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LJ8: Yes, and… Or How to Recover a Stolen Car
It was 9pm on a Friday and I had spent the previous hour on the phone with two different police agencies, a very nice detective, and the late-night call center for my insurance.  My car had been stolen out of a train parking lot the previous week, but it had been recovered that afternoon. The car was at a tow-yard in Concord, and the detective said it appeared to be drivable.  Now I just needed to get my car key back from the insurance company, their SOP is send them everything which I had done, and get to Concord to retrieve my car.

My local insurance office, where the key was, didn’t have weekend hours. I researched what I could online and made a list of phone calls to make on Monday.

I had a plan.

I spoke to a very nice man in the local insurance office on Monday.  Louisa, the person handling my case, was out of the office for the day, and apparently only she had access to my key.  The nice man assured me the key would be sent out on Tuesday and I should have it Wednesday morning.

I called the tow-yard to verify their location, the paperwork I would need to bring, and the cost.  The tow-yard guy I spoke to hadn’t seen my car so he couldn’t tell me anything about its condition. I looked up various train schedules to figure out how to get myself to Concord, and arranged to work a half-day from home on Wednesday.  I would be at the apartment to receive the key in the morning, and then spend the afternoon getting my car.

I had a plan.

Wednesday around 11am I emailed Louisa to ask about my key; had it been sent, and was it supposed to arrive by 10:30am or had I misunderstood?  She called me around noon to say that FedEx showed the package as out for delivery as of 9:05am.  I pointed out that if the key didn’t arrive soon there wouldn’t be enough time left for me to make the trip while the tow-yard was still open for the day.  Louisa said not to worry; I could just pick up the car on Thursday.

First thing Thursday morning I received an email from Louisa with details from FedEx saying the key had been delivered at 8:40p the night before.  No one knocked or rang the bell, and I hadn’t seen it on my way out the door that morning.  I texted my husband who was still home, he checked and said that the envelope was there, hidden completely under the mat. Finally, the key was back in my possession!

I emailed Louisa that my current plan was to get the car on Saturday, and asked what to do if the car didn’t start, or there were other major issues.  She replied that on weekends all calls went to the national call-center in Cleveland, so if there were any issues I should just leave the car at the tow-yard and we could deal with it on Monday.

Hell, no.  I called the tow-yard to confirm what time they opened the next day - 7am - and what I needed to have with me to pick up the car.  I spoke to my boss and arranged to work from home again on Friday.  I looked up train times and plotted the earliest arrival I could.  If trains and traffic were willing, I could be home with my car by 9am; assuming it was in working condition.

I had a plan.

Friday morning my alarm went off at 4:30am.  I walked to the train station and spent the next two hours on three different trains.  I got off the last train, oriented myself, and walked the mile and a half to the tow-yard, arriving around 7:30am.

I went into the door marked towing but no one was at the desk.  John, from the junkyard side of the business came over to say hello.  He made a very brief effort to find my paperwork but said he really didn’t know the towing side and I’d have to wait until the woman who ran it came in.  I asked what time that would be and he said “Well, there’s not really a set time. She’s the boss’ daughter so she rolls in whenever.”  He told me I could wait outside in the little courtyard.

By 8am my hands were numb.  Another employee arrived, but Rob also worked on the junkyard side and didn’t know about the towing paperwork.   He stepped outside a few minutes later and told me they had called the boss who was on his way.

A car pulled all the way into the courtyard around 8:30am.  Both John and Rob came outside immediately.  Inside the car was one of the largest men I’d ever seen.  Rob went to the trunk and pulled out a walker and brought it to the driver’s side door.  John was being handed something from the passenger seat.  They fussed for several minutes before the large man stood up and began laboriously moving into the building.  He called over to me “Give me a few minutes then come in, we’ll get you taken care of”.

Finally, things were back on plan.

When I went inside they were just finishing switching the large man from the portable oxygen tank that John had been carrying to the tall immobile tank behind the counter. The large man wheezed and stared at me.  I started telling him my story and he interrupted me.

“You called a few days ago, and said you’d be in Wednesday to pick up your car.”

“I had some issues getting the key back from the insurance company.”

He nodded and told John exactly where my paperwork was.  John brought it over and the large man began to recalculate my fee.  Adding two more days of storage didn’t seem that difficult to me but he crossed things out and redid the math several times until he came up with a new total.

“That’ll be $730.”

I was numb to everything by this point; I just wanted to see my car and be done.  I pulled out my credit card to hand over and the large man shook his head.

“We don’t take credit cards.”

“I called yesterday and spoke to someone who said that you do take credit on weekdays. Or I have my checkbook.”

“Eh - You probably got the answering service; they don’t know shit about what actually happens here.  The machine is broken; until they send us a replacement we can’t take credit and we never take checks. You don’t have cash with you?”

“I don’t.   I - I’m going to step outside for just a moment.”

I had a pl...  - oh, who am I kidding.  I cried for a few minutes, frustrated and angry.  I wondered who walks around with $700 in cash on them.  I called Louisa and got her voicemail. I took several deep, calming breaths and went back inside.  All three men looked a little terrified that I might start crying again.

“I need directions to the nearest bank.”

“Sure thing.  How did you get here?” the large man asked.  I told him about the three trains and walking, and he looked horrified.  “No, no, John will drive you to the bank.”

John did just that, and thankfully turned on the heat.  We arrived at the bank just before 9am when they opened.  I wrote a check to cash and stared blankly at the bank employee who was only trying to be friendly.  I climbed bank into the truck with John, returned to the tow-yard, and handed my money to the large man, who finally gave Rob the okay to take me down to my car.

