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Return of the Car

I got the call from Portland Police Tuesday afternoon, at about 3:30, that they'd found my car.

I think Portland PD tried to call me earlier: during a quiet moment at work, I'd checked my phone and seen that a call from a private number had come through, but with no message. The first call they'd made to me Sunday night, after I'd reported it stolen, had shown up as "Private Number." It rang soon after I'd boarded the waiting MAX train, and I walked off it (I never want to be the person on their phone on public transit) and answered, and the man on the other end was telling me how to pick up my car...

...and I had him repeat that. Yes, they'd found it, in more or less the same shape it had been in, and a tow company had it.

My car had been found in a residential area to the east of Mt. Tabor in SE Portland. Whoever stole it had driven it maybe 20 miles; it was abandoned about two miles from the parking garage where the whole misadventure began. The car still had gas.

I deliberately waited to call the tow company until I was back at the house. I didn't want to rush out to the tow truck company yard: maybe I'd have stuff at home that I'd need when picking it up. Turns out I could reach the yard by taking a bus near where I live, so I did; earlier, I'd considered asking a housemate for a ride, but it turned out to be better and quicker to take the bus.

Sidebar: since I rarely drive home from work and only sometimes drive after work, I'd kept thinking of stopping at one of the airport restaurants and having a beer one of these days. I came close to doing that Tuesday. GOOD THING I DIDN'T, or I would have had to wait a day and pay more to get it back.

The afternoon was still hot; the tow truck company lot was dusty; my car was there. It started as it should when I turned the key. I paid a couple hundred dollars, went back to the car, waited for the gate to open, and headed back. I drove home gingerly. I listened; anything sound different? "Off"? Of course I have no way to know exactly how the driver or drivers drove it — maybe I should be weirdly impressed they knew how to drive stick — and as it's 21 years old, the car's eccentric. But it seems, so far, to be fine. So I got home...though I indulged along the way by pulling into the Foster Popeyes drive-thru and getting dinner.

And cars — cars in general and mine in particular — have been on my mind.

I like to think of cars as tools. That's fundamentally what they are, moving you, people close to you, and your stuff from place to place. When I'm valeting, I'm caring for other people's tools, whether it's a Kia or a Rolls Royce or a Tesla. I make sure to be, as I've said before, careful, respectful...and unimpressed, because I can't be scared to drive a vehicle. I'd be bad at my job if I freaked out thinking Holy crap, this costs $200,000. And I think of my car, in all its dented and worn glory, as a tool. But: it's my tool, damnit, and losing it, even briefly, made that more obvious. I use it; I like it.

During all this, I didn't/couldn't know how someone else was using it. While it was gone, I told myself not to imagine what might be happening, as doing so would freak me out more. Too many possibilities, some of them maddening or awful. A family member here in Portland who's been through the same thing got their car back in weeks; they told me that per a cop who helped them, 90% of the cars stolen from the garage where I'd parked are recovered. But mine could have been one of the 10%.

Three days after getting it back, I'm still tense. I'm processing the stress. Today's a regular day off — after my extra day off Monday, in the immediate aftermath — and I've taken it easy. Breakfast and dinner were by other people: I had an avocado and egg muffin sandwich at Super Deluxe, a high-end fast food place that opened last year, and later a bagel sandwich plus soup at Space Monkey Coffee a few blocks from the house. I also bussed some, walked some, and hung out in a library. Though partly due to the heat Portland's had, and partly due to a brain that kept revving, I slept badly last night. (Plus I was then "treated," grr argh, to a dream where Dream-Me did something terrible and illegal. Why did you have to go there, subconscious?!) Result: today I've been a little out of it. Made me feel good I didn't have to drive.

And by the way: yesterday, after work, I did stop for a beer, though I waited until I was home to drink it.


Whale fluke
Chris Walsh

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