Wednesday, November 21, 2007

The day my car fell down

In late summer, 2005, I attended a work-related conference in New Hampshire, and was away for about a week. The day after I came back to San Diego, I decided to go shopping. I got in my car, put it in reverse, let out the clutch, and slowly starting backing up while turning the wheels slightly to maneuver out of the parking spot. Kerklunk. I heard a noise as if I had just driven over something, and my car shifted perceptively. I got out and went over the the passenger side, since that's where I'd heard the noise from. Instead of the flattened object on the ground I expected to find, I found that the tires on the passenger side of my car had fallen off the bolts that normally hold them on and that my car's body was now resting on the semi-upright rims of my tires. I then noticed that my hubcaps and lugnuts were missing on that side... yep, someone had stolen them! I had just had new tires put on my car ~2 weeks earlier, and I wondered if that's what they had been after. The first photo is a close up of the one tire... it's hard to see what's going on, but do notice that no bolts are protruding through the four holes near the center of the tire. The second photo is from the back (my car is on the right... that's Jesse's old Buick on the left) and you can see the tilt in my car towards the passenger side (the right side, for the South Africans reading this).

I pride myself in being relatively freak-out-proof... I am normally calm in "scary" situations. However, I took it so personally that someone had shown that little interest in my well-being (I mean, what if I hadn't been trying to turn my car while reversing? How far could I have driven before my tires fell off? Could they not have left me a note "hey, look out, I stole your lugnuts so your tires will fall off if you drive"?) that I was instantly upset. I went back to the apartment and woke Jesse up and told him with panic in my voice that I needed help. That woke him up a lot quicker than usual! I felt silly being so worked up about it, but told him the story and asked him what I should do. Most people probably don't know this about me, but I am quite handy at "fix-it" stuff. Being a landlady in graduate school certainly helped. I do plumbing, electrical, painting, woodwork, oil changes etc. So for me to ask Jesse (who has none of the forementioned abilities... sorry Jesse, love you anyway) what I should do was very unusual. Anyway, to keep this from being a runaway story, I'll say that I got him to drive me to an auto parts store so that I could buy replacement lug nuts, then chickened out of jacking my car up on my own (since TWO tires were off, I didn't know where I should put the jack), called a towing company and ended up telling the guy how to do things (he was a bit slow, and he couldn't get his jack in place, so I lent him mine). Later, I went to a dealer and got the OEM lugnuts (since the first ones were generics and didn't fit very well) and a set of rim locks (locking lugnuts--you need a certain "key" socket to get them off. I didn't know what rim locks were before I moved to California, land of car thefts... I had previously had my indicator (turn signal) light bulbs stolen in this same garage, which is gated, as you can see in the second photo). And about a year ago, I bought two replacement hubcaps off of eBay... my car was 11 years old when this happened, by the way, and it was the original, plastic, scratched up hubcaps that were stolen. I got similarly scratched up replacement ones (hopefully not the exact same ones!). So my car is all back in one piece.

Later that day, I called the police to report the theft. The policeman who took down my information panicked slightly when I said that my tires fell off--he was apparently worried that I had made it onto street and picked up some speed when this happened. If only the thief had considered that!

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