That time my car got stolen.

I was telling Amelie recently about the time my car got stolen.

In the summer of 1998, I had been at UCF for about six months, and I was still driving a fairly new 1997 Honda Civic.  The ’97 Civic was my first new car ever.  All my previous cars were used, but I needed something super reliable to go to college because there was going to be a fair amount of driving back and forth from Orlando to South Florida.  (Kind of like now, actually.)

Not actually my car, but it basically looked like this.

The ’97 Civic hatchback was a deep metallic purple color, dubbed “Dark Amethyst Pearl” by Honda.  I was driving down to South Florida to attend the wedding of some friends.   A friend who was catching a ride with me back to South Florida had just returned my spare keys to me, for reasons I no longer recall.  Because we were driving back I tossed them in the glove compartment and forgot about them.

When we got back to South Florida, I dropped off my passenger and parked at my mother’s house in Boynton Beach.  I grabbed most of my stuff out of the car, but left a small bag containing a cigarette case full of clove cigarettes, some clothing including my 1994 Nine Inch Nails long-sleeved concert t-shirt (the one with “All the piggies all lined up” written down the sleeve.)  Also left in the hatch of the car was a bottle of mixed alcohol, called Mage’s Fire, which was supposed to be a wedding gift for my friends.

A quick word about Mage’s Fire-  it’s a mix drink that I learned about during my extremely-brief interaction with the Society For Creative Anachronism, a medieval re-enactment group.  Mage’s Fire is 25% vodka, 25% blue curacao, and 50% DeKuyper’s “Hot Damn” cinnamon schnapps.  Mage’s Fire is best aged at least six months because it blends together a bit more over time and becomes smoother.  It is sometimes referred to as the mouthwash of the gods.  People have a very polarized reaction to Mage’s Fire-  they either love it or hate it. I can’t stand the stuff, but I liked to mix it up and share it with people who enjoyed it.  But I digress.

I woke up the next day, to find that my car was not where I had left it.  This is a very disorienting thing, because normally cars don’t go wandering on their own after you park them.  I realized with a quiet dread that this was the one and only time I had ever left the car parked with keys inside.  I called the police, filed a report, and wondered what to do next.

After a little while, the police called-  my car had been found abandoned in a field, with the sprinklers on around it.  The people who stole it just took it for a joyride, and then left it there with the doors wide open.    I had to go to an impound lot and pay a fee to get back my car, which I felt was a huge injustice for someone who was the victim of a crime.

The aftermath was kind of anti-climactic.    There was dark greasy powder all over the center console and on the seats that I was never able to fully clean off.  The Mage’s Fire and smokes and good t-shirts were stolen from the back.  In their place, the joyriders had left a shiny silver club shirt and a dirty pair of overalls.  It seemed for all the world like my car had taken place in a hillbilly raver exchange program.  I wondered if they were thankful for the fancy moonshine and tobacco they found in the hatch. I also wonder if they would have stopped at petty theft if they hadn’t found keys in the glove compartment to start the engine. Damn it.

As I write this, nearly twenty-one years later, I honestly don’t remember whether or not they stole the stereo from the car.  Memory is a strange thing.

Have you ever had a car stolen?

How Not To Travel

Usually, when I decide to travel to a new place, I do fairly exhaustive research.  I look at information about what other people like to see in the city.  I check for walking tours or hop-on/hop-off tours.  I confirm information about the public transportation.

Most importantly, I do something that I’ve been doing before trips to new places for many years.  I make a list with three categories:

  1. Stuff I absolutely must see while I’m in this new city.  This category is the stuff that I’m most excited about. This category often includes the reason I went to the new city in the first place.
  2. Stuff that I really want to see.  This stuff isn’t quite as important as the MUST SEE category, but it usually includes a lot of interesting things that I’m glad I saw after the trip is done.
  3. Only if there’s time.  This is stuff that seems interesting to me, but if I don’t get to it, I won’t be too sad about it.

I’ve been using this three tier method for a lot of years, and when I’m traveling with a friend, I have them do the same list.  More often than not, we manage to get ALL of the must-see stuff, most of the really-want-to-see stuff, and occasionally, we even get to the only-if-there’s-time level.  Having things tiered this way makes it very easy to figure out a day by day plan without it becoming too overwhelming or stressful.   This planning method has always worked very well for me while traveling, and I should know better than to stray too far from it.

Yesterday, I tried something different.

I’ve been feeling kind of stuck lately- I don’t travel as much in January and February because it’s fricking cold and I don’t usually want to go take pictures of things when the sky is full-gray and I’m bundled up like the Michelin man.  Climbing hills to castles is not fun on snow and ice.

In order to combat the feeling of stuck-ness, I decided recently that I would try to visit some of the really close towns, places that I can get to in about an hour on the train.  A Bavaria Ticket costs me 22 Euros, and that covers the train there and back as well as any bus lines or public transportation in the destination city, anywhere in Bavaria.  The idea here is that if I day-trip to a new place, I don’t need to muck about with getting a hotel, packing a bag, and so forth.  I just go, wander around a new city for the day, then come back.

Why did this backfire?

  • It failed because I chose Ingolstadt as my first foray out this way.  Ingolstadt is perhaps the most boring city in Bavaria.  The most interesting things about Ingolstadt are that the Illuminati was founded there and the monster was created there in Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein.  Neither of these things is easy to see in a touristy way on a day trip.  Oh, and Audi has a factory and tour there, but I didn’t think to get information about that before I left Regensburg.
  • It failed because I went on a Sunday.  Everything is closed on Sundays.  Bus routes are cut down to once in hour in many routes on Sundays, which made getting around town kind of a pain in the ass.
  • Above all else, this little day trip failed because I didn’t prepare for it.  It failed because I didn’t do my list this time.  Ingolstadt doesn’t have many old buildings because it was significantly bombed out in World War II.  The few remaining old buildings look pretty nifty, but since I didn’t do my research before the trip, I didn’t know where to look.

This is the most interesting thing I managed to see in Ingolstadt yesterday:

ingolstadt

That’s directly opposite the Bahnhof.  I spent the rest of the day using the tediously slow Sunday bus routes to try to find cool things to see.  I didn’t even manage to figure out where Ingolstadt’s “Altstadt” or Zentrum (city center) was.

I did have a successful conversation with a passerby who spoke no English, so I feel like that was a win, but I learned a great deal on this trip about what doesn’t work for me when I travel.

What lessons have you learned in your life about what NOT to do when traveling?