On Sunday, February 1, I parked my car in front of a driveway. OMG! What was I thinking? Well, I w-a-s-n’t thinking. Can you believe that I didn’t see the driveway?
It was 10:59 a.m., as I turned off the ignition, glad to be on time despite traffic from Brooklyn to Queens. I ran across the street to join my sisters. We are in the process of going through our parent’s belongings. (Mom and Dad passed in 2014.)
At around 6:30 p.m., we returned to my car, BUT IT WASN’T THERE. It was at that moment that I spied the full driveway. “It had to have been towed,” was my first thought. I rang the two doorbells of the home three times, and in spite of the lights being bright on all levels, no one answered the door. Dashed were my hopes to get information on who towed the car. (I would wait until Friday evening, February 6, to see my 2002 Saturn again.)
I felt numb. My sister Jo called the 114th Precinct, and what followed was a drama (for me) fraught with a variety of feelings about the missing-in-action vehicle that was gifted to me by my parents about three years ago…Throughout this process, I felt fear, despair, dread, and panic. I had thoughts that if the car were stolen, I wouldn’t have this special automobile that my Dad drove in Florida. Not knowing whether my car was hauled, demolished, or sitting in an abandoned field was a challenge. I had to let go of my attachment to the car, and its meaning to me. Here is where my meditation and mantra practice transformed the experience, because as soon as I felt any of the above-mentioned feelings, I created the intention to come back to my heart. This saved the day because it allowed me to center myself and stay calm amidst the chaos of this 5-day ordeal.
What stands out strikingly is the kindness shown by the police officers in the 78 (Brooklyn) and 114 (Queens) Precincts. The women who answered 911 were efficient. Police officer, Binetti at the Queens Car Pound, who apologized for not being able to locate my car, spoke to me over several days, at length, about the situation. (The computer system was down for over 24 hours.) I learned that NYC does not tow cars on Sunday. This meant that my car was likely pulled by a private company, but it still could have landed in the Queens Pound. I learned about good police work, which leads to solving a crime…
My car was not listed in the tow book at the 114th precinct. Officer K did a lot of exploration. He gave me the telephone numbers of the Marshall, Sheriff, and a Manhattan number for NYC towing. The white Saturn was nowhere to be found.
My sisters and I called private tow companies. Nada! At one point, each of us had called the same business. The gent was a little grumpy, ”This is the 3rd call – No I haven’t seen a white Saturn!!!” With a sense of humor, this could be a comedy! LOL!
With the computer system up and running, the Saturn was still missing in action on Thursday. Officer Binetti finally suggested that I report the car stolen. I dreaded calling 911 to place an alarm on the car (the vernacular for a stolen vehicle). This creates a lot of paperwork for the police, and they have other concerns. Plus, who would steal a 2002 Saturn, which looks like a car out of the Jetsons? (In my heart, I felt it was sitting in a yard.) I called the 78th Precinct and in ten minutes, two officers were outside my home, announced by a phone call from their support team. We filled out most of the paperwork, when their Sergeant refused to have the 78th precinct report the theft. It had to be handled at the originating police jurisdiction. They wanted to help me. The two gentle officers apologized for not being able to help me. Orders are orders. I didn’t want them to leave. At the time, I didn’t appreciate that this was the turning point in finding my car. This supervisor knew his procedures, and he was sending me back to the scene where any hope of finding clues to the missing car was to be initiated. (He wasn’t sitting across from me – my eyes brimmed with sadness, as his officers were.)
Left alone and feeling abandoned, I made plans to return to Queens by train. Just before 12 noon on Friday, I stood at the scene of the ‘crime,’ the very corner where I made my mistake, where my auto was either towed or stolen. I dialed 911 and gave a report. I thought they would arrive in ten minutes. What I didn’t know was that this was a busy morning for the 114th! At 12:50, my iPhone froze – it was 15 degrees. Back to my parent’s warm home I went, dialing 911 once again to give them my new location and phone number. (Thank God we kept this landline.) I waited until 4p.m. and again called 911, saying that I know that the police have very important matters at hand, but that I was waiting since 12 noon. The operator exuded patience. She would let them know. At 5 p.m., music came out of my iPhone (It had thawed out.). The police were downstairs.
Out I went to meet Officers Dobbins and Lash. I shared a few details and they, while I waited in the comfort of my parent’s warm foyer, investigated the ‘crime’ scene. Within 15 minutes, they had placed a call to the landlord and the fellow who rented the garage. I was invited to check out the 114th Precinct. (OMG, I was sitting in the backseat of a patrol car!!!) Back at the ranch, Officer Dobbins wanted to check one more thing: Viola! He came back with the original summons, which seemed to be forgotten in the bowels of the building. We were excited because there was now a trail leading to my White Saturn! DRUM ROLL. Events happened quickly, and it felt like I was on the set of Hill Street Blues. The fellow – let’s call him Jake – who rented the garage called Officer Dobbins. He felt awful that I couldn’t find my car after all this time. (I felt so sorry that I obstructed his driveway. I completely understand that Jake wanted out of his garage. He was probably going to a Super Bowl party, and there my Saturn was, blocking his way. If you’ve ever been blocked in a driveway, you know it’s not a good feeling.) Jake had flagged down a tow driver on the Avenue where my car was illegally sleeping.
Yay! The car wasn’t stolen. We were excited! (Think of the paper work that was saved!) Officer Lash calmed me by explaining the costs of the summons and tow. (OMG! That much?! Oh, it’s better that it was towed than stolen.) The missing link was that the tow driver did not report the car and license number to the 114th, and somehow, the original summons was buried. As a result, my Saturn was not listed as towed in the precinct book. It was missing in action – sitting sadly, in a private tow lot.
Ready to call for a cab, Officers Dobbins and Lash offered to drive me to collect my car. I was overcome with gratitude, which is a very good feeling. There’s an apt Shakespearean quote: “All is well that ends well.”
I came away from this would-be drama learning about police procedure and the wisdom of returning to the original precinct for an investigation of the facts. I maintained compassion (for myself, in illegally parking) and appreciation for the many hard-working individuals who make this complex city function. We depend on them in time of need, and they work around the clock handling multitudinous details. Sometimes, people make a mistake, like I did. The police officers, 911 operators and other city agencies felt like an extended family – brothers, sisters, and friends… As you know, it takes a village…
PS: In the interests of brevity, I’ve given you the concise account of these events. This is due to my daughter’s (L) advice to give the short version. Left out are the actual conversations, which add further nuance to the kindnesses shown me.
Happy Day to one of the founders of this country (George Washington), and a very special President, Abraham Lincoln).
I will speak to you on March 2nd. For those who are in winter season, keep warmJ