It takes me a minute to realize someone's been in my car. I'm really not paying close attention. I'm hungry and I'm on a mission.
I've been working on a deadline, too focused to think about breakfast this morning. And so, I walk out to my car -- which is parked on the street, directly in front of my house -- in search of a protein bar I'd seen in there last week.
But, opening the driver's side door, I notice things dumped all over the seat.
I think to myself, What the? Why'd you leave this stuff lying here?
I hadn't, actually, but my brain hasn't yet caught up to my big old eyeballs.
Then I think, Didn't I just clean out that console last week?
I pause. Look around. Squint my eyes. Count the days...
Yes! Yes I did clean it out last week. But that was...4 days ago.
I'd purged lots of little things, like stale oyster crackers, random straws and napkins and plastic forks, pens that didn't work, a scratched CD, a ticket stub from a movie...
But why's all THIS stuff here? I shake my head. And think some more.
Wait just a sec. I drove this car yesterday. This stuff wasn't there then. What the heck's going on?
And now, I look closer at the pile left here on the seat:
A bottle of Tylenol.
A travel size container of Dramamine.
Snack-size bags of pistachios and cashews.
My protein bar (YES!).
A lint roller.
A car charger.
A tire gauge.
A medal of St. Anthony, worn by my grandfather during World War II.
A little, wind-up, metal toy that plays The Wizard Of Oz's "If I Only Had A Brain" (so yeah...it keeps things light in heavy traffic).
I gather these things and stuff them back into the center console, then notice some other things askew.
The built-in eyeglass holder above the rear view mirror -- something that I never touch -- is open.
The upper glove box is open.
The lower glove box is open.
The coin holder is open.
Now I've climbed INTO the drivers' seat.
Someone's actually been in my car, I think, grabbing the wheel. This is my space. What kind of a JERK....
Then, out loud, I say, "Okay. What did they take?"
I scan the car. You know...the one I must have forgotten to lock last night.
•Registration and insurance cards. Still there.
•Wet wipes in the well of the driver's side door. Still there.
•Lip balm. Still there.
•Sunscreen stick. Still there.
•Thumb drive with photos. Still there.
•Breath mints. Still there.
•Starbuck's cup with the last sips of last week's Iced Venti Decaf Coconut Milk Latte. Still there.
•Scratch-off, travel-sized Trivial Pursuit games. Still there.
•A small, silver ball bearing, found last week while cleaning up...something my friend who loves magic tricks will surely like to see. Still there.
•Dust and dog hair from my yellow lab on numerous surfaces. Damn. Still there.
•New running shoes and a raincoat that need to be returned. Still there.
So... what's missing? Anything? Anything?
Turns out...just a single dollar bill, taken from the coin holder of my unlocked car.
And I know it's missing, because whenever I open that coin holder, I say to myself, There's your backup for the parking meters, in case you run out of change, smart girl. Silly but true.
So then I ask, Why?
Why has someone gone through my car?
Why did they need to take someone else's stuff?
Why didn't they take more?
Why didn't I lock my car?
And why do I still have so much shit in here?
I turn on the engine (I don't even know why) and notice the "Door Open" indicator is illuminated.
So I open and close the driver's side door. Nope, that's not the problem.
Then I get out and open and close the passenger side door. Nope.
Both of the back doors are clearly closed, but when I reach for the trunk, it opens without effort. Bingo.
•The jug of purple windshield fluid? Still here.
•Tension rod for a curtain? Still here.
•Folded quilt to spread out on the sandy beach? Still here.
•Jumper cables? Still here.
•First-aid kit? Still here.
•Collapsible chairs for outdoor music venues? Still here.
I close the trunk, lean across the driver's seat, and turn off the engine.
They took what they needed, I think, and left the rest. It could have been worse.
But I can't stop thinking about who it might have been...and why their circumstances led them to this. I wonder why they didn't take my loose change, along with the dollar bill. Or the maroon jacket with the tags still on. Or the protein bar.
Were they hungry?
Is life miserable for this individual?
Will a single dollar even help?
I know I should be mad...and maybe even scared?
I'm the one who left the car unlocked.
Should I fault myself for the oversight?
I just left my door open. Someone else took advantage of the situation.
# # #
As I walk up the porch steps and back into my house, I tear into the protein bar, wrestling with all those funky feelings of having had my personal space violated.
But then I picture all that wasn't taken, and how much worse it could have been:
They could have smashed the window.
They could have taken the flash drive with family photos.
They could have ripped out the stereo, leaving shredded wires exposed.
They could have taken the entire car. I don't know how this happens, but I've seen movies. Hot-wiring still happens. Right?
Standing just inside my front door, I turn to lock my car with the remote, letting go of my emotions about the incident.
And then I send a silent message to that unknown individual, my heart and mind focused on just the facts:
I left my door open, and you took advantage of the situation.
You took what you needed without regard for me.
Thing is, I'm hardly a victim in this scenario.
This is all about you.
I feel sorry for you.
And I forgive you.
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