Gather ’round, boys and girls, for I have a tale to tell.
A saga of loss and redemption. Police and criminals. Confusion and nudity.
This, loyal blog reader, is the story of my last Wednesday.
To fully appreciate this story, a little history is needed to begin. Wednesdays have been rather eventful for me since I’ve relocated to Charlotte. My first Wednesday on the job was July 4th. I had to work a whole two full business days before my first day off. My second Wednesday in Charlotte was full of cake – specifically of the cheese and cup varieties – as our department celebrated the escrow manager’s birthday. A week later, cake was served on my third Wednesday for an hour-long baby shower for the same escrow manager. If something to break up the routine of a regular week was to be had, Wednesday was laying claim to it.
So, looking back, I’m not at all surprised that the events that unfolded last week occurred on Wednesday. Coincidences don’t happen on Wednesdays in Charlotte, North Carolina.
My hotel is right down the road from where I work. It literally takes me one song on the radio or a CD to pull out of the parking lot at the hotel and into a parking space at work. So come 7:50 AM, I strolled out to my truck like it was any other work day. I blindly press the unlock button on my key fob, blindly open the driver’s side door, and blindly set my water bottle in the cup holder. When I leaned over to throw my Clemson portfolio onto the passenger seat, the blinders exploded off my face.
There were neatly folded trash bags and napkins in the front seat. Huh?
The items themselves weren’t unfamiliar, as I like to keep that sort of thing in my truck. It was the location that caught me off guard. I don’t leave things laying out.
I immediately checked the glove box. Empty except for a lonely bottle of Excedrin migraine pills. At least I knew where the napkins and garbage bags came from.
The center console was next. I wasn’t entirely sure if anything was out of place as a pair of gloves, a small first aid kit, my CDs, and a Maglite were all accounted for. And then it hit me.
GPS and iPod. Gone.
I immediately hop out of the truck, completely disoriented. There was no broken glass. I always lock my truck when I get out. Twice actually – once with the automatic locks on the front door and once with the key fob as I’m walking away – all courtesy of being raised in the house of a security-conscious federal agent. No one had access to my keys. I grabbed my things, shut the door, and reached for my phone.
Before hitting send on the call, there it was.
A cracked hole in the plastic where my lock used to be.
The first call was to the still-security-conscious-yet-now-former federal agent. If I hadn’t probably woken him up and I wasn’t amped up on adrenaline and completely out of my element, I’m sure the conversation would have been hilariously awkward. I’m pretty sure my first question was if I should call the cops. Not that I didn’t think they shouldn’t be there… I was more confused as to what number to call since 911 was reserved for emergencies, right? To be honest, I’m not even really sure I remember everything that was said. And since my step dad doesn’t blog, that gem of a conversation is lost forever from the Internet.
Long story short, I wound up calling 911 anyways. And being the cautious first-born-child that I am, my first words were “This isn’t an emergency but…” Information was taken. Officers were informed and on their way.
And now… we wait.
It took almost an hour for an officer to arrive. The wait might have made other people worry. But hectic, chaotic situations seem to have a calming effect on me. I usually hate going shopping. And yet I enjoy Christmas-time crowds. Things slow down. The masses make me pay closer attention. I’m more alert. Which is exactly what happened in that hour in the parking lot.
I called both my boss and the escrow manager to let them know I’d be late. I checked the front desk to make sure they were aware of the situation and to see if anyone else had reported a break-in. I got pictures of my truck. I sent a text with make, model, and license plate numbers of the cars around me so I’d have a record of them somewhere. I stayed busier without the cops there than I did once they actually showed up.
That hour wait was a blessing.
By the time the officer showed up, I was back to my normal self. I wasn’t anxious or disoriented. I wasn’t upset. I had even rationalized having to buy new stuff – the GPS was slowing down when I tried to use it and the iPod was from college graduation in 2005 and the battery barely held a charge anymore. I mean, what guy doesn’t like going to buy new tech toys?
The officer went to work getting the information he needed. He asked if I wanted a crime scene officer to show up for prints. It didn’t matter to me. I was in no rush to get anywhere and told him they were more than welcome if it would help their search or case out. So more waiting for another officer. Once he showed up, he let me know there was a slim chance of pulling a print they could do anything with. But he dusted the trash bags, a warranty, and the side of my door. He got one useable print. And that was probably mine.
By then, another officer had shown up. That made three cop cars in the parking lot which probably made the guests and staff at the hotel comfortable, I’m sure. But everything was wrapping up. My officer gave me the case number and a phone number to call if I had any additional information or stolen items to the list (I’d later realize my registration, insurance cards, and owner’s manual were gone). I graciously thanked him and went to wiping down my truck to get the fingerprint dust off. Just about the time I was finished with that and getting ready to head to work, I hear the officer calling me over in between radio chatter.
“What’s your home address on your GPS?”
Huh? I silently thought if police were able to track GPS based on programmed addresses or signals. I mean… it’d work on Law and Order or CSI, right? The question caught me so off guard I completely went blank as to what the Chapin, SC address was I had in there.
“Uh… It’s in Chapin. I’m trying to remember the street number and name.”
Not my proudest moment.
