11 September 2005

Three Breaks: Part 6

Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, Part 4, Part 5
And now the conclusion, Part 6:

"Did you see who did it?" the police woman asked.


"There are two ways you can report this: by phone or at the nearest police station."

I guess they won't be coming to look at my car. At least that means I don’t have to feel so bad about messing up the evidence. She transferred me to the phone option and after holding several minutes, I decided to try my luck at the police station.

A man with a cast on his arm stood in front of the thick plastic window. About 15 feet beyond it, two uniformed cops worked at their desks. One was talking to a woman seated across from him, and the other was on the phone. The man with the cast moved aside so I could step up to the window. A vending machine crowded in from the right. I tried to make eye contact with the cops, but neither looked up; several minutes passed. Maybe I should've stuck with the phone option. I turned to the man in the cast and said, "It'd be nice if they at least acknowledged that we're here."

The officer with the woman looked up as if he'd heard me, but I doubted it. He escorted her out and then asked what he could do for me. As soon as I mentioned the break-in, he gave me a form to start; clearly across the top, it read: This is not an official police report. Oh, you’ve gotta be kidding me. I sat down on a low bench and carefully printed the particulars. Once it was complete, the officer invited me back, and I took the seat the woman had occupied. He read the form and proceeded, "Do you know how they got in?"

"The passenger door was unlocked."

"Could you have left it open or was there damage to it?"

"I'm really careful about checking to see if it's locked, but since there's no damage, I guess it's possible."

"They have other ways of getting in. They might've used a slim jim, which is a long strip of metal, to get it open." He said it to make me feel better, which it did in the sense that it may not have been my negligence that caused the crime, but didn't since my car was broken into anyway. He flipped the sheet over for the list of losses.

"They didn't get much," I offered.

"Did they try to take the stereo?"

"It's just a tape deck."

"That's good." He smiled genuinely.

I guess it is.

"Any damage?" he continued.

"Not that I noticed." I hadn't thought to look for any.

He glanced at the form again. "Toyota," he murmured knowingly, "They like Toyotas. The woman before you, they took her whole car."

"I had The Club on my wheel."

"It worked!" he enthused. "That probably saved your car." To think I almost hadn't locked it that time. He handed me a receipt and sent me off with, "Keep using your Club,” and no sense that the perpetrator would be found or even looked for.

Back at home, my dad and several friends shared commiserating tales by phone and email; the experience, from break-in to police inaction, was a common one. “You probably locked it. Slimjims are easy to make and use,” a friend reassured, but instead it exacerbated my insecurities. I can be more careful about locking my doors, but there's nothing I can do about slimjims. What’s to stop them from trying again?

The next day, I picked up my book, sunglasses, and cell phone as I prepared to go to the carwash. Just like I had the day before. I hesitated, fearing my whole car would be gone.

To prepare myself for the worst, I visualized the scenario: I would turn the corner, and there would be nothing where my car had been. Scratch that, parking turnover is practically instantaneous here. I would turn the corner, and someone else’s car would be parked where mine had been. To make sure I wasn’t mistaken, I would frantically pace all the blocks on which I’d ever parked. Out of breath, I would call the police, answer questions, and fill out reports. Then I would repeat the process with my insurance agent. Once I received reimbursement, I would face another car salesman, but this time I would be more assertive and get a car in a color I liked. I can do this.

Thankfully, my sedan was where I’d left it and continued to be during each daily check. Walking up steep blocks on windy, wet days, however, soon became tiresome and fell from my habit: my car would either be fine or not. It is, in the end, just another vehicle I'll replace when the need arises.


  1. Reminds me of that old word of wisdom (I think it might be buddhist): If you own more than eight things, the things own you...

  2. So true, and equally apt for my next post.