I got in and put the key in the ignition, the moment of truth.  My car started easily.  I turned it back off and did a walk around: other than the fast-food trash in the car and a broken trunk latch it looked okay.  I checked inside the trunk and called to Rob, pointing at a black plastic thing, “That isn’t supposed to be in the trunk, is it?”

“Huh, that’s your air filter; it should be in the engine.  It’s easy to reattach though, pop the hood and I should be able to put it back for you.”  After going up to the garage to get the proper wrench he did just that, and tied my trunk mostly shut.  John came down to the yard and got into the fork lift, he moved the car in front of me out of the way so I could pull out.  I got directions to the nearest gas station and drove out of the tow-yard.  My car was mine again.

I filled up the tank, and drove home.  I pulled into my apartment complex at 11am.  I knew there were still several things that needed to get done but after that morning I was confident I could handle anything.

I just needed to make a plan.

***Here's my entry for week 8 of LJ Idol find other people's entries on this fun, improvisational prompt "yes, and" here.  This is all too true, names were changed mostly because I had blocked them out.***

Finally! Yay! you did it...:) I almost thought you wuld return back empty handed...A nice read!..:)

Weirdly, I was never super concerned that the car wouldn't start. I think mostly my brain couldn't handle one more thing to worry about so I just didn't. Everything else I was just going to make happen.

Thanks for reading, I know this one got a bit long.

You have the patience of a saint. I would have been screaming long before the car was back in my possession. What a terribly frustrating experience.

Well I drank a little more than usual that week, and bit my tongue a lot. When I was editing I realized I had written, 'I took several deep breaths' a half-dozen times which was accurate, but not such great reading.

Working as a stage manager for so long is what taught me to keep my cool even when screaming would feel so much better, because there usually isn't time for screaming in live theater - stuff just needs to get fixed.

Thanks for reading.

Good grief!!! I would have killed someone. You handled this with grace.

Killing someone did seem like a valid option several times throughout this process. Then I realized that the large man was likely close to death all on his own (he was seriously creepy with the wheezy and the oxygen) and that made me feel a little better.

Thank you.

I died a little, several times over, reading about how ridiculously hard the logistics of this were (multiple logistics and Plan Bs!) and how much a basic lack of professional behavior (on the part of several individuals) can really make life hell for someone else.

I'm so glad things got better for you at the end, and that you got a ride to the bank instead of spending three more hours of soul-death navigating that hurdle through public transit.

During this week I had to remind myself over and over again that the idiocy of the person in front of me was the only idiocy I should be reacting to, not the idiocy of the whole week. Or I might have just torched the tow-yard as the culmination of the whole thing.

A branch of my bank was just over 3 miles away so I would have walked it, but yeah I was very appreciative of the ride. Even if I'm pretty sure it was offered mostly so I didn't start crying again.

I still can't quite believe that this many things went this sideways all in the same week. Thanks for the read.

Wow. I am impressed that you got through that, & no one was maimed in the process.

I may be too suspicious. When they wanted cash, I got worried...

Honestly, so am I. It was amazing to me how helpful and responsive my insurance company was until the car was recovered.

Had you seen this place them wanting cash would not have seemed so strange. The technical know how to keep anything other than a combustion engine running seemed way beyond them, and paperwork or organization was obviously not their strong suit. The whole place had that vibe of 'girls don't belong here' in spades. I do wonder how they stay in business though, with service that bad.

Oh no- what a nightmare!

Having the car stolen was disconcerting. Having the car recovered and everything I had to do to get it back and fully repaired was actually worse. I'm glad I didn't have to buy a new car, but the process was not good.

OMG. I hope your insurance company reimbursed you for the impound lot! So glad you finally got the car!

They reimbursed me, minus the deductible, which is a whole other part of the story. But yes, I'm glad to have my car back.

Wow . . . what a terrible time. I'm sure you had TONS of "Yes, and" or more like "What now?" moments . . .

Every single time I thought I had planned for whatever they could throw at me, some curve ball came in. The month from them finding my car to finishing the repairs was one giant game of me improvising answers to some truly stupid situations.

Thanks for commiserating.

How dreadfully frustrating! I'm glad you got it back.

I'm glad I got it back too, though were certainly times that week I wished it had just stayed lost.

That sounds ridiculously frustrating, but I'm glad you got your car back!

There were points during that week when I was so frustrated and then ended up just laughing because there was nothing else I could do. I was at the mercy of other people getting their shit done and couldn't make them do it any better/faster.

I"m glad to have my car back too, she's been with me for nearly 10 years.

Wow. I am so happy you got your car back in relatively good shape. It would be nice if everything in between could be forgotten post haste! lol

It seems like whoever had the car was intending to drive it, there were receipts and personal info left in it, and all of the radio presets had been changed, so they hadn't done much damage.

I've told this story a few times, but I'm hopeful that writing it all out is going to help me let it go. Thanks!

Yarg! I hope you treated yourself to a nice nap and a long shower after all that hassle. What an ordeal!

When I got home my husband took me out to lunch, and then I was supposed to log on and work from home for the afternoon. Not much got done.

It's one of those things that if it hadn't happened to me (large man who is attached to an oxygen tank and looked vaguely like Jabba the Hut) I'm not sure I'd believe it, it was exceedingly bizarre.

The laborious elements of owning your own vehicle. Something I have yet to (and may never) experience. Nicely told!

Yeah, I like my car, but it certainly occurred to me more than once during this process that it'd be easier if they just hadn't found it. Cars are great and make things easy, until they don't.

Thank you!

I went through a similar experience once, complete with the inordinately large amounts of cash required. UGH.

I'm not certain why, but the sketchy tow yards always seem to run on a cash basis, which only makes them sketchier. Ugh indeed.

It was not my favorite week ever. I'm glad to have my car back, but I found myself wondering if it was worth all that more than once.