Turns out, another officer was responding to a call with four males and three stolen cars. One of the cars was full of stuff that appeared to be stolen. The other officer was going through a GPS to check and see if it matched my information. What are the odds of not only retrieving some stolen items but doing it within the hour of police arriving on scene of another incident?
Not very good at all… according to the officer as he drove me (Yup! Got to ride in a police car! Somewhere, the 10 year old version of me is jumping for joy) to the scene across town to ID and collect my things. All before 11 AM.
Time out: I wanted to take a moment to say how absolutely amazing the officer I was working with is. He was incredibly friendly and helpful even before the cops found my things. The fact that he was working the radios hard enough to actually find my stuff and take me there to get it? Above and beyond what I was expecting. I had a great time chatting with him on the ride there and back. It was cool seeing the person behind the badge instead of him just being a cop who showed up and handled the situation. He was excited that he had just been moved to first shift so he could spend time at night with his wife. He was interested in my volunteering for the animal care & control branch of the PD because he had helped a guy adopt a dog from there. He vented about people always being angry, given the number of stares we got driving to the scene, and how it made no sense that people hugged and loved firemen who ruined your house with water damage and busted in your doors and roofs yet had instant animosity towards police as soon as they pull up. It was a great experience and I’ve already obtained the information on where to send him a letter of commendation through the department. I want to help him out as much as he helped me.
The ironic thing about this whole ordeal is that the very next day, I had put in for a half day of personal leave so that I could get my insurance situation handled for my move in date next week. I needed a Charlotte agent and address on all of my policies. So one week before I’m supposed to move in and one day before I’m supposed to get everything in line, of course it all blows up in my face and becomes complicated.
So after parting ways with the officer, I head to a State Farm agent close to my new apartment. I walk in and it’s completely empty. The agent’s out for the day, one girl is brand new and isn’t authorized to make any changes on accounts yet, and the other girl doesn’t know how to transfer policies from one agent to another. She takes my information to pass on to the agent so he can give me a call. I smile, say thanks, and leave knowing I’m not going back. It was the right decision too since the agent waited until Friday to call back. He’s clearly in need of new business.
Again, if something’s going to happen to throw my routine off its tracks, it’s going to happen on a Wednesday.
I found another agent and crossed my fingers for better luck. As if my day weren’t complicated enough already, I had to have several things done: my address changed on my policies from Raleigh to Charlotte, my policies transferred from the Raleigh agent to the Charlotte agent, my new apartment complex added as an interested party on my renter’s insurance, and a new claim to file thanks to the Charlotte criminals. To make it more fun, I had to file my claim through my Raleigh agent, who will then transfer it to the Charlotte agent after all of my policies are moved.
Make it stop!
After all of the running around and chaos, I was still able to grab lunch and make it in to work by 1 PM. Oh yeah… forgot to tell you that I had a huge project that was due Thursday before I left on my half-day off too. No pressure, right?
Work was fairly normal and calm, considering the day’s events. I hung around until close to 7:30 PM trying to catch up and make sure I was good to hand my work off. Figuring the excitement for the day was over, I headed back to the hotel, parked up front by the lobby, and grabbed some dinner. Then I headed outside to make a few phone calls to file my claim, transfer my policies, and check in with my mom and step dad to let them know how everything panned out. I needed the fresh air and to just take the time to kick back outside and relax.
The insurance calls went off without a hitch. Just when I was about to call home, I see this guy flying across the parking lot. Not just casually running. He’s in a full out sprint. And not far behind him, a girl’s following suit. I thought it was just a brother and sister or couple of kids playing and running around the hotel. The guy runs out the entrance and across the street without looking. Bold move, dude. The girl stops running. I assume it was because she took the time to check both ways for traffic.
“Au contraire!” says Wednesday as it rears its unpredictable head again.
She begins walking back towards the hotel. At this point, she’s either laughing or crying. I’m not sure which. She stops under one of the parking lot lights and just loses it. Screaming, yelling, sobbing. It’s so loud, it attracts one of the employees who was in the lobby working the front desk. And then I notice Wednesday’s twist on this situation…
She is completely naked. From head to toe.
Fortunately for her, the employee took off his sweater vest and let her use it to cover up. She would have been out of luck had I needed to lend a hand. I was in total spectator mode after the day I was going through. I just leaned against my truck and took the whole scene in. The employee went towards the street looking for the guy. The hysterical girl took off in the opposite direction, wearing nothing but an Extended Stay America vest. The employee came back empty-handed in the male department. His new problem? He was now empty-handed in the female department as well. At this point, I was on the phone with my mom and step dad providing live commentary. I’m watching employee after employee empty from the lobby to help the search for the girl. Then I hear “Excuse me sir?”
I turn around to see the first employee.
“Have you seen a half naked girl acting crazy run this way?”
It took all I had to give him a serious answer instead of completely losing it in the parking lot, laughing in his face, and adding to an already bizarre scene.
The day began with three cop cars in the parking lot. Somehow fittingly, it ended with two more trying to help find a girl in her birthday suit on the loose. Unlike the ending of my police call, this one left without a nice, tidy ending. The police left. The employees went back to work. The guests retreated back to their rooms.
And with that, I gave a quick tip of my cap to the Wednesday powers that be, acknowledged that it bested me, and called it a night with hopes that Thursday would be a little less adventurous.
Charlotte’s got a lot.
Preferably next time, it will have a little less.