The Glass (or Mini-Van) is Half-Full (of Trash)

The exciting conclusion to the Saga of The Missing Minivan!!

On a cold, overcast sunday in early January, I get home from work and am looking forward to an afternoon of pricing new minivans (Salsa Red Pearl, Rear Seat Entertainment Center, 38,400 MSRP!)  when the phone rings.

Danny: Hello?

Phone guy: -unintelligible-

Danny: Okay. Just so you know, she doesn’t want to change the phone service. Somebody called about that yesterday and she got really mad.

Phone guy: -unintelligible, yet indignant-

Danny: Well…okay. Here she is.

Me: Hello?

Officer Smith: Hello ma’am. I’m calling from the Arlington County police department to tell you we recovered your car.


Officer Smith: Hello?

Me: Uhh…that’s….great. What condition is it in?

Officer Smith: I have no idea. It’s at an impound lot in PG County. It was found abandoned in an industrial park in District Heights, Maryland.

Me: Do I have to pick it up?

Officer Smith: Excuse me?

Me: Uh….I mean, do I have to pick it up now? I just put my slippers on.

Officer Smith: No ma’am…you have to bring proof of ownership to the PG county police station and get a release form. Then, you bring that to the impound lot and get your car.

Me: That sounds like a fun way to spend the afternoon.

Officer Smith: Ma’am, you want your car back, don’t you?

At this point, there is a long pause. I think about the gleaming, pearly salsa-red lines of a new minivan as I float down I-495, listening to my favorite Pandora station as the children quietly bask in their own individual rear-seat entertainment cocoons. The bisque leather interior and floor mats are spotless, the windows are clean and free of impound lot stickers and the sun is shining.

Me: (Heavy sigh). I guess so.

And that is how I end up spending my 40th birthday- not throwing back margaritas with girlfriends and dancing to Pink (OK, that wasn’t going to happen anyway, but a girl can dream) -but on a 7-hour-long Minivan Recovery Quest that takes me across state lines into the heart of PG county and back again,

I begin my JRR Tolkien-style journey at home, where I leave my house in Arlington provisioned with a bottle of water, a credit card, and my heavy traveling gloves. I walk to the Falls Church metro station, where I wait for 20 freezing minutes in the Great Wind Tunnel to be whisked away into the subterranean heart of Washington DC. After navigating the labyrinthine bowels of Metro Center, I disembark at majestic Union Station and again brave the frigid temperatures in a brutal 4 minute walk to the Dirksen Building where I meet my traveling companion, Eric “Aragorn” Bader. We complete the next leg of the journey by Jeep, crossing into Mary-land and arriving at JD Towing in the waning hours of the afternoon.  As we approach our van, we are filled with trepidation: The remnants of a smoke-filled, fast-food fueled night of crime, violence and mayhem surely await us. We shudder to think of the congealed cheese, mummified french fries, drug paraphernalia, and bloodstains that surely mar the formerly pristine interior.  What unspeakable horrors (or acts of passion?) have been committed in our fold-down third row seat?

As we approach the van, we cheer to find it unscathed-from the outside. Then we open the door.

Trash litters the car from one end to the other. Random objects, such as articles of clothing (is that underwear?!!!) are scattered over the upholstery and the floor mats. The smell, a combination of feet, dog sweat, and decomposing food, is overpowering.

My partner and I high-five each other in the time-honored gesture of victory.

“Just the way we left it!” We crow to each other. Right down to the rotting banana in the backseat cupholder.  I am giddy with relief and a smug sense of satisfaction. I KNEW It. I knew  that fundamentally, people don’t suck. I KNEW that Arlington car thieves would be polite and respectful of the property they stole. I am almost surprised not to find a thank you note on the dashboard:

Dear Car Owner, 

Thank you for the use of your van. It is a sweet ride. We figured since you left the keys in the glove box that you wouldn’t mind if we took it for a spin. Sorry for the inconvenience.” 


Car Thieves

The gas tank may be empty, but my heart is full. Who knows why the car thieves were so polite? Maybe they had an attack of conscience. Maybe they figured the van had seen enough abuse. But for whatever reason, they left the registration in the glove box, a $200 pair of sunglasses on the seat, and the car keys on the console.

The sun grows low on the horizon over gutted car skeletons and barbed wire, as we race to the county police station to get the form to release our van. One hour and twenty minutes later, we arrive back at the impound lot with just 15 minutes to spare before the office and gates are locked for the night. At 4:27 PM on January 8th, a mere six hours before the anniversary of the hour of my birth, we make our triumphant departure from JR Towing.

As I crawl through rush hour traffic back through DC and into VA, I reacquaint myself with my second home. The coffee stain on the floor mat. The gum wrappers forever trapped between the drivers seat and the console. Maybe it’s just the seat warmer, but I feel a toasty sense of well being come over me as I relax into the familiar surroundings.  On the minus side, there are the hundreds of dollars of recovery fees,  the inconvenience of not having a second car for 8 days, and the possibility that our van was used to transport a dead body. But, on the plus side, we got the van back with all of our belongings intact. They also left the bass turned all the way up and the radio tuned to 93.9, a radio station which plays DC’s Best Mix of sR&B and Hip-Hop. Thanks for broadening our musical horizon, courteous urban felons! And so, as the quote goes,

Alls well that ends well: still the fine’s the crown;Whate’er the course, the end is the renown.” –

While it’s possible that William Shakespeare never owned a minivan, he certainly understood this basic truth: “If your minivan gets jacked, and you get it back unharmed, you should crank that shit up and dance in the drivers’ seat all the way home.”  

And, much to my children’s chagrin, I do.


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Currently residing in Sandwich, Massachusetts, Kristi is an aspiring writer and mother who spends most of her time ferrying her children to various sports practices and doctor appointments. She also substitute teaches and reads romantic fantasies by the bushel.

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