My faithful 1992 Honda Accord flunked its smog test last month. After a visit to the repair shop, it was OK to drive. The other day I found the ancient wonder missing from the parking lot after I left my cardio-rehab class in Berkeley. I emptied my head in dread, retraced my steps, looked every which way. The car was missing. Gone. Stolen in daylight.
The nurses were flabbergasted. Nothing like this had ever happened before in the more than twenty years the rehab program has been saving wounded hearts. The stealth was an outrage in a place where one had always felt safe.
A cop came to the house that night. He thought the thieves may have been after the catalytic converter, an antipollution device in the exhaust system, a lucrative prize.
The next night the phone rang at 10. The Lady Friend went to pick it up. “It must be the police. They must have found the car,” she said. It was. They had recovered the car in San Pablo, minus at least the battery and radio, and towed it to a storage yard in Richmond. “You want to come and get it,” the officer laughed, good-naturedly. “Not tonight,” said the Lady Friend.
The following day, with the help of an insurance claims agent in Sacramento, we were able to “visit” the Honda in the Richmond yard where it was temporarily consigned. The woman in charge was of a kindly temperament. She let me step inside the car to retrieve an old New York Review of Books, a couple of Northern California maps, and a pair of indispensable eye glasses, in 20-20 condition.
On Tuesday I learned from my local shop where the car was finally towed that the catalytic converter was gone. The thugs had broken through the door to get inside, and, perhaps, with a screwdriver, dug through the ignition lock to get the car started and fled.
You may recall around the time the Honda failed the smog test, the Lady Friend and I bought a new used Camry (2011), reasonably priced, to keep us on the road if and when the Honda broke down. I’ll be seeing the insurance adjuster soon.
In Monday’s San Francisco Chronicle, Mattier & Ross reported that car thefts were up 10 percent in their city. There were 5,574 last year. Nowadays, they write, thieves are “brazen” enough to be making off with cars just a few doors from where Mayor Ed Lee lives.
This article originally appeared in the San Leandro Times.