Found.

In Madison, this might be considered a clue.
In Madison, this might be considered a clue.

When Ruby saw her car again, the first thing she wanted to do was vacuum it. Also scrub and Armor All every surface, “erase the hell out of the bad ju-ju,” she said. But first she had to get it out of the impound lot and back to Wisconsin.

The CRV had been found on Medill and Belden, parked in front of a fire hydrant with a note on the windshield, and towed to the impound lot near Humboldt Park. At about 11PM on Sunday night, a week and a day after it had disappeared, Ruby and Roy got a message on their answering machine—a real, actual answering machine down on the dining room desk that you can hear from upstairs in the bedroom—from the Chicago Police. “Your car has been found. Call 9-1-1.”

911? Really? Okay.

During that week and a day, they’d bought another CRV, which oddly was missing headrests but also oddly Ruby had taken the headrests out of the old CRV the day of her trip, so they were still in the garage. Same upholstery too, so they fit perfectly in the new one.

A week ago, Ruby had decided not to fly or rent a car to get to the pig roast, but instead took an Amtrak home and then on pig roast night went to see some other friends of Slim’s and they all had a bonfire. She had adjusted. She’d emailed during the week to tell about the new CRV with 100,000 fewer miles on it, and the headrests, and the email chain agreed that it was serendipitous, and now the only real acknowledged drag was that they’d lost certain custom mix CDs that were irreplaceable.

But then they got the call, prompting joy and celebration—it’s been found! Which turned into a huge hassle of phone calls and arrangements—it’s been found and now we have to deal with it.

I have this picture in my head of how it should be when the police find your stolen car. Sargent Kielbasa calls and says, “Eh, we got yer car here,” and you drive over, and the sarge is waiting with a half-smile on her face, a little annoyed at you with being so gullible as to have left your car outside somewhere in the city of Chicago, where it could be picked up by any stranger with a master key, but whaddayou know, you’re from Wisconsin where people leave their cars outside all the time, sometimes not even locked!

She has to admit, she kinda loves your gullibility, your faith in basic human goodwill, your promptness in showing up after a two-and-a-half-hour drive from Madison, rain all the way, and how you don’t even complain about how you had to take off work for this. You’re good people. You are the reason this thankless police job is kinda worth it, she has to admit. Hell, she opens the driver’s side door for you, and shrugs modesty as you exclaim, “The garage door remote is still here! And our CDs! And the maps in the glove compartment!”

She loves that there are people who still use maps.

She points to how the rear seats are folded down and enjoys your confusion at seeing dirt and a couple of landscaping pavers back there. Sometimes people steal cars in Chicago not for a joy ride or the chop shop, but because they need to haul something for a job. “People do what they gotta do in this town,” she observes, and heads back to her cruiser after making sure you know how to get back on the highway in the cheesehead direction. Just another day in the city that never sleeps except when it’s sleeping.

What really happened is that Sargent Kielbasa gave Ruby the address of the impound lot and hung up. Ruby and Roy got there as the rain slowed, and found the trailer where business is conducted, and waited among several unhappy people whose cars had been towed for various reasons, and when their turn came paid hundreds of dollars to get it released. How does it make sense that you have to pay money after your car gets stolen?

The car was marked up on all windows with wax penciled numbers. “You should have brought Windex,” I joked. “I did,” she said. “It had to be scraped with a razor.”

A van drove them out to the general location and they hunted it down. They then drove it through two and a half more hours of rain back to Madison. When they got there, Ruby parked it in the garage and started vacuuming.

Just not the facts, Ma’am

an embroidered magnet
Snide remarks aren't helpful.

Cuz got her purse stolen yesterday. While she was at the park swimming, someone busted a window in her car and grabbed it.

You might think it’s weird to leave your purse in the car, but if you’ve ever swum at a park district pool you know there’s nowhere safe to keep it inside. Anyway, it’s a risk. We know that. We try to hide the thing under the seat and not be too paranoid. If you want the blissful experience of an early morning swim at one of the best outdoor pools in the city, it’s what you do.

So she comes out and a few cars have been broken into, including hers. Ugh. Call the credit card companies and minimize losses. Then call the cops to file a police report. Except the cop says, “You gonna file this with your insurance?”

“I don’t know yet,” says Cuz. “It depends on how much it costs to fix the window.”

“If not, no reason to file a report.”

Cuz reiterates, “My purse was stolen. My wallet was in there.”

“Wallet and credit cards aren’t considered valuables.”

“Okay,” Cuz doesn’t argue this; must be some official-type logic going on. “But don’t you at least want the information, for crime statistics?”

“I don’t keep no statistics.”

“Doesn’t the city track this stuff? So they know what’s going on?”

“You want to make a report or don’t you?”

“I’ll call back.” Cuz hangs up. I know there are way more great cops out there than not-so-great cops, so this is not about cops. It’s also not about the fact that purses and wallets are not officially considered valuables. Nor is it about the lack of secure lockers at park district pools. It’s just another day in the city that occasionally sleeps, even past the alarm.

Mystery!

stolen flowers
Stolen!

Last night I ran into a friend in front of her condo building. She pointed to an area beside the entrance and said, “Our plants have been stolen.”

“Stolen!”

“Yep. The ones you’re looking at are replacements. The first ones got stolen.”

“How? When?”

“I don’t know. Everyone’s emailing about it.” Just then another condo resident walked by with her dog. I figured she’d planted them, since she’s a gardener and works at a garden center, but no! It was in fact a different condo owner who did the planting, and then replanting. However, the gardening expert had happened to walk by at the exact moment when the non-gardening expert was doing the planting! “They looked lovely,” she noted. “Then, an hour later, I came back and they were gone. Just like that.”

We all shook our heads. “I tried to tell myself it was just some kid wanting to bring flowers to Mommy,” said the gardening expert, “but these were whole plants, roots and all.” So someone was watching, waiting for their chance. Waiting for the non-gardening expert to finish. They brought their box or bag, dug out the plants, and fled the scene.

Why would you steal plants? You can’t sell them. You can’t eat them. It seems like either you’re someone who loves flowers and doesn’t steal, or you’re someone who steals and doesn’t give a shit about flowers. Yet there is a third category, someone who loves flowers and steals them. How many people are in this category? Two percent? Fifty percent? Where have I been?

This morning I walked past the crime scene. The woman who’d done the planting was just parking out in front. “Oh my God, I heard about your flowers!” I yelled as she got out of her car.

“Yeah,” she smiled, “I’m happy.”

“Huh?”

“Oh yes. I’m lucky I had these ones left over. They’re pretty, too.”

“Yeah, they’re very nice.” I admired the new, modest, rather sparsely planted flowers. “But still, someone stealing your flowers, oh my God!”

“Oh, the ones I put first were too pretty,” she said. “They looked like that.” The thieves had left exactly one of the old flowers. Actually it didn’t look that special to me, but maybe it was the runt. “You can’t plant things that pretty,” she added. “I like these ones. I’m happy with how it looks.”

The non-gardening expert went back to re-park her car. I couldn’t believe she wasn’t upset. Double mystery!