Tuesday, January 19, 2010

A smash hit

Safety is always the top priority when traveling with a child. A kid should always ride in a car seat, and, according to experts, it is best for that car seat to be free of thumbtacks, sharks, and broken glass. Jennifer and I always adhere to these rules to make sure Kyle is not in any danger whenever we buckle him up in the back seat. Yet Friday morning, I realized that someone must not have read the "Traveling with Children" manual, for that's when I discovered there was broken glass on Kyle's seat. There also was a lot of broken glass next to the car seat, within arm reach. It all was so easy to see through the hole in the smashed window of the rear door. It's a shame that some criminals just don't think of children's safety when they break into cars.

I am not really sure what attracted this thief to our vehicle. Maybe it was the beautiful beige upholstery or the finely-scratched dull black exterior. Perhaps he thought there was something valuable in the vehicle, since it's protected by a top-notch security system known as "The Club." He could have believed the car itself was a sign of wealth, as even Jay Leno and Jerry Seinfeld have talked about saving up money to fulfill their dream of adding a 2001 Toyota Corolla to their collections. Most likely he saw the cord to a charger for an electronic device lying inside, and guessed that it belonged to a GPS, iPod or portable money-making machine.

The window was the only thing the crook damaged. The rear door and the driver's side door were unlocked, so I am guessing that he smashed the window to unlock the doors to get into the car, unless he was incredibly small and simply crawled in through the hole. He then must have looked around to see what valuables he could take. At this point, with apparently nobody around, the crook could take anything he wanted, just like a kid in a candy store on his birthday... except this candy store offered nothing more than napkins and New Jersey maps.

The crook opened the glove compartment and spilled all the items inside onto the front passenger seat. There was no GPS or iPod... just maps, flashlights, and valet and parking deck tickets dating back to 2003. The charger left out in the open turned out to belong to a cell phone that I don't even own anymore. There was an envelope inside the glove compartment that probably had about $40 in it, which I would occasionally use as "emergency" cash. The crook pocketed that. If he had considered taking the stereo, he probably changed his mind after realizing that the car doesn't even have a CD player or iPod jack. Instead it has an old-fashioned tape deck. He did grab a bag of coins I had in a compartment underneath the stereo, which I used for parking meters. However, the bag had not been very helpful to me recently, as I had picked it dry of any quarters. That meant it was filled with mostly pennies and nickels, and probably contained five to ten dollars max. It's fun to think of just how disappointed this guy must have been with my car. I'm just glad he didn't find the diamonds tucked behind the car seat, or the rare, gold-plated original copy of the Constitution squeezed between the road maps in the door. The crook also didn't touch the two Christmas tapes left in the car, including the timeless classic "Twisted Christmas," and I'm eternally grateful for that.

However, the thief did steal a little bit of our peace of mind, since, believe it or not, we never had anything like this happen to us in the six years of parking the car on the New York City streets. The break-in also did not happen at the best time (as if there's ever a good time for this sort of thing). I noticed the broken window as I was loading the car with Jennifer's bag, just minutes before I was to take her to the airport for a weekend in North Carolina. She ended up changing her flight because of it, as she wanted to be home to give support and watch Kyle as I contacted police and the insurance company. Jennifer ended up calling a car service to get to her later flight.

I patched up that hole with a kitchen trash bag and some duct tape, which I'm sure deterred anyone else from trying to break in during the rest of the weekend. I had considered getting a rottweiler, too, but decided against it with all that broken glass in the back seat. Yesterday I drove the car to the glass repair shop, and after a half-hour the window was as good as new. In fact, the car was in much better shape then it was before the break-in, since the glass guys vaccumed all of the glass, plus the seats and floor, which I had neglected for some time. Come to think of it, the thief actually helped me out by unloading the junk-filled glove compartment, giving me an opportunity to sort through all the junk and take out things I didn't need (like a brochure to some cottages in Asheville, NC, where Jennifer and I stayed SEVEN years ago).

Even so, there were two major downsides to this whole experience. One happened at the glass repair shop. As I waited for my car to be fixed, I was forced to hear, and sometimes see, the Maury Povich show. Sure, it was only thirty minutes, but it may be months before I can shake off the sound of that woman screaming at the man who turned out to be the father of her child, as Maury tried to calm her down. I may need therapy to get the echoes out of my head. The other downside occurred shortly after discovering the break-in. Jennifer called US Airways, the airline taking her to North Carolina, and told customer service what happened and that she needed to take a later flight. The airline, being as heartless as it is, told Jennifer that she would have to pay a fee for changing her ticket and would have to pay the difference between the ticket she had bought and the new, very expensive ticket... a total that cost more than $300. Jennifer could have just hung up and gone standby, but this was an important family weekend she did not want to risk missing. Since we haven't flown much recently (we spent all the holidays in the northeast), we decided to cut our losses and switch the ticket.

One of my friends said it best: in the end, US Airways robbed us more than the guy who actually broke into our car. Go figure!

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