Monday, May 18, 2009

Today in brief.

I started out the day with a mop in my hand, and ended the day with a mop in my hand.

Six A.M. Woke up and sneaked downstairs to get dressed and do some complex cleaning. Hadn't made it halfway down the stairs before I heard Mr. Baseball and the Monkey clumsy out of their rooms in the door-banging-I'm-awake-and-I-want-you-to-know-about-it way that makes the QB pull a pillow over her head, especially before 7 a.m.

Put the boys in front of a movie ( I know, a movie at 6 in the morning! But I had work to do and the QB needed to stay in bed a little longer if she was going to have any hope of making it through the day sane) and I went across the parking lot to mop the laundry room etc.

Came back at seven and cleaned house a little. Turned the movie off. The QB woke up and made cream of wheat with cinnamon and nutmeg while I got showered and helped boys get dressed. I graded one and a half papers. We ate. We sang a song and prayed. Monkey and I took Mr. Baseball to the bus stop while QB went for a walk.

The Monkey and I picked up the missionaries and drove them to Chillicothe and back again. Made it back to Athens in time to pick Mr. Baseball up from kindergarten. The QB met us half way walking.

Drove me to school.

Taught class at noon. Talked about generating thesis ideas and finding sources and told at least one lame joke. Got online with the students and talked via chatroom with an OU librarian. In front of entire class typed to the librarian that my students were lame because only one of them had ever used OU's cool librarian 24 hour chat help service. Students laughed (nervously?).

Read assignments for "History of the Essay."

Ate lunch and chatted with the QB online about our Lubbock housing situation, which is nonexistent at the moment. Lamented the fact that we had to back out of a contract (scary house proved scarier after inspection) and browsed the Lubbock MLS listings together.

"How about this one? This one? What about this? Hmmm...."

Resolved to wait until we got to Lubbock to find a house. At least that's what we're saying. Mostly resolved to keep saying, "Something will work out," until something does.

Typed to Melissa: "Something will work out." and "Love you." and "Better get back to work."

Went to Dinty's class. Spent four hours discussing, defining, and dissecting essays. Mooched 1/3 of a Skore bar off Grover (other 2/3 went to Dinty and Grover). Also half bag of Chipotle tortilla chips and guac from Liz; also several handfuls of artisan black licorice from Bob. Got a ride home again from kindly professor (Dinty), whose new car still smells like a new car, and who during class today stood up and said, "I'm going to miss you guys," and group-hugged Grover and me, in what I am sure was both a silly and sincere demonstration of his affection. Will miss him as well. Still think he reminds me of a Boy Scout Master, regardless of what four letter words he throws at me.

At home. Helped pick up house in aftermath of tornado and tornado junior who were then up in the bath, but whose toys/socks/papers were still settling in their wake. Helped two boys get cleaned, dried, and dressed. Gave hug to exhausted looking QB, who does not like Mondays.

Sat around table and had Family Home Evening lesson about the Priesthood. Looked at pictures of blessings and baptisms, and the sacrament. Told boys about the first blessing I ever gave in Japanese. The man requesting the blessing had to write down the words for me because I didn't know them in Japanese. Carried the paper around with me my entire mission and used it many times. Boys colored pictures. We sang and prayed.

Ate chocolate chips for dessert. a few handfuls each. Quicker than popcorn or brownies.

Boys went upstairs to brush teeth and select books to read. QB read with with Mr. Baseball in our room while I read with the Monkey in his room.

For the third night in a row, fell asleep in rocking chair with the Monkey's head on my shoulder. Woke up at 8:15pm. Put monkey in his bed and staggered downstairs to find QB acebooking at the computer.

Simultaneously remembered that we have one-month trial membership to Netflix. Browsed listings and landed on The Visitor, a sad, hopeful movie about tired economics professor who shows compassion for illegal immigrants squatting in his rarely-used NYC apartment. Message in short: Treatment of illegal immigrants = not fair. I concur.

After film, read reviews on 90%. pretty good. One negative review called it "A character study drowning in liberal guilt." Decided it was better to drown in liberal guilt than plug ones ears with conservative denial.

Picked up house a little more. Sent the QB to bed. Took nightly complex walk.

Came home, mopped kitchen floor and cleaned kitchen Rug with stain remover. Remembered life with our Dog, who ate everything off the floor. Wondered to myself if our floors would ever stay clean for longer than a few hours.

Currently blogging instead of grading papers, or writing a lesson plan, or going to bed--three things high on my to do list.

Sunday, May 10, 2009

Update: GrandTheft Auto

Yes, for those of you who thought we might have been joking with the last post, our car was actually stolen.

And yes, as many of you know, we recovered it on Saturday.

This is how it went least as best as I can tell.

Sometime before 2 a.m. Friday Morning, a man named Craig M, wanted on felony theft charges in at least one other state, forcibly entered a parked vehicle on Lorene street, a few blocks from our apartment. Rifling through the interior of the car, Craig found and took a wallet and purse, and left the scene immediately.

