What You Gonna Do When They Come For You?
It was a scene from cops out in front of our house last night. At about 2:30 in the morning we were woken up by shouts of "put your hands up," and the sounds of heavy-footed men thundering up and down the block. We peeked out the window to see no less than three cop cars and six officers tearing around with flashlights. They had apparently caught a couple of car thieves in the act of breaking into our neighbor's car. As a property and car owner, I would be all very pleased with these efforts on the part of my local law enforcement agency if it weren't for what had happened a couple of years ago when my own car got stolen.
I was hugely pregnant with Abie, and Michael was out of town. I was hustling the three kids out the door to go the grocery store and I had Rosie in my arms, a diaper bag draped over my shoulder, and the two big kids weaving in and out between my legs. I looked out in front of my house at the spot where I always park. No car. I looked up and down the block. No car. Then, I did something really stupid. I took my car alarm control and pushed the button a few times, as if that would make the car suddenly reappear. Didn't work.
Someone had stolen my minivan. Truth was, while I was mightily inconvenienced, I wasn't particularly bummed. The minivan wasn't old, not more than a year or two, but it had already started to smell. You know, that noxious combination of old bottle, half-empty gogurt tube, old soccer cleats? You can have the damn thing washed two hundred times, and the smell of children will never disappear.
I had four days before the insurance company would give me the go-ahead to buy a new minivan. Four short days. And of course, on the morning of the fourth day, the cops found the goddamn car. It was trashed, cracked up, in Hayward, a town a few exits down the freeway. Worse luck, the thing wasn't totaled. The insurance company decided to repair it for me.
When I got over my despair and picked up the phone to call the guy at the body shop, he said the damage wasn't too bad, but he did have some bad news. "The van is totally disgusting," he said. "It looks like a homeless family has been living in it for a month."
Terrific. Not only had some psycho stolen my car (who goes joyriding in a minivan?) but he had also skanked up the inside. Yuck. I couldn't even bear to see the thing. I sent Michael's assistant down to the body shop with instructions to get the car seats and anything else that could be salvaged. She called from the lot. With worse news.
"Um, Ayelet," she says. "I don't know how to tell you this, but, um."
"This is all your mess."
No, no homeless family. Just Ayelet and her disgusting mess. Sigh.
But all was not lost. At least I would have the satisfaction of getting my revenge. The thief had left a Grateful Dead CD (!!), his leather jacket and...his cell phone behind him. I called the cops all atwitter. Crime solved! Trace the phone, I tell them, and we've got our criminal! Their reaction? I haven't confronted such a lack of interest since the time I suggested we spend Christmas break at Club Med. (Unfortunately, I was more persuasive that time. A Club Med vacation, the antidote for anything good in your life. More about that another day.) The cops didn't care. They didn't want the phone, they weren't interested in finding out who stole the car. They were shocked, in fact, that I was bothering them about this at all. I tried going up the ranks. Nothing. I even called the mayor's office. No response.
Yet, last night, they were all over solving the exact same crime. Maybe it's just me they don't like. Anyway, as the middle-of-the-night action wound down, I heard the cops ask the kid they had nabbed what his name was. The name sounded Cambodian, I thought. As soon as they began talking to him, the kid began insisting that it was all his fault. The other guy was innocent. Please let him go, etc. etc. So immediately I created this scenario in my head about T and his young cousin, a recent immigrant whose father had been killed by the Khmer. The cousin and his mother were lucky enough to be allowed to come to the US to be with her sister, and now they live in a studio apartment in the same complex as T's family. T's mother, awash with guilt over not having been able to save her own sister, has made this young cousin T's responsibility. And now T's gone and gotten him arrested.
I've been worried about T and his cousin all day.