Wednesday, February 14, 2007

Shattering the Glass. . .Window

Thank goodness for merciful thieves, I said to myself as I surveyed the damage to my car. It was a rental car, a PT Cruiser – vanilla in color, to be exact– that I had picked up the previous week in San Francisco and had planned to drop off in San Diego before heading back to Dallas in a few minutes.

It was early Monday morning and I was booked on a 10:30 flight but now that was looking iffy. Overnight someone had bashed in the driver’s side window on my rental car and ran off with all contents of the vehicle – my red suitcase and black trench coat – except for one very special item. My autographed copy of the book, Shovel It!

Earlier that weekend, Eva Shaw, my beloved writing mentor and her husband Joe agreed to meet me at the Barnes and Nobles in Oceanside. Eva is a renowned author – 60-some books, 600-some magazine articles and she mentors hundreds of writer-wanna-be’s through Ed2Go, an online education program. Over the years, I’ve taken several writing courses with Eva and was thrilled to bits that she might take time to meet me. I brought her a little souvenir from Russia and she surprised me with a copy of Shovel It!, one of her best sellers. And now, surveying the book in the back of the car I had to smile. The thief had some compassion, after all.

But the driver’s side was covered with shards of glass. It was clear that I wouldn’t be going anywhere any time soon. But what to do? Where to start? I knew enough to stop and send an SOS prayer for help-help-help! And let me tell you, prayer does make a difference.

So first, to the hotel office. The motel desk clerk allowed me to take over more and more of the front desk as my personal office area. There I had access to the hotel telephone and a high-speed internet connection. There were calls back and forth to the rental company – to the local office, to roadside assistance, to the San Francisco office. There were multiple calls to the San Diego police department and to American Airlines.

As time went on, about 3 hours, waiting for calls, back and forth, motel staff gathered around the security video screen watching playback of overnight break-ins, to vending machine, other vehicles and such. Other staff, in the course of tidying up the premises, had come across various items, discarded by the thieves. Someone emerged with my red suitcase, found abandoned. I noticed that my blow dryer was missing from that. Later someone else emerged with a plastic bag and more of my things, found abandoned up on 4th floor --- exercise DVDs, my blow drier. Yeah!

Fortunately, my valuables – laptop, passport and favorite clothes – were with me upstairs. There were many other blessings: American Airlines had several other flights to Dallas that day, so no problem re-booking. I didn’t have to worry about returning the rental car – it got towed away. The hotel staff chauffeured me to the airport – for a reduced rate. And I got most of my stuff back.

What lessons did I learn? Anything visible to a potential thief looks interesting. In this case, through the hatchback, the thief could see a piece of luggage. To me it looked like nothing. The thief thought otherwise. Keep luggage out of sight. I also learned that it was nothing personal – the thief most likely was looking for quick cash and had the decency to leave my stuff basically intact. And the thief showed mercy. Or. . . maybe he was illiterate. Anyway, I left California with Shovel It! in my suitcase, my most treasured souvenir.

With Eva Shaw, world-famous writing mentor!