Picture a perfect late-summer evening in Craig, Colorado, five years ago: flowers a-bloom, birds a-chirp, breezes a-stir. Harmless clouds cluster in the east; children bounce bicycles over curbs; and volunteer parents gather at Sunset Elementary to ready its outdoor areas for the coming school year.
Wanting to enjoy the pleasant evening, my husband and I decided to take an after-dinner walk. As we exited the gate to our driveway, Joel looked around and asked, “Where’s the car?”
We then reverted to form and assumed the other had done something unreasonable with it: “I don’t know. Where’d you park it?”
“In the driveway. Where’d you move it?”
“What are you talking about? I haven’t driven it since you came home.”
Then reality struck; and Joel expressed it: “If you’re not joking, the car’s been stolen.”
Denying any prank, I peered up and down the street as though our headstrong car had wandered off like a mischievous puppy and would soon come home. My husband displayed more decisiveness: “I’d better call 911.” That quickly we became embroiled in loss of property, police reports, insurance negotiations and a realization of our need — even fondness — for a reliable, comfortable car.
Three adult drug-users took it from our driveway while inside the house I started the dishwasher, exchanged flip-flops for walking shoes and rounded up Joel. As we walked through the yard discussing which border flowers might need transplanting, the thieves drove at high speed up the hill on Barclay toward 10th Street through quiet residential areas. While we paused at the gate and examined the Russian willow to see if we had arrested its aphid problem, our car bottomed out in an intersection, lurched out of control, and hit two parked trucks. As we discovered our loss, the three fled.
As we waited in the driveway for an officer to respond to Joel’s 911 call, a patrol car come around the corner, and we waved it over. When the officer said he’d be back after investigating a nearby accident, we realized our car might be involved. Joel, who carries data like the car’s year, model and license number in his head, waited for the officer, and I took the truck to look for the accident.
I found it. Our car sat sideways on Barkley street: crumpled at each end, air bags deployed, interior untouched and Joel’s golf bag squashed up against the back window. I drove home to report I’d found our car: wrecked, totaled, looking as abandoned as an old couch left curbside.
Not only does Joel act while I dither, his perceptions are fast, focused, and true compared to my foggy ruminations. His first response: “I hope nobody was hurt.”
I pictured young girls with bouncing hair skipping along a sidewalk; grinning boys flying down the hill on bicycles; a family on its way to a soccer game driving into the intersection as a missile launched across it. “Oh, I didn’t think of that.”
I’d never experienced what I knew: Some who live in Craig make bad decisions born of addiction, greed, anger, or disregard for the lives and property of others; and innocent parties suffer because of those decisions. I didn’t understand how quickly feelings of security and safety shatter, even when your loss is only a car and some golf clubs.
And I hadn’t thought that our replaceable loss could have been a tragedy. I gave thanks that it was not.