Being the responsible citizen that I am, I made sure I allowed at least an hour before leaving for the airport to move my car. I have a residential parking permit, which means I can park my car on the street, but I must move it on certain days for street cleaning. I considered the price of an hour of sleep. At 5 am. Was it worth the $35 ticket? No. Streets must be cleaned. Cars must be moved.
In the darkness, I walked the three blocks to where I had parked my car on Sunday afternoon. I saw it as I wearily drug myself up the slight hill. Still there (always a concern in the City). I placed my key in the lock and realized I didn’t feel the click of the lock popping open. The door was unlocked. Hmm. That’s strange. I thought back to Sunday afternoon. I’m sure I locked the door. Oh well.
I opened the door.
In the dim light, I saw the wires. The wires protruding from where my faceless radio used to reside. I looked over to my glovebox. Actually to the place where my glovebox used to be. Because whoever had been in my car had taken the entire thing. The entire glovebox was gone. Bear in mind, there was nothing of value in there besides the face plate to the radio. But now there is only a void cavity, a gaping hole.
I noticed a paper on my windshield. Had I gotten a ticket as well?
I pulled the paper from the damp windshield. It lay limply in my hands. I carefully turned it over. It wasn’t a ticket, but a note.
yoU LeFT YOUR HAZARDS ON LAte SUNDAY/eARLY MONDAY (11/20-12/1) MORNING. I THOUGHT yOU MIGHT HAVe BeeN VACATING THe PARKING SPOT. I GAVe UP AFTeR WAITING 10 MINUTeS. MORe THAN LIKeLY, YOU’Re CAR BATTerY IS NOW DeAD!
I glanced inside the car again. Parts of the car, maybe the gear shift? maybe something else? were on the passenger’s seat. Wires dangled from below the steering wheel. Might as well give it a try. It is the season for miracles after all.
I put the key in the ignition. I turned. Silence. Not even a click.
I got out of the car, shut the door, and locked it. Then realized how ridiculous it was for me to lock the door to a car which someone had basically just torn apart. Old habits die hard.
I looked at the street cleaning sign. Sigh. I should have gone for the extra hour of sleep.
So once I arrived back to my apartment, I thought about my next plan of action. I needed to leave for the airport in 30 minutes. What could I do in 30 minutes? I’ll call the police.
I leafed through the white pages until I found the government section – San Francisco – City & County. Police. Po-lice. So many departments under police. Investigations – Auto Detail. That sounded like who I needed to talk to.
I dialed the number. On the second ring a man answered, sounding much more awake than me.
“Um. Hi. My car was broken into.”
“Is this the police department?”
“Yeah. What do you want me to do?”
“Well, I’d like to file a report.”
“Call the main number.” Click.
I leafed back through the pages. Main number, non-emergency dispatch. Ring, ring. Ring, ring. Ring, ring. Ring, ring. Ring, ring. Finally a woman answered.
“Hi. I’d like to file a report. My car was broken into.”
“Did you see who did it?”
“You need to call back after 8:30 to file a report over the phone.” Click.
Fortunately a taxi stopped right away. That’s one of the advantages of living downtown, amongst the hotels and the theatres, far away from neighborhoods of residences lined in a row. There’s usually a taxi. You have to step over five sleeping homeless people to get to it, but the taxi is there.
“Where can I take you to, miss?”
“SFO. Northwest terminal please.”
“Oh. You’re going on a trip (as also evidenced by the suitcase he just put in the trunk). Where to?”
“Oh, for fun?”
“No, for work.”
“What type of work are you in?”
“I design computer based training.”
“Oh. I thought you were a lawyer. You’ve got that lawyer look to you.”
I wasn’t in a particularly talkative mood. I was still trying to figure out what to do with a car that wouldn’t start. Given that the car is 20 years old, my insurance deductible is the same amount I actually paid for the car, and I generally don’t believe in throwing good money after bad. Or something like that.
Lester, however, was in a talkative mood. By the end of the 35 mile journey to San Francisco International Airport, I learned that Lester drives a cab three days a week, for 6 hours at a time. His “day” job (only he does it at night) is a pathologist in the San Francisco Coroner’s Office. You can see the Coroner’s office from the highway (he pointed it out). It’s adjacent to the jail. The top two floors are reserved for felons. He hails from Washington State, from a family that includes many generations of loggers. But not him. He moved to San Francisco 18 years ago.
And I still hadn’t figured out what to do with my car.
Once I checked into my hotel, I called the non-emergency dispatch number of the San Francisco Police Department. After being on hold for 16 minutes and 47 seconds a woman’s voice, somewhat shaky, answered. I told her I wanted to file a report, because my car had been broken into. “Did you see who did it?” “No.” “Okay, then, I can take the report.”
I’m not sure why it would have made a difference if I saw who did it. Would I be called in to look at mug shots? Would my life be in danger? Would I be placed in a witness protection program?
In my mind I pictured what this woman looked like that I was giving all my details to. I’m guessing late fifties. No, maybe early sixties. 62. White hair. Permed, but done at the beauty parlor once a week. Slightly overweight, probably five feet two inches tall. I imagined her name to be Mildred. I never asked.
I detailed all I could. The location of the car. The damage done. When I parked it. When I found it. The note.
She pleasantly repeated the information back to me, often misquoting what I had said. I corrected her; she again misquoted me. She gave me a police report number and told me to have a nice day.
And I still haven’t figured out what I’m going to do with my car.