Craig made his way to the Speedway Gas Station and used a credit card to buy snacks, maybe a pack of cigarettes, a can of bud light? His face was clearly recognizable on the surveillance cameras and the time stamp on the credit card record matches the time stamp on the video.

He then took a taxi to Wal-Mart.

At the Wal-Mart, the perp tried to use the stolen credit card to buy a laptop. The purchase failed. From here the timeline gets fuzzier, but somehow the perp made his way back to my neighborhood, where he likely began checking car doors, looking for an easy grab.

Around 2:30 a.m. Craig enters apartment complex parking lot and begins systematically checking car doors for unlocked vehicles. When he tries my driver's side door he not only finds it unlocked, but by the light of the parking lot lamps he notices a set of keys in the console tray beneath the emergency brake.

It is difficult to say what happened next. The perp drove our car away, but we don't know where he went next. At some point he picked up a friend who, from the evidence left in our car, appears to have recently been released from O'bleness Hospital in Athens, Ohio. That is likely the next stop on this journey.

When we recovered our vehicle in Columbus it was full of stuff that belonged to a woman named Colleen A. There was an O'bleness Hospital outpatient bag, a water jug, several items of clothing, a hair brush, a bottle of lotion, some body spray, two cigarette lighters, a bottle of prescription jugs parked PL, and a CVS bag containing a recently filled prescription of Oxycodone.

This means that Craig, likely picked up Colleen from O'Bleness Hospital and drove her to the CVS on East State Street to fill her prescription.

Craig and Colleen filled a prescription at CVS sometime on Friday before getting on State Highway 33 and heading North to Columbus in our stolen Ford Escort.

At some point on Friday Craig M. removed our bike rack from the back of the Escort and likely sold it or stored it somewhere to sell or use later. Also missing from the car was a fold up camping chair, and a few dollars worth of McDonald's coupons.

I like to think that Craig and Colleen stopped at the McDonald's on 33 just outside Columbus and ordered two double cheeseburgers and two Cokes.

Perhaps after lunch they decided to drive to Columbus to see if they could find a buyer for our Ford Escorts stock alloy rims. Perhaps in the McDonald's parking lot they took off one wheel and replaced it with the spare. Their plan: Use the one wheel as a show piece at pawn shops around Columbus, hoping someone would be interested.

If this was their motive, then they must not have wanted to bring the car with them to the pawn shops for fear of being caught, so they would have had to park the car somewhere and take another vehicle around to the pawn shops. Maybe they never made it out to try to sell the wheel. Perhaps all the effort of removing the wheel was a waste.

Either way, when the car was recovered, the left rear wheel had been removed and was in the back of the car. It had been replaced with the spare.

At some point on Friday Colleen and Craig were joined in the car by a Brenda M. One car seat was unbuckled and put in the back of the car with the removed wheel, and the other was unbuckled and pushed over.

Brenda M. was driving the car when it made a right turn without signaling and nearly hit a patrol car.

The officers in the patrol car pulled the ford escort over and when they ran the plate number, they discovered the car had been stolen.

When questioned about the car, Brenda pointed at Craig, who was at that time sitting in the back seat and said something like, "This car belongs to one of his friends."

Brenda was arrested for possession of stolen property. Craig was arrested because his description matched the man in the Speedway Gas Station video. Colleen was not arrested, but the car was impounded and Colleen had to find her own way home, sans prescription drugs, hair brush, etc.

A tow truck was called in at the scene of the arrest and our Ford Escort was towed to the Columbus Police Impound Lot where it sits among hundreds, if not thousands, of other impounded vehicles.

A Columbus Police officer sent a text message to the Athens Police dispatch notifying them that the car had been recovered.

at 12:10 a.m. the Athens City Police department called our house to inform us that our car has been recovered.

We were instructed to call the officer in charge of our case first thing in the morning for instructions.

Saturday Morning I called Officer Filar and he told me what he knew and gaveme the address for the impound lot.

at 9:00 a.m. I catch a ride with friends to the impound lot and spend two hours jumping through hoops, talking on the phone with insurance companies aand paying $55 to get my car out of impound.

The car was dirty, and as I've described, full of other people's junk. I had imagined the car would have been used for joy riding, or sold for parts, but from the bizarre collection of personal items in the car, it appears that Brenda, Colleen, and Craig had assumed possession of the vehicle and, in essence, moved-in. Their cell phone charged was still plugged into my dash power port and a crumpled can of Bud Light was under the seat.

I stopped at an Autozone in Canal-Winchester and changed over the spare tire with the wheel in the back of the car.

It was here during a conversation with a woman behind the counter that we figured out that the reason for removing the wheel was to sell it.

My last stop before driving the car back to Athens was a car wash down the street from the Autozone. I felt like I had to clean the car before I brought it back home.

