car thefts real and imagined
Thursday, December 3 2020
Back in my junior year of college at Oberlin, two of the people with me in my co-op dorm (Harkness) were my now-wife Gretchen and a woman named Kristen. Kristen came from New Paltz and still lives there to this day. She's a teacher in Kingston and her husband Tapha, an immigrant from Sengal, is now part of a farm that grows organic rice somewhere between Rosendale and the Hudson River. Tapha is from a rice-growing part of Senegal and the story is that he and other Senegalese went through the area and noted that it looked like parts of Senegal where rice is traditionally grown. Gretchen was excited when she learned about this and immediately ordered a diverse collection of rice from the farm. Late this afternoon after she got off work, Kristen came over to deliver the rice. Powerful had been wanting to go get some cooking supplies in town, but Gretchen had him wait so he could meet our old college friend.
Despite the fact that Kristen works in a "petri dish," showing up in the actual classroom every day to teach the students who make it into school as well as those who work remotely. I didn't get a sense of the balance of remote students versus those in the classroom at this stage of the pandemic, but there are all sorts of complexities. For example, the kids in the classroom aren't allowed to use computers, so two sets of work has to be produced: an electronic version as well as printouts. Due to the nature of remote learning, it's difficult for a teacher to talk to students one-on-one, which turns out to be an important part of the educational process. As an educator, the key to making it through these times, Kristen said, was "low expectations." But this is true of just about everything.
Kristen also had a number of stories, and she's a reliably good story teller. One of these concerned Elena, one our Oberlin dorm mates who now works at a clown (or is it circus?) school in Massachusetts. Elena was Kirsten's roommate, and they're still quite close, so they talk occasionally on the phone. While down in Washington, DC, Elena was talking to Kirsten when a couple troubled teenage girls came up to her asking if they could use her phone to call somebody. What ended up happening was that one of the girls snatched Elena's bag, and when Elena ran after her, the other drove off in her car! When Elena reported the theft, the police knew exactly who the offenders were. They recovered her car undamaged, though the girls had also racked up some charges on Elena's credit cards, mostly buying things like makeup.
Kristen stayed for quite awhile in our house, which was probably something we should've discouraged, since she works in a public school with infection vectors. Kristen wore a mask initially, but took it off to eat cup cakes. We generally kept at least six feet away, but we were in indoor air that wasn't circulating well.
For much of this time, I was customizing a male half-inch NPT-to-half-inch barbed brass fitting to make it into a nozzle for the bathtub. I'd cut off most of the barbs and enlarged the hole and was now sanding away some of the rough edges. When I was done with that, I started the process of electroplating it with zinc.
Eventually Powerful headed off to town to run his errands, and Kristen was still here when he called back in a panic. He'd parked the Prius in the lot outside the Uptown Hannaford (Ghettoford), but after buying his groceries, he'd returned to the lot to find the car was gone! Such a theft would be easy if one did what Gretchen often does, which is to just leave the keys in the car. Since they work via RF signals, a thief doesn't even have to find them to steal the car. But Powerful still had the keys on him. This caused me to immediately doubt that the car was actually stolen. Hannaford has two parking lots and two exits, and they look similar enough that it's possible to park in one and think you've parked in the other; I've done this myself. But in any case, we decided to drive to town to help Powerful out. If the car really had somehow been stolen, he'd need a ride back home.
After loading up the dogs into the Subaru (the Leaf wasn't sufficiently charged), Powerful called again to say that he'd found the car. It was indeed in that other lot. What had led to his confusion was that he'd entered Hannaford from Uptown via Westbrook Lane instead of from Hurley Avenue and Schwenk Drive. He'd searched the usual lot thoroughly, and in the process, he said, likely caused the Salvation Army bell-ringer to think him insane. Only then did he entertain the hope that perhaps the car thief had driven the Prius only as far as the other lot. And there it was.
By the time Powerful got home, Gretchen and I were watching the last episode of I'll Be Gone in the Dark. He was making Indian food tonight, but then he cut his finger, slowing things down to a crawl. It was okay; Gretchen and I had eaten leftovers.
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