Loyal friends o' the blog may recall this post from last November describing how my family's venerable '96 Honda with 206,000 miles on it was taken from in front of my wife's office one afternoon. My jaunty opening to that post was a complaint that my favorite hat had been stolen and, oh, by the way, so had the rest of the car it had been in.
We grieved. Not like you do when something (someone) real has been lost, but like you do when the car you raised your kids in and hoped to maybe hand down to them and never had a chance to say goodbye to has been lost. Insurance declared it "totalled" and paid us off--honestly, more generously than we expected. We bought a new car with high-tech 21st Century features we enjoy. And a few days ago the cops called and told us they'd found and impounded our car.
Never expected that. Old Hondas are chop-shop favorites, and we figured she'd been dissected before we even noticed she was gone. It turns out she probably spent the last couple of months abandoned in the parking lot of a fitness center less than two miles from home. The police told us she looked to be in pretty good shape, "except there's a lot of garbage inside." We assumed that meant totally trashed.
We called the insurance company, which actually owns the car now (and already took possession of the keys), to ask "Now what?" They said they'd truck it to a distant salvage yard. "Fine," we said, "but could we take a look first? Maybe see if there's the slightest chance any of our personal property is still inside?" "Sure, but do it today because we're transporting it tomorrow." Karen and I dashed down to the tow yard with the paperwork proving we used to own the car. The tow yard guy was sympathetic. We didn't have a key but we still had a remote that unlocks the doors. It worked. Score!
All that garbage inside? It was ours, scattered: maps, paper napkins, owner's manual from the glovebox. It's almost a sitcom gag. ("You've been robbed!" "No, it always looks like this.") Except for some damage done as the thief tore through the interior looking for valuables, the car looked good. Real good. If we'd had the keys we could've driven her home. The iPod and GPS were gone, of course, as were Karen's good sunglasses. But everything else--everything--we'd left in the passenger compartment and trunk was still there. All the registration papers I feared someone could use to find my house. The garage door remote I feared they could use to break into it (if I hadn't immediately reprogrammed the opener). And my dorky straw hat.
I think it's possible in these situations to buy your recovered car back from the insurance company, but we never really considered it. It would have cost more than the car was worth. Frankly, just paying the towing company for towing and storage would have cost more than the car was worth. We have a new car, we've moved on. But we got to collect our stuff, bang her on the hood, and tell her thanks and goodbye. That's worth considerable peace of mind.