Mixed Plate
Death of the Surfmobile -- 12/00

My Former Ride

"Where's the Honda?"

That was the perplexing question my wife blasted out at me while I was innocently working at the office. I had just started getting back into the groove of work after my unfortunate Achilles tear when I got this (other) surprise.

The thing is, my Achilles injury has disallowed me from driving my standard stick Honda Civic surfmobile, so I couldn't comprehend why she was asking me this question--I couldn't drive the thing even if I wanted to. Well I was about to find out.

"The car is not in front of the house anymore," she followed.

"Wha?" I said incredulously.

We had just gotten a new car (a yuppie-mobile) and so my Civic was relegated to street parking in front of our house. In the morning, I watered the plants in a drizzle of rain and drove right past where the car should've been. Didn't remember seeing anything out of the ordinary, but then again, my observational skills leave much to be desired.

So I quickly rushed home where the reality of the situation hit home. My car was stolen!

I made the necessary calls to the police and then my insurance company. I even went so far as to call a local radio station, KSSK, who's "posse" of listeners are known for helping track accidents, criminals and stolen vehicles.

The ironic thing was that we were planning to sell the car within a couple months. Although it gave me eight years of fairly maintenance-free service, with 126k miles on the odometer, the car was showing some serious signs of deterioration. But I still loved the car.

In my mind, the car was a perfect surfmobile for me. It had really good mileage--when it was brand new 40 mpg was not unusual. Jaunts to the North Shore swallowed only a couple of gallons of gas. The trunk could easily fit four bodyboards and gear. And if I wanted to ride my tanker, the rear and front passenger seats could be folded down in such a way so that I could transport my 9' 0" safely inside the car.

It got broken into a few times before, but never at the beach. I'd like to think that the Kauai license plates and the "Kauai Boys" and "Viper Surfing Fins" stickers had something to do with that. Sporting the local-kine emblems, brah.

It had a decent stereo--nothing fancy, but enough to psyche me up for a surf session (yes, I used to play some Alice in Chains and Stone Temple Pilots before some largish Backdoor/Pipeline sessions).

Sitting in the car after a sesh was always very comforting, with the car being all toasty and cozy. I used to pause for a minute or two, just absorbing the latent heat while my endorphins kicked in.

There was always a thin layer of sand under the floor mat on the driver's side that was impossible to get rid of. And there was a dank, musty odor of wet upholstery that could not be cleaned away.

The loss of the car was a hard thing to swallow. I knew that even if it were found, it would probably be trashed. However, the worse part about it all was the feeling of insecurity and violation of a burglary right outside our home. I gotta admit that I immediately (impulsively) bought a "Club" antitheft devices for my other cars.

The next day, I got a surprisingly early call from the police. "Sir, we found your vehicle and we would like authorization to impound it." I excitedly called my insurance company to get instructions, gave the police my approval, and then drove down to the tow yard to check out the damage.

Gotta admit I was praying that the car was completely trashed so that the insurance company could declare it totaled and I could get Blue Book value. Before it got stolen, I was *hoping* to get just $2000 for it. Imagine my surprise (disappointment?) when the car looked to be in immaculate condition!

Just before it got stolen my dad had waxed the car (I was a gimp by then) to a surprisingly good finish (probably part of the reason why it was targeted). In the tow yard the car's body looked great, but there were subtle things wrong.

All four tires were taken and replaced with those skinny spares used in case of flats. There did not seem to be any damage from the car thief trying to gain entry (I had Star-locks on the doors), but the locking mechanisms and windows were all weird. The steering column had been ripped open to hotwire the ignition.

Strewn inside the car was trash, dirt and even a half-eaten plate lunch. The car reeked of cigarette smoke and had all sorts of stains on the upholstery (not by me).

But the weirdest thing was in the trunk. There were all sorts of bowling gear and large banners covering the trunk floor. The officer at the scene asked if any of it was mine, but it was not.

This turned out to be a great find. Parked right next to my car in the tow yard was another Civic (93, 4dr) that had also been stolen the same day as mine at the Pearlridge Shopping Center. Apparently, the car thief was the same guy, transferring goods from that car into mine.

The best part was that they caught the guy who stole the other car! He was driving in town when the cops busted him. More likely than not he is the same guy who stole my car. Maybe there is justice in this world.

I riffled through the car for any personal belongings that I could salvage. Got a toddler seat, umbrella and Mexican blanket. The most precious thing I found however was a small studio photo of my daughter at two. Got me all emotional.

All that was left to do was to settle with my insurance company. As much as I loved the car, it was on its last leg and I didn't think fixing it back up was an option.

Fortunately, neither did my claim adjustor! He went out of his way to justify calling the car a total loss (helping it along by intending to sell the remainder for parts). Then he went about finding out what the value of the car was locally.

A little over a week later, I buzzed him and he was ready to settle. I was ready to hem and haw to get what I considered my just return. However, he said he managed to value the car at $4,650! Wow!

Minus the $250 deductible I cleared $4,400! This is the same car that I was expecting to get about $1,500 on the open market for. Didn't even have to go through the painful and messy advertising and selling processes.

My surf wheels is now the family van. It doesn't score very highly on the cool scale, but it works. I'm landlocked for the time being anyway so things are OK.

I now have a much more increased awareness of security for the cars and my home. It was a major bummer and I still feel the loss of an old friend, but looking at the big picture it was sort of a blessing in disguise.

Rest in peace, old steed!

P.S. Afterwards, I talked to someone who talked to a local police officer about the autotheft situation in Hawaii. Because of prison overcrowding, these guys invariably walk. Not unusual to have guys with dozens of arrests but very little jail time to their name. That one cop knew of a guy with over 90 charges of break-ins and stolen vehicles.  Sad.