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  • Jan Flynn

Our Car Disappeared! From Our Closed Garage!

A mystery with a solution that has nothing to do with age. Honest

Photo by Kevin Chuang:

Tell me this hasn’t happened to you

It's totally understandable.
The day promised to be hot, and as a responsible person, I wanted to water my veggie garden and take the dog down to the field before the mercury headed into the red.
The quickest route to both the veggies and the field is through the garage. Mind you, it was very early in the morning. I was busy with the dog, her leash, and the hose, and I hadn’t had my coffee.
And I mean, it’s not like I was looking to see if anything was missing.
Later that morning, I was startled and maybe a tiny bit annoyed when my husband knocked on my office door. It’s a French door: he could see I was in the middle of one of my weekly Zoom meetings.
I excused myself, hit “Mute,” and tiptoed away from the grid of onscreen faces. I opened the door and confirmed that my husband wasn’t bleeding, clutching his chest, or holding his phone in that way that telegraphs bad news on the other end — so what was the big emergency?
“Honey,” he said before I could ask, “where’s the car?”
I blinked in confusion. “What do you mean, where’s the car? It’s in the garage!”
We only have one car. Unless we’re driving it, it’s always in the garage.
“No, it’s not,” he said.
“Well, it was in there this morning. Where else could it be?”
“That’s what I’m asking.”
My fluff of irritation instantly chilled. I hurried back to my laptop, typed a hasty, apologetic note in the chat, and followed my husband downstairs and into the garage.
Where there was, indeed, no car.
And the garage door was closed.

We stared at the space where our car should be

It persisted in not being there. Nothing else was missing. Not our bikes, not any tools, and not, thank God, the small fireproof safe in which we store no cash or jewels, but documents that would be an enormous headache to replace should our home go up in smoke.
“Did you go anywhere this morning?” my husband asked. He kept his tone gentle. “Could you have moved the car, maybe parked it at the curb?”
“What? No!” I said, defensive. I marched out the side door to survey the street and confirm that our car was nowhere to be seen.
But I’d been the last person in the garage before the car went missing. “Everything was okay in here when I went out with the dog. I mean, I’d notice if the car was missing!”
Of course, I would. Wouldn’t I?
We opened the garage door and stared at the driveway that leads to the alley behind the row of houses on our block. Had those tire marks been there previously?
Had someone backed a trailer down the alley and up to our garage door, somehow opened it, and spirited our vehicle away? Were we the victims of a professional car thief ring? What about those tire marks?
How would the bad guys open the garage from the outside without a remote? And then how would they start the car? It has a push-button ignition that depends on an electronic key fob — and both of our fobs were right where they belonged.
Also, we drive a 2021 Honda CRV. It’s a perfectly serviceable vehicle, but hardly a Lamborghini. Why would anyone go to such lengths to steal such a modest conveyance?
By now, our neighbors were taking notice
We live on a friendly block in a serene, safe little neighborhood. Some of our alley neighbors noticed us looking dismayed, and came over to see what was wrong.
“Wait!” said the kind woman from next door once we’d told her the alarming news. “I was just coming back from taking my husband to the airport today, and I couldn’t get into the alley from this end because of a big work truck blocking my way — it was parked right along those trees that border your yard, next to your driveway. Must’ve been between 8:30 and 9:00 this morning.”
I gasped. “That’s after I went through the garage, and before my husband noticed the car missing!”
“Did the truck have a trailer?” asked my husband, switching into sleuth mode.
“I think so?” said the neighbor.
“Does anybody on the alley have security cameras?” asked our other neighbor. Theories were coagulating.
We checked. No one on our alley has cameras mounted on their garages or back walls. Why would they? This neighborhood has a crime rate lower than the interest on a checking account.

But our car continued to be gone, and there was no other explanation.

“I need to report a stolen car,” my husband told the police dispatcher
She took down our information diligently but with no more interest than one would expect. “An officer will be in touch with you,” she said. “sometime later today.”
Even in Boise, the cops have bigger fish to fry than yet another jacked car.
My husband chose to burn off his frustration by walking to the nearby coffee shop for his morning dose. I stayed behind in case a policeman showed up in person, but I couldn’t figure out what to do with myself. When something as large and necessary as a compact SUV disappears from inside a closed room in your house, it’s hard to think about anything else.
Now what, I wondered. Our car is a lease. What happens when your car gets stolen but the car doesn’t actually belong to you? Is that different from a regular car getting stolen?
I called my older son in Colorado. He’s an airline pilot, but at one point during the post-9/ll aftermath, he’d spent some time on furlough during which he’d worked in automotive finance.
“Are you sure it’s been stolen?” he asked. “From your garage? I mean, it’s a CRV.”
I assured him we’d exhausted all other possibilities. And yes, we’d already notified the police.
His voice took on the patient tone of an adult child dealing with an agitated parent. “Your next call should be to your insurance company,” he explained. “Don’t worry; it doesn’t make any difference that the car was a lease, it’ll be just like a —”
At that point my husband walked in, clutching his coffee and waving his hand to interrupt me. Again!
I’m talking to B,” I hissed. My husband continued to gesture.
“I’ll call you right back,” I told my son, and hung up. “What is it?”
Again the look on his face. What new awful discovery had he made?
“Remember the meeting I went to last night?” he asked. “At the clubhouse?”

My husband serves on our HOA’s architectural review committee

He too is a responsible person who does what he can to contribute to our community. There had been some contention about a proposed addition to someone’s home, one that had sparked such a flurry of emails that the committee had decided an in-person meeting was necessary.
“Per agreement, we will meet at the clubhouse at 7 PM,” the last email had said. So after an early dinner, my husband headed out.
The clubhouse is less than two blocks away. We always walk to it.
“I walked home,” he now said. He looked at me heavily, apparently waiting for me to connect the dots.
“What’s that got to do with the car?” I asked.
Here’s the thing: our HOA covers two distinct segments of the same development, separated by a main road. Each segment has its own clubhouse. Most meetings and neighborhood functions are held in the one closest to us, but not all of them.
And when he’d left for the meeting, with only a few minutes to spare, he’d realized he wasn’t exactly sure which clubhouse was the correct venue this time. So to avoid being late, he’d taken the car.
Later, after two hours of intense discussions, his mind still occupied with property lines and trim colors, he’d done what he always does after such meetings.
He walked home. Right past our car in the clubhouse parking lot.

This could happen to anyone at any age, right?

“Mom, everything okay?” My son had tired of waiting for me to call him back.
“We’re fine,” I assured him. “Funny story . . .”
This is how I learned that it is possible to hear an adult child’s thoughts as they conclude their parent has stripped a few mental gears.
He cleared his throat. “Well, By now the police department has marked your car as stolen, so you’re likely to get pulled over if you drive it anywhere,” he said, his patient-with-mom tone honed to a certain edge. “So make sure you call them back and explain that to them.”

I let my husband make that call.

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