I made a foolish decision.
On a frigid Friday morning, I pulled into a bustling convenience store parking lot, found a spot right in front of the double glass doors, grabbed my wallet out of my purse, left my car running and ran into the store for a tea. Less than 5 minutes later I came out of the store and found an empty spot where my car had been.
I felt like such a fool. My typical Friday morning turned into an absurd nightmare. Standing in the middle of a busy and bright morning scene I was horrified and overwhelmed. The store manager called the police and let me use the store office phone to make calls while I waited for the police to arrive.
It was an awful situation. Although my foolish decision does not justify the thief’s decision to steal my car, I do realize that my choice offered up the opportunity.
What was surprisingly evident to me was the amount of strangers that stepped out of the woodwork to help me. Employees of the store noticed me loitering near the manager’s office and asked if I was alright. They offered the use of their cell phones and helped me look up phone numbers I needed. They helped me get in touch with my friends and family. Random customers paused to commiserate with me and wish me luck. It reminded me there are more people out there looking to help than looking to hurt.
I came away with 5 clear lessons:
1. Never ever leave your car running unattended anywhere, regardless of the non-threatening zip code.
2. Keep a copy of important numbers in your wallet. If your phone is in your car when its stolen you are going to need them. Numbers to consider…your phone company’s customer service line, your insurance company’s number (with a copy of your insurance information!), the numbers of at least 2 people who you would want to contact in an emergency. I had some numbers in my wallet and it made the whole situation a little less stressful.
3. If your house keys are on your key ring when the car is stolen, change your house locks immediately. That’s right. If the thief has the cojones to steal your car, they might very well figure out where you live and check out what you have to take there.
4. Think about what might have been in your car that could be a potential breach of online security. Get online and change your passwords.
5. If your check book was in your car get to the bank and change your account information.
Most car thefts are crimes of opportunity. The thief does not have a clear plan and in most cases they will abandon the car within 48 hours. Which is exactly what happened in my case. In fact, my car was abandoned with all of my belongings inside of it, my purse and checkbook intact.
I’m a bit embarrassed about how thoughtless I was, walking away from my running, unlocked car. I hope sharing the story might keep someone from making the same mistake. In the end, I was pretty lucky. It was mostly a huge inconvenience and a vivid reminder of how quickly the material can vanish.