For lack of a better word, I felt violated. The entire time the car was missing I felt very little emotional trauma about the incident, but seeing it parked at the impound, limping on a spare tire, covered in the dirty finger prints of criminals, and full of someone else's junk, I had a hard time feeling like it was our car.

I threw away garbage, vacuumed, and washed the outside of the car. And I used a sweatshirt that had been left in the car to wipe down the alloy wheels.

The car still smells of cigarette smoke a little, but we're glad to have it back, glad to dodge such a large, inconvenient, and frustrating bullet.

Miracle? Miracle.

Friday, May 8, 2009

An open letter to the person who stole our car...

We hope that you are enjoying our Ford, Escort. It has, as I am sure you are aware by now because you've been driving it for approximately 21 hours, a few quirks.

One: the alignment is off and pulls slightly to the right, which means you ought to keep both hands on the wheel because getting pulled over for swerving may be problematic for someone in your line of work.

Two: the brakes are beginning to act up--they shutter slightly when you come to a stop--so be careful and give yourself plenty of stopping distance.

Oh yes, braking--that brings me to number Three: The right rear brake light is out. My advice: keep an eye on your rear-view mirror. If you see cop behind you, it might be a good idea to avoid using your brakes, because most cops will pull you over if you've got a taillight out, and as I've already said, you want to avoid getting pulled over.

A note about replacing the bulb: I've replaced it three or four times in the past year. I think I keep getting finger prints on the halogen bulb, which is bad for the bulbs.

Four: The "check engine" light is on, and has been for about six months. We're not sure what's wrong, but since the current engine is this car's fourth (no joke, we've actually had the engine replaced three times), I'd definitely put my money on something going wrong with it in the near future--like it might just stop working in the middle of a heist, which would be embarrassing for you and your get-away-driver, sitting their in the parking lot of a bank with pantyhose pulled over your head and no way to speed off with your loot.

Five: You're driving a 1999 Ford Escort. You do realize that don't you? A 1999 Ford E-S-C-O-R-T.

Six: There are two child-safety seats strapped in the back. They belong to our five-year-old and our two-year-old. I'm sure your friends will be impressed by the sweet car you jacked, especially when they see the car seats. That said, if you decide to ditch the seats on the side of the road, you will be glad to know that I just vacuumed out the car so you shouldn't have to worry about the six-months worth of smashed raisins and ground graham crackers that had been under those seats up until just a few days ago.

Seven: In the back of the car are two folding camp chairs. We were planning on sitting on them at our son's soccer game next Tuesday night, but seeing as how you'll have them, I hope you find a good place to use them. Perhaps you could sit in them while you admire the large crack on the right side of the car's rear bumper. If you look closely you'll see that the bumper is just barely hanging on back there. My wife was in an accident a year ago and we hadn't gotten around to fixing the damage.

Eight: In the glove box are some McDonald's coupons that we'd been saving to give to cardboard-sign toting pan-handlers. Enjoy. I believe the Fillet-O-Fish is on sale right now. And I do recommend the hot apple pie.

Nine: I'm curious if you think the car smells funny. Sometimes on hot afternoons, when it has been sitting in the sun for a long time, I climb in and can't help but think the interior smells a little like over-ripe bananas at the bottom of a backyard compost bin full of dirty diapers. But its been cold and rainy lately, so it may take a few days for you to notice that.

Ten: I've been trying to imagine how this must have all gone down. Had you been staking out our place for a while? I can't imagine our Escort would have been worth that kind of trouble. Perhaps you were just checking door handles in the parking lot looking for wallets and purses, CD cases, backpacks, golf clubs, tennis rackets, --anything you could sell. What a rush it must have been to pull the handle on our car and not only find the door open, but a spare set of keys just sitting there on the console. You probably couldn't help yourself--like a kid in a candy shop. Was your heart pounding? Did you slip the car into neutral and let it roll backwards in the darkness to keep things quiet? Did you start the engine but keep the lights off until you made it around the corner? Where you alone? scared? Drunk? I wonder if you've had a moment's rest since you drove away? I think I'd be a nervous wreck.

Eleven: I was just looking online at the Ohio Civic Code--it turns out that the minimum sentence for grand theft auto (a class four felony) is six months in prison. If you get pulled over you could also get charged with unauthorized use of a vehicle, which is a misdemeanor if you stay in the state and a class four felony if you leave it, and since you'll probably lie to the officer who pulls you over, you could get charged with making a false report to an officer, also a misdemeanor.

Twelve: Good news for you is this: I just filled the gas tank. My wife changed the oil on Tuesday. New wiper blades a few weeks ago. The tires are new as of October. The car itself gets pretty good gas mileage and has been across the country and all over Ohio in the past eighteen months, so if you feel like running, and you can lay low long enough, you just might avoid any trouble.

Thirteen: Just do us a favor, when you're done with it, don't leave it in a ditch out in the country somewhere, because we've got to drive to Texas in July and we'd like to make that trip in our own car.