"Jesus is Coming - Look Busy"

-bumper sticker October 2004

    Is that what everyone is doing these days, looking busy, not paying attention to the simple necessities of a society, like basic civility?  Sure seems so.  It's been an interesting month or so in my house.

    A while back I arrived to work and discovered a couple frantic voicemails from my wife.  "Did you for some reason take the Saturn to work, because it wasn't out front of the house where I left it. I think it was stolen."  Since I either ride bike or take the bus to work, I knew she was right.  I went home, called the police, and filed a report.  My feeling was that the car would turn up.  Even though it was my first stolen car, I was hardly affected.  In fact, I was much more disturbed when I had a bike stolen years ago, a bike I had owned for years, a bike that I rode on many winter mornings delivering papers to the townsfolk of Amery, Wisconsin.  But this crappy car that gave us periodic trouble and leaked when it rained, well, good riddance!   (We had comprehensive insurance on it.  If not, I would have been much more perturbed).

    It was with some relief, though, that the phone rang at 6:00 am the morning after we reported the car missing.  "Mr. Osborn?  We've found your car.  It's in the Minneapolis impound lot and you can go to pick it up.  It's reported as slightly damaged and we don't know if it is drivable or not."  Looks like the thieves simply needed a way to get to Minneapolis from St. Paul.  So on a fine Saturday morning we drove to the Minneapolis impound lot, passing people on their way to the local farmer's market.  Some good citizens were going to a farmer's market; we were somberly heading to retrieve our stolen car -- two different objectives on a clear, beautiful weekend morning.

    Once escorted by van to our car, we took our first glance. Seemed ok.  No broken windows or new body damage.  I opened the door and it started beeping as if the keys were in the ignition.  The ignition switch was in the forward position.  I put the keys in and pulled it back - beeping stopped.  The steering column had not been messed with.  The car started fine and I backed it up to make sure it still drove.  We decided to try driving it home.  In the end we learned that the car basically suffered no damage whatsoever.  In fact, the thieves even spruced it up a little.  They tilted the seats back so they were nice and comfortable.  They took an unopened air freshener out of the glove box and hung it on the rearview mirror.  They programmed a radio station to 96.3.  They were even kind enough to leave some pop sitting in a Taco Bell cup in the cup holder.

    They also left something else, probably unintentionally-- a Roseville area Middle School folder with a kids named typed right on it(!)  Some significant evidence you would think, right?  Well, not significant enough for the St. Paul police to lose it after we brought it to them in an envelope labeled with our name, phone number, claim number, and relevant details about the case.  So, we were out $133 to retrieve our car from the lot, and slightly more disillusioned about the neighborhood in which we live.

    Thankfully the kindness of my neighbor across the alley went a long ways to restoring my faith in humanity... (eyes rolling).  The story goes like this. My friend Mike was over to help construct some shelves in our garage.  We were using a saw and generating a pile of sawdust.  Coincidentally she spotted a pile of sawdust accumulating on an old rug (presumably hers) off the corner of her driveway.  "Why are you putting your sawdust on my property," she asked.  We're not, I explained, although I admitted it looked like we might have been.  I told her, look, out of all the people on this block, I am perhaps one of the least likely to do something like that.  You don't know me, so why are you assuming I would do that?  "I know I don't know you, but I know that you did it," even though she was only then arriving home from work.   Mike tried to defend me and I kept trying to defend myself, but it was all for naught.

    She backed her car into her spot and went inside.  Later that day her neighbor came into his backyard.  I had talked to him in the past so I asked him if he knew anything about the mystery sawdust.  "Oh that? That's me.  Yeah I put that there.  I was cutting some wood back in the corner of my yard and it must have gotten there."  Allow me to translate:  he dumped the sawdust over the fence onto the neighbor lady's rotting rug.  Oi vey.  The next time I saw Mad Lady I mentioned this.  "Oh him? I can believe that. He's always putting stuff back in that corner."   #$%?!   If he is always doing that, why did you immediately suspect me?!  At any rate, things have been slightly smoothed over between us and neighborly life goes on.  Good fences make good neighbors indeed.

    To those stories I could add ones like a bus rider calling the bus driver "racist" because he had the audacity to demand full payment from the rider instead of allowing the rider to get on with the change he has, or the story about a guy flipping me off when I'm riding my bike simply because he had to wait for me to pass when I had the right of way, but, I won't.  It's a busy, busy world, and with the 2004 Presidential election less than a week away, a lot of us have our heads spinning with all that is going on.

    It's enough to make a guy pour himself a couple glasses of crafted homebrew, stretch out on the couch, and watch the miracle boys Boston Red Sox win the World Series.

    Serenity now!