In 1999, I moved into my first post-college apartment, way out in the farthest reaches of Bensonhurst. It was a mere 15-minute walk from Coney Island, a walk I would take many late nights on my way home from the city and somehow avoid murder. Circa 1999, the neighborhood had barely changed since Saturday Night Fever days. When I jogged around the neighborhood, I was an exotic specimen, because people in Bensonhurst did not jog. Old ladies stared at me like I was a wild animal and rotten teens would joke-jog next to me or fake-lunge in my direction, hoping I would flinch.
Did you know that if your car’s stolen, you have to call 911? My first impulse was to call the local precinct. As much as having your car stolen might be a lifestyle crisis and an emotional trauma, it doesn’t qualify as an emergency in my book. At least not on the level I associate with a 911 call. But the dispatcher told me to call 911, so I did as I was told.
Did you know that you can call up 911 and hear weird fax noises instead of a real person? I seriously doubt “911” is close to any kind of modem number, but that’s what I heard on my first try.
Did you know the 911 dispatcher will not ask you where your car was stolen from, but where you are? I guess that makes sense in a way, but I figured this piece of info was vital to the whole process.
Did you know that you could wait for 2+ hours for the police to arrive? After sitting by my front window for a small eternity, I actually called 911 again to check up on it (I called the local precinct first, but they didn’t pick up at all–a comforting thought). Even more amazing, when I called back, the dispatcher was apologetic. “I’m so sorry for any inconvenience”, she said, as if I’d been put on hold while trying to order a mattress.
Did you know that they’ll send two cops out in one large squad van? Seems like a waste of gas/space to me. You could’ve comfortably seated a softball team in this thing, but it was occupied by just two officers and their equipment bags.
Did you know that a nightstick sheathed in the straps of a NYPD duffel bag looks really frightening? Don’t ask me why.
Did you know that early-90s cars are in high demand at chop shops? Never in my wildest dreams did I imagine my 1990 Olds would be a target for theft. But the cops informed me that it “fits the profile” of cars swiped for parts these days. It makes sense, I suppose–a lot of those cars are still on the road, and in need of frequent repair. It was also in fairly good condition, both operation-wise and aesthetically–other than a mismatched replacement bumper, which, in my opinion, gave the car character. So in retrospect, even though I had no fear of my car ever being stolen,
Did you know that it’s a bad idea to park your car near a highway access road? Even one lined with houses? A thief can use said access road to get on the highway and be ten miles away before you blink. So even if it’s late on a Sunday night and you’re tired and there’s no other spaces near your house, don’t park there. This would’ve occurred to me–if it had also occurred to me that my car was enticing to thieves (see above).
Did you know the cops will drive you around to look for your car, assuming you just forgot where you parked it? Believe me, this was the first thought that crossed my mind. But I had very clear memories of parking the car where I did, because I seldom park that far from my house. I indulged the cops, because it couldn’t hurt to look around the neighborhood, but I had little hope of finding it. Based on my description, they pointed out every boat-sized car in a five-block radius, and I had to sadly inform them that none of these behemoths were my car.
Did you know there are Indian cops? I met one! I grew up in a Cop Town, and I see cops of every ethnic variety on the streets all the time, but this was the first cop of the Indian persuasion I’d met. Actually, I can’t definitively say he was Indian, but he did seem to hail from the Subcontinent. Then again, he could have also been from a Caribbean nation with a large Indian immigrant population (say, Trinidad). Then again, is any of this remarkable at all? What difference does it make where the man is from?
Did you know that I’m vaguely racist? At least I feel so after writing that last paragraph.
Did you know that staring at your vehicle/registration information on a laptop in a squad van feels upsetting and Big Brother-ish? I tried to look away as I waited for paperwork/procedure to be finished, but there was nothing else to look at, except for a space on the block where my car was supposed to be. I expected to see my name followed by the word DOUBLEPLUSUNGOOD.
Did you know it costs an assload of money to ship a toddler’s car seat? Looks like I’ll be taking the bus back from Babys R Us some time this week. Sure looking forward to that.
Did you know that, the next morning on the bus, you’ll stare out the window constantly, as if you’re going to see your car sitting on the curb somewhere? And you’ll even take your keys with you so you can hop out and take it home where it belongs? Don’t bother, ’cause your car is down to the axles by now.
Did you know I got that car from my grandfather? And that I’d left a bunch of his stuff in there? A small rosary that hung from the gear shift. A pair of very large sunglasses. A small notepad where he wrote down the date and odometer reading every time he filled the gas tank. I didn’t want to disturb any of these items, because I always felt it wasn’t really my car; it was his and I was just borrowing it. If I had the slightest suspicion that it would be stolen someday, I definitely would have taken these things out.
Especially the notepad. It was such a classic Grampa thing. I can see him writing in it, on a million different trips we took, whether it was to Cooperstown or Niagara Falls or just into town to get pizza. He wouldn’t start the car again until he made his note.
Did you know that if his car was stolen, but I still had that notepad, I’d feel a lot better this morning?