My Life of Crime
So there was this time I stole a car. I’m not proud of it. But now that there’s not much in the garden to write about and I’ve covered our summer vacation, it may be time to come clean.
The date was March 17th, 1998. I can remember exactly because it was the day our current U.S. Representative (Jan Schakowsky) first won the Congressional Democratic primary. I was volunteering for Jan, working out of the polling place at St. Margaret Mary’s on Chase Avenue in Chicago. I had parked my own car at the church lot.
In those days our family car was a maroon Plymouth Voyager – a minivan. Our kids were young, and it seemed like every family with little kids at the time had a minivan. I was kind of proud of it, like it was an official certificate of maturity.
It must have been about 9 pm when we finished up at the polling place and it was time to go home. Out in the parking lot, it was pretty dark. I inserted my car key into the door of a maroon Plymouth Voyager. The door opened.
Then I put the key in the ignition. The key turned, the engine started. There was one little problem: it wasn’t my car. You may have heard of instances where car keys open doors to the wrong car. It happens. But car keys are not supposed to turn the ignition of the wrong car. And yet, it happened.
And so I drove off in someone else’s maroon Plymouth Voyager, not realizing that I was committing Grand Theft Auto. Unintentionally.
Now, if I had been more alert, I may have realized that something was wrong. For example, I might have thought more about how come all of a sudden there were fuzzy dice hanging from the rear view mirror.
Anyhow, on the way home I stopped on Devon Avenue (pronounced, in Chicago, de-VON) to have a late dinner at one of the Indian restaurants. But when I was finished, I couldn’t find my car out on the street. Actually, I walked past the car I had driven several times, but in the street light I could tell right away that it wasn’t MY car. It never occurred to me that I had driven a car that wasn’t my own.
So I strode back and forth on Devon Avenue, increasingly frantic, until the awful thought hit me: SOMEONE HAS STOLEN MY CAR.
So I called 911 and reported the theft. Let’s just say that the authorities did an excellent job of not succumbing to panic. They took my details and said they would get back to me. Or not.
In the meantime, the actual owner of the car I had stolen (let’s call him Tony) had gone through a similar experience in the parking lot of St. Margaret Mary’s, and he had reported HIS car stolen. For the next several days Tony’s car sat on Devon Avenue, collecting parking tickets.
Finally, someone reported Tony’s car as abandoned, and he was reunited with it, fuzzy dice and all. In fact, Tony had left a substantial quantity of cash in the car, and was relieved and surprised to find it still there.
Shortly afterwards, a friend told Tony that his missing car was in the St. Margaret Mary’s parking lot. No, said Tony, it was found on Devon Avenue. But he went to the church parking lot, which resulted in a call to the police reporting MY car as abandoned.
Then the light went on in Tony’s head. Shortly afterward, I got a call from the police telling me to get my car at the church parking lot.
I learned two main lessons from this experience. First, do not ignore the mysterious appearance of fuzzy dice in your car. And second, stealing cars may look glamorous in the movies and video games, but the reality is likely to be disappointing.