On an otherwise normal, quiet Monday afternoon in late September, I stepped out the front door to head for the grocery store. As soon as I hit the front porch, I stopped dead in my tracks, momentarily confused by what I saw. Or more properly, what I didn’t see. My car was missing.

Gypsy, 2020
Gypsy, 2020

It took me several seconds to process that datum. She’s not in the shop, right? I didn’t park down the street for some reason? I don’t owe anyone money on her, so I can’t have forgotten to make a payment or anything. I hadn’t loaned her out.

My car had been stolen.

Why on earth would anyone steal my car? She means the world to me, but really for sentimental reasons. We’ve traveled the country together, visited Canada together, she even delivered me to the Mexican border, though it was a foot/rowboat crossing so she couldn’t go with me. A mechanic did sloppy work on her last time her timing belt had been changed and the resulting broken timing belt trashed my heads, and I tore the engine down to the block and rebuilt it one piece at a time.

But as far as anyone else might be concerned, what could she be worth? She’s not new, she’s a 2001 model, built in August of 2000. She’s not an expensive car like a Mercedes or something, she’s a Volkswagen. Dependable, well-built and brilliantly engineered, but not flashy or extravagant.

In good condition, which beyond the engine is rather arguable, Kelly Blue Book lists her fair market value at about $1900. I have twice that much in her engine rebuild. And at 20 years old, there’s probably not much of a parts market out there that would be worth a chop shop’s time.

The police officer who responded to the call asked, among a million other questions of course, if she’d been locked. I’m really good about locking her up. She’s got a flip-out “switchblade” key fob, and it was closed. I never close the key until I lock her, it’s a habit I’ve been in since the beginning. If I’m in a store and can’t remember if I locked the car, I can just look at my key. If it’s closed, she’s locked. It’s a handy habit for someone who is sometimes forgetful. But the key was closed. I was sure she was locked.

Unless maybe I’d forgotten. Terribly unlikely, but not impossible. A twinge of guilt hit my stomach at the thought.

I told the officer about my habit with the key, he wrote it down in his notebook along with the answers to all the other questions.

The officer told me that, although there were no guarantees of course, it was unlikely she was in a chop shop somewhere. It’s often the case that a thief will steal an older, non-descript car, take it wherever they’re headed, grab what they can out of it, and abandon it. Parking enforcement usually finds them in short order. I felt a little better, at least.

This car is not exactly nondescript.
This car is not exactly nondescript.

Meanwhile, her plate was entered into a national database of stolen cars, and if law enforcement happened to run her plate for some reason, she’d pop as stolen, wherever she was.

I almost always back her in when I park anywhere, if I can. My neck makes it harder to look over my shoulder, so backing into a spot that I know is safe and clear is easier than backing out onto a street or into a parking lot. I may alter my habit on this point, as had the thief seen how “nondescript” my car isn’t, he may have passed her by.

The pandemic worked in the thief’s favor this time, as she was surely stolen overnight, and with no real cause to check on her or go outside before I headed out to the grocery store, he got quite a head start. That was unfortunate, and led to my car being missing for ten days.

When they found her, she had a bunch of trash left in her by whoever stole her. Some keys left behind that he’d probably stolen from somewhere else. He took my owner’s manual from the car (wtf?), the receipts for all the parts and labor ever done to her that I kept in a folder in the pocket of the back of the driver’s seat (WTFF?), a ring of keys that go to nothing on this coast and several of which go to nothing at all anymore (kept for sentimental reasons), and a monopod from the trunk. I haven’t used the monopod in years, my hands aren’t steady enough anymore.

He had attempted to steal the brand new battery out of her. He managed to loosen the battery cables, but apparently couldn’t get the bracket loose that holds the battery in. My best guess is that he then tried to pry the battery out, because he fucked it all up. It’s bent up, and I have to replace it again.

Idiot.
Idiot.

Did I mention the “brand new battery” part? A hundred and sixty two goddamned dollars. I’m glad he didn’t get the battery, though, because fuck that guy.

At least I know I didn't leave her unlocked.
At least I know I didn't leave her unlocked.

On the upside, at least I know I didn’t leave her unlocked.

Asshole.
Asshole.

On the downside, of all the locksmiths I looked into in Seattle, the only one I found who A) still does auto locks, and B) said they can get the parts for her is charging me $650 to repair the door lock and the ignition, and had to order the parts. They’ll take 2-3 weeks to get here.

It's supposed to be better than a Club, at least.
It's supposed to be better than a Club, at least.

Meanwhile, I spent $170 on one of these. It’s a disklok. While nothing will keep a determined thief from stealing a car, mine was a target of opportunity. I’d like to make her a little less opportune. Reportedly, the disklok is better than a Club because removing a Club entails about fifteen seconds worth of work. I hope this does better than that.

So, besides ten days of angst and anger and sadness, some asshole who can’t be bothered to find legitimate means of transportation winds up costing me about $1k I don’t have. I’m unlikely to ever get that money back, but at least I have my girl back. That’s a big deal to me.