Strange how one alteration in a long-running pattern can turn everything upside down.
After 30 years of regularly playing racquetball early Sunday mornings at the Hollywood YMCA with a longtime friend, we had to switch to Saturdays in 2020 due to a later opening time—change #1.
Because the on-street parking in front of and across from the Y was taken, I ended up parking one block further north, an area I had never parked before—change #2.
Because the metered parking begins at 8:00 a.m. on Saturdays instead of 11:00 a.m. on Sundays, for the first time I had to put money in the meter—change #3.
Because I needed to retrieve coins from my car, I neglected to relock the vehicle (which I did not know at the time)—change #4.
My friend set an alarm on his phone for 7:57, allowing me enough time to run downstairs, cross the street, and feed the kitty for both our cars.
As I walked across from the main entrance to where my friend’s car was parked, I noticed a beat-up white sedan pull up next to mine which was one block up from where I was. It appeared to be in position to parallel park; however, there wasn’t a place to park behind me.
Without thinking much about it, I stepped on the sidewalk and took out coins to put into the meter.
Suddenly, my eye caught a peculiar sight—my trunk had just popped up! In a flash, my eyes quickly zoomed in to see the front passenger door open with someone half inside my car.
Instinctively I rushed over shouting, “Hey! What are you doing?!”
Like the head of a jack-in-the-box, the rest of the man jumped out of my car. He was in his late 20’s or early 30’s, white, disheveled looking.
“Oh, is this your car? Sorry. I thought this was my buddy’s car. He said he left something here for me.”
At that point a voice inside of me said, “Brian, do not say anything else. Get in the car fast, turn it around, and get the hell out of the area.”
Before I knew it, I made a U-turn and drove two blocks to a church parking lot, my heart pounding and my mind racing.
Lucky for me I never leave anything visible inside my car except for a pair of sunglasses and a water canteen. And the only item in my trunk are reusable shopping bags.
But what about my registration and insurance card inside the glovebox?
I opened it up and discovered nothing had been disturbed, everything was there.
Did what just happened happened? Was I a victim of a car burglary?
What hit me like a brick was the strong odor of cigarette smoke that must have been absorbed on the crook’s clothing. It was so powerful that even after driving several miles with all the windows down I still could not get it completely eliminated.
I carefully walked back to the Y, looking to see if the man would still be there.
He was gone.
Within 60 seconds, he had pulled up next to my car, sized it up, pulled in front of my car, exited his, opened my unlocked passenger door, reached over to the driver’s side and pushed the release button to the trunk—clearly an activity he had mastered in record time.
I must have left the car unlocked because there was no sign of forced entry. That explains how he quickly got into my car without breaking a window.
However, if I had arrived a minute later, who knows what condition my car would have been in?
It wasn’t until I told this story to people that I realized how fortunate I was that the guy wasn’t confrontational or didn’t have a weapon.
There must have been a guardian angel watching over me that day. How 2020 could have easily gone sideways in just four days old.