mark Twain?
Adrenaline was surging through my body. “I just stole my car back,” I thought. I made a quick U-turn and got up behind Tina. I looked down at the dash and I saw O next to the fuel light that was on.
You know how there is an indicator on lots of cars that show how many miles are left on that tank of gas?
Mine read Zero.
Here I was in a neighborhood that I felt unsafe in, in my stolen car, and if I ran out of gas, I didn’t have any friends there. I was scared. I was grinding my teeth.
I was stressed.
We made it to the police station. The investigator explained to a very dense man at the desk what happened. The investigator told us he had to go — that other stolen cars needed finding — and the guy who found our car was gone. He was like an angel crossed with a southside Sox fan. He was a superhero in plain clothes.
His first name was the same as Tina’s first cat.
His name: Fluffy.
We filed the report. Paperwork that appeared that it would take three minutes took about 30. While there, people were coming in to complain about credit card fraud, how their electricity was turned off unfairly. One woman wanted a meeting with the commander without an appointment.
Another woman walked in and said, “Y’all have any food?
An officer said, “Do we look like a restaurant? This is a police station.”
“Someone said y’all have food in here,” she shot back.
And just as fast, the same guy said, “We had some beers earlier but we drank all of ’em.”
“Y’all didn’t save me one.”
“Nah, honey, we couldn’t wait for ya.”
She shuffled off. They all laughed.
After that, we drove the car to the Honda dealer and changed our locks. So now we’ve changed everything. And hopefully our sleep worries will dissipate. Between our neighbors who are always home, our security system and house sitters, we feel comfortable leaving the country next week.
Besides, the guy who was driving the car didn’t do anything with the paperwork in the car. The registration, proof of insurance, all that was right there. Untouched. I don’t think he could find us if he tried.
Although my dad told me that I should sell the car quickly before I get bumped by the angry guy we stole the car back from.
If I get bumped for stealing my car back, the guy who did it lives at 3814 W Ohio. Please go find him and arrest him. In the meantime, it’s like we let a stranger borrow our car with a full tank of gas.
He didn’t even re-program the radio stations.
And for that, I’m thankful.
For an explanation of the headline: we bought our car at Carmax. I removed the X from sticker on the back of our car. And it reflects Tina’s love for Buddhist culture. We also named our car “Carmella” after Tina’s late grandmother. As you can see, the car is brown.