Hi everyone. This is a super crazy long post but it's so kooky I just have to tell the whole story.
Well, as some of you know, my dear little daughter was just off, traipsing about Europe with a bunch of high-school band people, playing concerts and living the high life. She's been gone since July 3rd (well, technically since June 30th to the University but they didn't really fly out until the 3rd) and arrived home today.
You would think that nothing could even compete with the fact that one's daughter is arriving home from Europe let alone eclipse the event. You would think.
You see, the problem is, that nothing - NOTHING - can ever happen normally for this family. Nothing.
Did I mention nothing?
Here's the story...
Ok, so there's the whole beginning of the going to Europe thing...getting ready, passport, shopping, everything, everything, everything...and our last item in the actual parent part of this was going to the farewell concert and dinner at Millersville University. We drove down, had dinner, saw the concert (which was very, very good) and then went back to my daughter's dorm room for our final goodbyes. After that, we went out to the parking lot, got in the car and...nothing. The battery was dead. Sigh. And since I was silly enough to be lured by low milage rather than a standard transmission when buying the car in the first place, I now had to go find someone with jumper cables. The first guy I ask says "Jumper cables? Oh, no. I don't carry them. Actually, I don't ever anticipate being in the position to need tham." Then he got into his ass-mobile and drove off to Ass-land.
Then I spied the parents of two boys that were kind of from our area that we got to meet before. I asked them and being the good coal region sorts they are, of course they have them and of course they don't make us feel like idiots for needing them. That part was understood. Off we go.
Now, other than phone calls, faxes, emails or adding money to the cash card account, our role was pretty much done until the end of the trip. The tour offered a shuttle bus from the airport, making various stops across the state for those parents who did not want to drive out to JFK to pick up their child. I figured that a kid who just got off a 7 hour flight from a trip where they just did a huge amount of travel on a bus is not going to want to ride yet another bus but, rather, ride in the comfort of her own family car, enjoying the company of no one but her mother. I mean, wouldn't you?
I happen to have a cousin and cousin-in-law who live in Brooklyn. Since my daughter was flying into JFK, I figured I could take this opportunity to drive out a day early, pay a visit, enjoy some fun with the relatives and then be at the airport in plenty of time the next morning to pick up my travel-weary daughter. That's what I figured.
So, I get directions, drive out and meet up with my cousin and his wife. We have a very nice evening, eating some awesome Thai food and then seeing the sights of Brooklyn - at least what you can see at night. And in the haze. Because it was super hazy. And hot. And hazy. Did I mention hazy? How about muggy? Humid? All of those. But despite that, I had a great time.
The plan for the next morning was that my cousin would head out to work, I would hang with his wife until she had to leave (around 10ish) and then I would leave as well and go to a beautiful little beach until it was time to pick up my daughter. We spent the end of the night going over all of the routes from the apartment to the beach, the beach to the airport, the airport to home. And alternate routes just in case. I was so prepared.
The next morning - why this very morning it was - my cousin left for work. The plan was set in motion. I had coffee with his wife and we got ourselves ready. I skipped taking a shower because I was going right for the beach, no sense in that. We walked downstairs and said our goodbyes and she headed in one direction and I in the other. I crossed the street and walked a half block. And then I became kind of...confused. Here's a little replay of my thoughts...
"Hmm, hmm, hmm....whew it sure is hot. Can't wait to get to the...
Look left. That looks like the fence I parked next to.
Look right. That is definitely not my car.
Look left. That sure looks like the fence.
Look right. That isn't a Toyota Camry.
Look back. Ok, cousnin's wife is watching. Maybe I parked in the next block. But I'm sure I was parked in front of their car.
Look back at cars. That sure looks like their car. That definitely isn't my car in front of it.
So I decided I better check with my cousin's wife to make sure I was not, in fact lost in one block. Fortunately she saw me standing there bumfuzzled (slipped that on right in, didn't I?) and was headed back my way. I met her back in front of their apartment building and explained that I must be confused as to where I parked the car. She walked back with me and said "It's right up here in front of... Oh my God! WHERE'S YOUR CAR?!!!!"
My thoughts exactly.
So then we both kind of stood there bumfuzzled.
"Um..." I said, "I think...it...might be stolen."
Cousin's wife: "OH MY GOD! YOUR CAR! WHERE IS IT?"
So then we figured there might have been some small chance that it was towed because it wasn't parked illegally and none of the other cars there were towed and really it didn't seem like it was towed as opposed to robbed but do we really want to even admit that yet. We headed back to the apartment to call the loacl police to see if it was towed and if not, well, it was stolen and could you please find it because I have to pick up my daughter very shortly at the airport.
While she was on the phone trying to convince the police guy that they towed a '91 Camry didn't you please, please, please, I was on the phone to home because, wouldn't you know, I don't even know my licens plate number and what are police going to think of that? I could tell them that it was the '91 Toyota Camry with Pennsylvania plates. Oh yeah, and the bumper sticker that said "Support Your Local Farmer". Oh yeah, and the big sign that said "Steal me please because I belong to an out-of-towner-back-woods-hick who has nothing better to do than pick huckleberries and milk goats." That sign. Ok, it's not an actual sign but you can see it just the same if you're looking through the eyes of a crafty city car thief.
So I call home and get my son. I start walking him through the whole treasure hunt of where to find the insurance policy information, hoping, hoping, hoping that somewhere on it there will be my license plate number. I knew it would eventually happen... and then he asked it.
Son: "What do you need it for?"
Me: "Um...the car? Well... Um. It was um...kind of ... well, it seems to have been stolen."
Me: "The car. Um. Stolen."
Son: "Did you leave the keys in it?"
Alright. I may not be the brightest bulb in the shed but, for cryin' out loud, I know better than that. I mean, really. And I told him so.
