Friday, May 11, 2012

The Car Story

A break from the gluten free recipes for two life updates.  Here's the first one on my stolen car.  Friday I got a notice from the USPS that I had missed the post man and he had certified mail for me.  Certified mail can be picked up 20 minutes from my house after waiting in line for about an hour.  I didn't have a car so I didn't go get it.  Saturday I received a letter in the mail asking for a Victim Impact Statement and introducing me to my Victim Advocate at the Local District Attorney's office.  I got all excited that they had caught the man who took my car.  Then I realized that it could be referring to another crime against me, simply a book stolen from my office last semester.  I didn't want to get my hopes up about the car.  Plus, why would they have gotten my car and this criminal and not called me? 

It had been a month since it was stolen, school lets out this week, so I needed to get a car.  I picked one out after a month of spreadsheeting Subaru Outbacks online.  This wasn't a "deal" by any means, but it was just what I was looking for.  I left the car dealership a message to call me on Monday, I wanted to take their car for a test drive. 

Monday morning I woke up early with all of these confusing things in my head, trying to make a list of where to begin to solve these mysteries.  I called the DA first.  My Victim Advocate told me that my car had been found and the person who stole it was in jail, but she'd call me back with more info.  I then started googling the zip code left for me on the not-picked-up certified mail.  I found the zip code in google maps, then wondered if that's where Denver kept their stolen but recovered cars.  I overlayed impound lots.  Sure enough!  The Sheriff's impound lot was at this zip code.  I called them.  No, they didn't have any car with that license plate.  I was just about to hang up and asked them if they sent me a certified letter.  They said that they do send certified letters to car owners, what was my last name?  Yes, they had my car.  It was listed in okay condition.  It had a window broken and some damage to the exterior where that happened, some scratches, the inside was very dirty, and there was no power.  I asked if I could come pick it up and she said if I had proof of ownership, I'd be able to drive it away. 

Because I took the check from my insurance company a few weeks ago, they owned the car.  The deal was that I could always return the same amount of money to buy it back.  I had no proof of ownership, so I couldn't see my car.  I also had no car to drive to the lot to see my car.  At first I was extremely excited that I wouldn't have to go through the car-buying process and really wanted it back. 

Then the detective called me.  He apologized for my not having been called earlier.  They had my car for two weeks and the reason I just got the certified letter was because it was just taken off hold.  It was in evidence processing before that.  A (somewhat) homeless man and his 23 year old son stole my car.  They are criminals who steal anything they can for drug money.  I'm not talking weed here people, I'm talking drugs that require drug needles.   The inventory of things that were found in my car included DVD players, stereos, speakers, stolen checks (hundreds of them, I believe), and a random pile of jeans.  Oh, and the empty bottle of whiskey that the detective wanted to be sure wasn't mine.  ;)  My skis and ski boots were gone, my GPS was gone, my and Dave's CDs were gone.  I had about $1000 worth of stuff that would not be returned to me.  

Here's what I retained from the detective's story.  I have no idea if I remember it correctly.  The man was being followed because of his identity theft (checks) and the policeman saw him going into my car to get goods out of it.  They noticed that the car was stolen (I believe there were other vehicles as well).  They went to arrest him and he ran into a house and had a little standoff with the police.  This guy had so many crimes against him, my car was just another thing on a long list.  He'll likely be in jail for a long time.  Still, I'm very happy that Dave changed our locks the night this happened.  I would have hated to have come home to find he had used our key to steal our stuff, or worse yet, find him in our home.  At the same time, the criminal sounded like a real idiot, so I'm not sure he would have ever put the spare house key together with the address on my car registration card. 

The Subaru dealer called and I told him I was no longer interested. 

I called my insurance and told them I wanted my car back.  They ignored me, then when I called again, they told me they didn't have time to deal with it. 

I really wanted to go see my car.  Dave put things into perspective for me:  I got $5,900 for my 2000 Ford Explorer with 60-70,000 miles on it from my insurance company.  Now the car is beat up, full of drug needles, and simply disgusting.  If I went on craigslist today and saw an ad for my car, would I buy it?  Hell no!  I wouldn't want a car with this on its record and a disease-filled needle lurking around every corner!  Even if we got it fixed up, I'd have to pay a deductible to get the ball rolling on the broken window and such.  Now I'd be spending even more money and I wouldn't have my car back for a while.  Meanwhile, it would take ages to get the title from my insurance company who didn't seem to want to help me out on this and the car was accumulating huge fines sitting in this impound lot for several days.  I slept on it.

I woke up Tuesday morning and was ready to move beyond my old car.  Any emotional ties I had to it were cut by the fact that some gross man had ruined it.  I wanted the Subaru.  I called the dealership, which is a little far away and made an appointment for 5:00.  I'd have Dave take me there after my final ended at 4:00 and look at the Outback. 

Dave got tied up in a late dentist appointment, junkyard diving for Westy parts, and then downtown Denver rush hour traffic.  I took the bus to the dealership.  The bus ride took me through the most awful part of Denver, but the dealership was on the other side of the bad part, so I dealt with my doubts.  I got off the bus, walked a half a mile and took the car for a test drive.  It was pretty great.  The salesman threw everything he had at me.  I really wanted to wait for Dave to get there to help look it over, see if I was missing anything, but he was stuck in traffic, still an hour away.  I called my dad.  Dad said, "Sounds good, just remember you can't drive it home because you might not be on our insurance anymore."  He was right.  I was going to switch from insurance with my parents (old car was theirs, bought for me in college 8 years ago) to Progressive on my own.  I wasn't sure I was covered. 

Generic photo, but it's raining today, so no good photo ops right now. 
I bought the car.  It's a 2004 Subaru Outback with 88,000 miles on it.  Lesson learned that fees and taxes add up!  I still thought it was worth it to have this all behind me.  I think the salesman took advantage of that and didn't budge on anything.  I couldn't drive it without guaranteed insurance, so I parked it in their second lot and Dave picked me up, not even getting a moment to look at it.  We tried to make his 6:30 soccer game in the next town, but missed it by a long shot.  We grabbed some dinner and talked about the car and life update #2, which I will tell you about in my next post.

The next day I had meetings and finals straight from 10:00-5:00.  I caught the bus to the dealership and drove my new-to-me car home.  Of course I also got stuck in traffic, so it took a while, but I made it.  Thank goodness I usually just take the bus!  No thanks to the #$$hole dealer for leaving me with no gas in the car, but I made it home.  We met up with a friend to celebrate and grabbed some ice cream. 

Today I successfully passed emissions with it.  We might take it to Utah next week to really break it in!  My insurance never returned the call that told them the car was theirs for sure.  Saga complete.

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