GOODBYE CAR, 
GOODBYE INNOCENCE

     In an effort to save the world, I went out last summer and bought a Mercury Mariner hybrid, which got a whopping 30 miles to a gallon. Little did I know, however, that it would be a target of environmental thieves.
     Sure enough, some "greenie" came down my very private street sometime before dawn on Friday morning and stole my hybrid right out of my driveway.
     For 17 years Iíve parked my car in my driveway, keys on the floor and wallet in the side pocket, unlocked, and never have had a problem. But as soon as I buy a hybrid---gone. Itís got to be a plot.
     Since Iím determined to save the world, Iíll take the insurance money and go buy another hybrid, thereby causing car manufacturers to make more hybrids. Itís obviously a brilliant scheme by environmental activists. Risky, but brilliant.
     I explained all this to my wife last Friday morning after I walked outside to discover that my car had disappeared sometime during the night. She was skeptical, but I pointed out that her gas-guzzling Volvo was still sitting in the driveway. They obviously wanted the hybrid.
     She ran outside to inspect her car. Those environmental wackos had gone in her unlocked door and added to some obscure environmental fund by stealing all her quarters, her sunglasses, and her tennis bag. But, I pointed out proudly, they had not taken her car.
    "Maybe thatís because Iím not stupid enough to leave my keys on the floor," she said. "I told you this was going to happen someday."
    I knew that one was coming. While I had casually left my keys and wallet in the car for 17 years, my wife has painstakingly brought her keys and purse into the house every night. So I was winning, until last Friday morning.
    "Think of the convenience Iíve enjoyed over the years," I replied, as I kicked over a chair and threw the telephone book onto the floor to pretend I was upset at those environmentalists. "You never had those carefree moments."
     She was torn between feeling sympathy for me because I had lost my car, my wallet, my calendar, my cell phone, my golf clubs, my tennis racquets, my CDís, my favorite sweater, and a few thousand other thingsÖ.versus feeling smug about the fact that she had been proven correct about not leaving the keys and wallet in the car.
    Naturally, as in most marriages, she went the smug route. "I hope you learned a lesson," she smugly said as I pounded my head on the kitchen table. "I assume youíll be locking your car from now on."
    I stopped pounding my head on the table for a moment and looked at her. But only for a moment. Then I resumed pounding my head.
    My world seemed shattered. No car, no credit cards, no driverís license, no cell phone, no calendar, no nothing. My whole life was in that car. How could I possibly recover from such a catastrophe?
    It was 8:00 in the morning. I wearily trudged to the phone and called the police to report the theft. The officer came over right away and I endured the knowing glances he and my wife shared when I mentioned that I regularly left my keys in the car.
    Then it was on to bravely attempt to recapture my life. With my wifeís eager assistance, I cancelled all credit cards, filed the insurance claims, bought a new cell phone, rented a car, went to DMV and got a temporary license and even bought a new wallet at Macyís.
    I was back home by 11:00. It took only three hours to get my life back together, which, if nothing else, shows how I greatly overestimated the complexity of my life.
    Itís just stuff, all ultimately replaceable (except that trusty seven-iron). No one was hurt, but the age of innocence in front of our house is over forever. Thatís the sad part. From now on, to my wifeís delight, Iíll lock the car and bring my keys and wallet inside.
    And Iíll buy another hybrid. Just because the world is filled with a bunch of thieves doesnít mean itís not worth saving.
 

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