Why Motojen Gets To Keep Her Police Badge
For those of you that know me, the "moto" in my name refers to my past motorcycling history. I fancy myself to be a bit of gearhead and I like to tinker on cars. So when my Honda's "Check Engine" light started flashing last year, I decided to do the work myself. Being the frugal mechanic that I am, I used my connections to borrow a diagnostic tool (a laptop with special software on it) and discovered that the car's catalytic converter is going bad. Not really something that affects the performance of the car... it just means the car's CO emissions aren't quite in line with EPA and CARB allowances. But hey, I don't eat CAFO meat which cuts greenhouse gases more than any automotive emissions countermeasures. Plus, I need to save up for the $200+ part. So every couple months when the light comes on and the car runs funny, I just hook up the laptop and turn off the light. Today was one of those days.
While I'm at the shop foiling the idiot light, my buddy notices the Accord is low on oil... really low. He makes me promise to drive straight to the auto parts store down the street and get 2 quarts of oil into the car before I drive home. Since I'm already tempting the car gods with my blatant disregard for the diagnostic trouble codes being displayed on the tool I am using, I agree.
At the store, I purchase a few quarts of oil, some coolant and a few other auto odds and ends. I have a nice chat with Bob*, the store manager, and as I leave, he walks me to the door and locks it behind me. In the parking lot, I toss my purchases onto the front seat and pop the hood. I take out one quart of oil and attempt to remove the oil filler cap which I discover is on REALLY tight. So I put the bottle of oil onto the ground near the front tire and walk around to the rear of the car to grab one of my mechanic's gloves (which has has little rubber grips on the palms) from the trunk. I return to the front of the car and easily remove the oil cap. But when I look down to where I left the bottle, I experience a moment of confusion. The bottle isn't there. I look in the front seat. Not there. I check the trunk. Not there. So I stand next to the car in the middle of the parking lot with a puzzled expression, looking around. At this point, Bob comes out and exclaims, "Did those punks take your oil? I thought so!" (I should mention here that the store is pretty much all glass. You can't really tell because it's the heavily tinted, mirrored kind of glass. But from inside you can clearly see the open parking lot where I am now standing looking rather silly.) I look in the direction that Bob is indicating and see the backs of the teens who are running diagonally across the intersection. Then it hits me... When I walked out of the store earlier, these kids passed me. Then, when I was struggling with the oil cap, they walked past me again. It is uncharacteristically naive of me, but it didn't occur to me that the boys might swipe my bottle of oil. Never mind that the parking lot is right on the corner of a busy intersection in broad daylight and that I am wearing a frilly, feminine dress with high heels. I was every inch the "damsel in distress." How could anyone even THINK of stealing a lousy bottle of oil from me???
Bob was fuming at this point and I think he contemplated running after them. But I was a little embarrassed by my own carelessness. I told him not to worry, but he goes back inside and returns with another bottle of oil. I try to pay for it, but he declines. He mutters something about the boys trying to buy oil and that he's sure they have stolen from him before. At this point I tell Bob that the kids must be really dumb because they are clearly visible in the lot northwest of where we are standing. Then another thought hits me. I dump the bottle of oil into the engine, drop the hood, start up the Honda and pull out of the parking lot, catching the green turn light in NASCAR pit stop time. As I drive away, I tell Bob I'm going to go pull a "Mom" on the kids.
What happened next is something I can't divulge to the public since I'm currently handling the resolution of this incident. But suffice it to say I used my police detective like intuition to track down the car and the boy driving it.
The next part is where the fun starts. As I drive home, I consult a few friends about the best recourse. I have two witnesses so I could easily call the police and have the kid arrested. But that's not fun. I decide that what I will do is test the power of the internet to find the boy's parents and as I promised to Bob, pull a "mom."
Again, I can't go into too much detail about the investigative techniques I used, but only 90 minutes after I was "robbed" of my $5.11 bottle of oil, I was on the phone with the boy's mother.
To say the woman was horrified would be an understatement along the caliber of... well, like believing that Orlando sold Rehash to Swapstyle. She said all the typical motherly things, "He never does things like this... I'm so sorry!" She also mentioned that he had just gotten the car and it was always breaking down. (More on this tangent in a moment...)
I was careful to let her know that I wasn't sure which boy actually took the oil. But that since her son was the one I was able to identify and locate, I wanted him to be the one to correct the wrong. I told her I was not interested in calling the police or pressing charges, but I wanted her son to meet me at the store and pay for the bottle of oil. She agreed and I provided her with my name and telephone number so she could call to confirm the time.
To say that I'm looking forward to this date would be another grand understatement. I have been thinking about what I want to say to the boy. I'm sure none of the obvious cliches will have an impact... but then... there is something I think will make a serious impression.
I am going to ask the punk if perhaps he was actually in the right place at the right time? I'm going to ask him why he didn't just stop and talk to me? After all, I was in some sort of automotive distress like him. The hood of my car was up. Why didn't it occur to him to stop and ask if I'd be willing to let him have the oil? If he thought I could afford for him to STEAL a bottle, why not just ask if I'd GIVE him one? After he mumbles through his explanation or just shrugs, I'll close in for the kill...
The reason I say this.. well... see if you had asked for that bottle, we would have started a conversation... and you would have found out that I happen to love classic cars... and I work in the automotive industry... and I am close personal friends with the editor of Hot Rod Magazine...and I would have probably introduced you to some really cool car contacts... and perhaps connect you with my restoration friend in Long Beach... and that right this moment, we could be having a very different conversation... like what cool mods the magazine was going to do to your car... and about the magazine feature that was going to come out... and that if you had simply acted like a mature, honest, responsible person. you might have even gotten to meet some incredibly cool skate industry people too... because I'm actually pretty well-connected...
Then just to make him cry, I'd drop the name of a friend who happens to be a skateboard legend. Yeah, I think that would make the 18-year old cry.
*Names have been omitted and/or changed to protect privacy.