Anyway, the long and the short of it is that it wasn't on the insurance information. Anywhere. My son asked if he should wake up my husband (who jsut finished working 3rd shift) and I told him to just let him sleep and we'll check in later.
My next attempt was with the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation. Or, more appropriately the Pennsylvania Department of We Can't Help You With Anything But We Won't Tell You That Until After We've Kept You On Hold For Four Minutes And Then Run You Through A Crazy Goose Chase Of Menu Options Only To Tell You That You Have To Go To A Local Office And Fill Out A Report And Pay Five Dollars And Then We'll Tell You Because We Are Pretty Much Going To Hold Your License Number Hostage Because We All Suffer From Power Issues. That's what they should call it. So when the very nice Officer McCarthey - who looked a little bit like John Oats acting in a police prime time drama - came to fill out the report, he couldn't really do anything. He tried to be hopeful though, when I said "Um, I'm pretty much never going to see my car again, am I?" He assured me that it is very possible it was towed and the paperwork on it didn't reach the central office yet. Then I put it to him this way: The cars in front and in back weren't towed and it wasn't parked illegally in the first place. Then he said "A '91 Camrey, right?" "Yep" says I. And he just hung his head in a moment of silence. For he knew, as well as I, that my car was no longer even a car. It was a mass of parts already making their way around the city. At any rate, he gave me his number and asked me out to dinner. No, not really. He told me to call when I got my license number so he could finish the report. Will do, Officer Oats. I mean, McCarthey.
By the way, this whole trying to track down the license plate number took an obscenely crazy amount of time and involved at least 10 phone calls to my son trying to instruct him to check various parts of the house because maybe, just maybe... In the end, it was all to no avail.
Well, my cousin's wife had a big meeting so she had to head into work. She waited until my cousin came home because now, he had to drive me to the airport - not even the beach - and then we would come back to the apartment and figure out what to do next.
So we get to the airport just as the plane lands but, since my daughter was coming back into the country, we had a good 40 minute wait anyway because of customs and whatnot. We sit down to wait and guess who I see? Go ahead. You'll never. It's the folks who had to jump start our car the night of the dinner. I clued my cousin in on this previous history and he agrees to keep the whole grand theft of my auto on the QT so as to not have me appear as a total freak. The first thing they ask is whether or not we made it home alright the night of the dinner. "Sure" I say, "no problem at all." In all fairness, they didn't ask if I had any problems today. We chat with them a bit until the kids start to come from baggage claim.
I must say, it was wonderful to see my daughter. She was literally beaming. It was so obvious that she had a great time. I couldn't wait to hear all about it. Unfortunately, there were a few...details...to deal with first. She said her goodbyes to her friends - the friends that were riding the shuttle bus home - and we headed out to the parking lot. I told her we were going back to my cousin's apartment and them we were going to figure out how to get home.
Daughter: "What do you mean figure out how to get home?"
Me: "Um...figure out. That what we have to do."
Daughter: "I thought you drove out."
Me: "I did."
Daughter: "So why aren't we driving home?"
Me: "Well...see...it would appear as though...the car? Well, it seems to have been stolen."
Daughter: "WHAT????!!!! Our car??!! STOLEN???!!!
Daughter: "Did you leave the keys in it?"
This is not fair. Or necessary. It certainly isn't constructive.
We got back to the apartment and, after some discussion and much soul searching, decided it would be best to take the subway to Port Authority and catch a bus to Somewhereclosetohome. My cousin gave my daughter some duffle bags to transfer her belongings for ease of public transportation navigation and walked us to the subway station. He gave me one last set of directions and we were on our way.
Now, I have to pause here a moment and thank my cousin and his wife - who, by the way, could not apologize enough for the poor behavior of the New York City car thieves - for, first of all, their wonderful hospitality and, second, their patience and help with my dilemma. You two were EXTREMELY helpful and wonderful, wonderful, wonderful. They did everything possible to assure safe passage back to Pennsylvania for me and my daughter. A MILLION BAZILLION thanks!
We made it to Port Authority, had a slice of pizza, bought tickets and were on a bus by 4:30, merrily making our way home. Because, you know, I knew the last thing my daughter would want to do after a 7 hour flight from a trip where they just did a huge amount of travel on a bus, would be to ride another bus home. So, there you go.
But wait. It's not over yet.
I knew my husband had to go into work for 6pm and I still didn't hear from him. I called my son again and told him to go make sure his dad was up for work and maybe tell him to give me a call too. As it turns out, my husband, who rarely sleeps more than 6 hours, picked today to have a sleep-a-thon. Well, good for him because he was in for a bit of a rude awakening.
He finally called me at about 5:35.
Him: "Hey, you wanted me to call. Is something wrong?"
Me: "Um...kind of."
Him: "What is it?"
Me: "We need someone to pick us up at the bus station in Allentown around 7 o'clock."
Him: "Why, what happened? Did the car break down?"
Me: "Not that I know of..."
Him: "Well what is it...I have to get ready to leave for work soon."
Me: "The car? The one we used to have?"
Me: "It's stolen."
Him: (more calmly)"Stolen?"
Him: "I'm sorry. I don't mean to laugh but...stolen? Our car? Why would anyone even want it?"
Me: "For parts, I'm guessing."
Him: "Ok, I'll call into work and come get you."
Me: "Ok, bring son. He has the directions to the bus station." (From one of additional 20 phone conversations.)
My hero. What a guy. And so, we would all get to bring my daughter home from Europe after all. They picked us up at the bus station, after a long, hot day - one, I might add, that I did not begin with a shower. They pulled into the bus station and there was joyfull reunion all around. We loaded all the bags in the back, climbed in, and we were on our way - finally - home.
I think it was within the first mile from the bus station when my husband asked, "Did you leave the keys in the car?"