Monday, December 8, 2008

Dude, Where's My Car?

It was the first week of exams. Two exams down, three to go. I had been studying non-stop for days, so I made up an unnecessary errand just to have an excuse to leave the house and think about something else for a while. I walked out to the parking lot, but my car wasn’t there. ‘Hmmm,’ I thought, ‘I could have sworn I parked in this spot.’ Even if I hadn’t parked in that spot, it was a pretty small parking lot, and my car was not in it. ‘Hmmm,’ I thought again, ‘I could’ve sworn I parked in this parking lot.’


I began to rack my brain, which was already discombobulated enough from all the studying. Did I lend my car to a friend? Did I leave it at the bar the other night and take a cab home? Did I maybe sleepwalk and drive it unconsciously off a pier into the Pacific Ocean? Is somebody – possibly Ashton Kutcher – messing with me and secretly filming my reaction?


After standing around and scratching my head for about 20 minutes, I knocked on the residential director's door and said, “I’m still not 100% sure, but I think my car’s been stolen.” We called campus security, and they sent perhaps the most unlikely security guard I’ve ever seen. He spoke at length about how I was to proceed, but I barely registered anything he said because I was so taken aback by the fact that he was wearing makeup, had a woman’s haircut, and wore two pearl earrings. The residential director and I stared at him and tried to pretend we didn’t see anything unusual about a trans-gender campus security officer. This was, after all, California, where such things are to be expected, and it’s not only rude, but the true mark of an outsider to act surprised.When the actual police officer arrived, he also had trouble concentrating on what the security guard was saying.

Finally, he said, “Ok. Thank you sir . . . uh . . . I mean . . . thank you . . . uh . . . thank you officer. If we need anything else from you, we’ll give you a call.”

Then he turned to me, shook his head, and exhaled loudly, with a what’s this world coming to look about him. He had me fill out a report, and was overly blunt and honest about the likelihood of me getting my car back.

“A car like that, they’ll just strip it and sell the parts. Or maybe it’s just kids, and they’ll joyride it till it brakes down.”


So my unnecessary errand would have to be postponed, and I sat down to study again, but the only thing going through my head was the slow realization of what life would now be like without a car. To live in the United States without a car comes awfully close to being denied the privileges and immunities of citizenship. I would have to buy a new car, but how would I even get to the car dealership? I was stuck immobile in law school, and the thought of that terrified me. But no use crying about it now, I had a Civil Procedure exam in two days.


The morning of my exam, I was awakened by a phone call at six in the morning. I was somewhat used to getting early calls by people in the East Coast, oblivious to the time difference, but this was a local call. It was the police department; they had located my car - or at least what was left of it. As happy as I was to hear the news, I had to forget about it for now since I would be spending the next three hours answering essay questions about the Eerie Doctrine.


After the exam, I convinced one of my friends to drive me to the impound lot where my car had ended up. The police department had a contract with a private towing company, and any stolen cars that were recovered, would end up there. The victim of the theft would then have to pay the towing company $250 to get the car back. Thus, the owner of the towing company has a lucrative incentive to hire a handful of goons to go around stealing cars and dropping them off a few blocks away from their original parking spots. And judging from the staff member who greeted me, I have no doubt that this was a criminal enterprise.


I paid the $250 and was shown to my car. I turned the ignition and nothing happened. Thinking the battery might need a jump, I popped the hood, and noticed that there was, in fact, no battery there at all. Along with the battery, the thieves had stripped the stereo, and a few little things – wind shield wipers, antenna – that couldn’t have garnered them more than a few cents in any sort of resale. In place of everything they took, they, for some entirely inexplicable reason, left a disgusting pair of cut-off denim shorts in the back seat.


My friend smiled and said, “At least they didn’t take your cut-offs.”

“They’re not mine. They must belong to the guy who stole the car.”

“Why would he take off his shorts and leave them in your back seat?”

“They’re not mine. I swear.”

“Sure. Whatever you say.”


We drove to the auto parts store and I bought a new battery for about $100. When we got back to my car, my friend and I had to embarrassingly admit to the emasculating truth that we had no idea how to install a car battery. The criminal tow truck driver, who had probably removed my battery in the first place, told us we were pathetic, and offered to do it for $20 cash. I whispered to my friend, trying to redeem our self-worth, “We may not know shit about cars, but I’d like to see this guy try his hand at that Civ Pro exam.”


After the battery was installed, I turned the car on, and was delighted to finally be able to drive again. Had my stereo not been stripped, I would have blasted Steppenwolf’s Born to be Wild. But as I threw the car into first gear and pulled away from the impound lot, I noticed that no matter how hard I pushed down on the gas pedal, the car was incapable of going any faster than 3 miles per hour. My friend, wondering why I was driving so slowly and cautiously, honked his horn furiously, and motioned for me to hurry up.


I went back to the criminal and tried to explain my new dilemma, but he told me, “Not my problem. I’m not a mechanic, I just tow cars. If you want, I can tow your car to a mechanic, but it’ll cost you another $250.” I told him thanks but no thanks, and if he hadn’t looked so menacing, I would have called him an asshole. I would drive myself to the mechanic, ever so slowly.


So I drove at 3mph down a busy city street with a 45mph speed limit, while my friend, regretting having ever befriending me, drove behind me, the two of us forming a ridiculous caravan, and one hell of a road hazard. We finally saw an auto mechanic, but the whole ordeal had taken so long that night had fallen and everything was closed. I left my car there with a note that read, “Please don’t tow. Needs to be fixed. Will call tomorrow morning.”


As promised on the note, I called the mechanic early the next morning, and explained why I had left my car on their parking lot overnight.

“Oh, that’s your car?” the mechanic said, “We were just about to have it towed out of here.”

“Didn’t you read the note I left?”

“We couldn’t make out what it said. The handwriting was pretty bad. And did you write it with a highlighter?”

“Never mind. Just please don’t tow it.”


Apparently, the car thieves had driven it so aggressively, that they destroyed the clutch kit. Their little joyride would now cost me $500, bringing the total of this whole experience to about $1,000 in monetary damages, not to mention all the hours of lost study time. But at least I was now mobile again, and it was reassuring to know that if I ever became too fed up with law school, I could always hop in my car, and exercise the freedom of the American road, leaving everything behind in my rear-view mirror. And with Torts and Property exams just around the corner, this was a very tempting option.

5 comments:

Legal Smeagol said...

wow. during finals month? I don't have a car and what you say about being denied immunities and privileges is very, very true. Hope your finals went well!

joshua said...

I recently came across your blog and have been reading along. I thought I would leave my first comment. I don't know what to say except that I have enjoyed reading. Nice blog. I will keep visiting this blog very often.


Sharon

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A said...

I guess you could have just bought a new car... by the way, what was the car you were driving?

katherine micaela said...

Wow, i want to have one too.. Im already 22 but i don't know how to drive a car... Hopefully someone will give me a car as birthday gift

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