My Life of Crime

So there was this time I stole a car. I’m not proud of it. But now that there’s not much in the garden to write about and I’ve covered our summer vacation, it may be time to come clean.


The date was March 17th, 1998. I can remember exactly because it was the day our current U.S. Representative (Jan Schakowsky) first won the Congressional Democratic primary. I was volunteering for Jan, working out of the polling place at St. Margaret Mary’s on Chase Avenue in Chicago. I had parked my own car at the church lot.

In those days our family car was a maroon Plymouth Voyager – a minivan. Our kids were young, and it seemed like every family with little kids at the time had a minivan. I was kind of proud of it, like it was an official certificate of maturity.

It must have been about 9 pm when we finished up at the polling place and it was time to go home. Out in the parking lot, it was pretty dark. I inserted my car key into the door of a maroon Plymouth Voyager. The door opened.

Then I put the key in the ignition. The key turned, the engine started. There was one little problem: it wasn’t my car. You may have heard of instances where car keys open doors to the wrong car. It happens. But car keys are not supposed to turn the ignition of the wrong car. And yet, it happened.

auto theft

And so I drove off in someone else’s maroon Plymouth Voyager, not realizing that I was committing Grand Theft Auto. Unintentionally.

Now, if I had been more alert, I may have realized that something was wrong. For example, I might have thought more about how come all of a sudden there were fuzzy dice hanging from the rear view mirror.

Anyhow, on the way home I stopped on Devon Avenue (pronounced, in Chicago, de-VON) to have a late dinner at one of the Indian restaurants. But when I was finished, I couldn’t find my car out on the street. Actually, I walked past the car I had driven several times, but in the street light I could tell right away that it wasn’t MY car. It never occurred to me that I had driven a car that wasn’t my own.

steal car

So I strode back and forth on Devon Avenue, increasingly frantic, until the awful thought hit me: SOMEONE HAS STOLEN MY CAR.

So I called 911 and reported the theft. Let’s just say that the authorities did an excellent job of not succumbing to panic. They took my details and said they would get back to me. Or not.

In the meantime, the actual owner of the car I had stolen (let’s call him Tony) had gone through a similar experience in the parking lot of St. Margaret Mary’s, and he had reported HIS car stolen. For the next several days Tony’s car sat on Devon Avenue, collecting parking tickets.

Finally, someone reported Tony’s car as abandoned, and he was reunited with it, fuzzy dice and all. In fact, Tony had left a substantial quantity of cash in the car, and was relieved and surprised to find it still there.

minivan 3

Shortly afterwards, a friend told Tony that his missing car was in the St. Margaret Mary’s parking lot. No, said Tony, it was found on Devon Avenue. But he went to the church parking lot, which resulted in a call to the police reporting MY car as abandoned.

Then the light went on in Tony’s head. Shortly afterward, I got a call from the police telling me to get my car at the church parking lot.

I learned two main lessons from this experience. First, do not ignore the mysterious appearance of fuzzy dice in your car. And second, stealing cars may look glamorous in the movies and video games, but the reality is likely to be disappointing.

63 Comments on “My Life of Crime”

  1. Hahaha!! This is hilarious!! And so completely, totally plausible.

    I once walked up to my car outside the Credit Union and opened the door to find a strange man sitting in my drivers seat. Many thoughts, some of them panicky ones, flooded through my head. The stranger calmly said “I don’t think so”. That’s when I realized what I’d done.

    It was daylight, mid morning, and I hadn’t worked all day volunteering and I STILL went to the wrong car- I have no excuses!

    Thanks for a good laugh and for sharing this.

  2. OH MY! OH MY! That is the advantage of driving the only cars of their kind in town. (I drove the last 1976 F250, the last 1979 Electra and the last 1970 Dart in Los Gatos.) However, while sorting through the mail that I picked up at the Post Office in the Taurus, the rear right door opened up and a mother ushered her son into the back seat. He buckled himself in before looking at me looking quizzically at him, and instinctively yelled! His mother already had the front right door opened and was ushering her daughter in when she saw me too. Both of them yelled. She grabbed both kids and ran off screaming that someone of undesirable ethnicity was stealing her car. She didn’t get far. She noticed her car as she ran past it.

  3. I know it wasn’t funny at the time, but it makes for a funny story now. I had a Honda Odyssey van when our grands were young, and I loved that car. I ‘might’ have noticed the fuzzy dice and the money because neither could be found in my car. We just got two different vehicles this year, and I’m always looking around trying to remember what I drove. I think I definitely need to pay closer attention after reading this. 🙂

  4. That’s a great story! My husband had a similar experience (with a gray Honda), but realized that the car he was sitting in was, indeed, not his own.

    I grew up in Corpus Christi, Texas on a street named ‘Devon’ which we pronounced exactly like your ‘Devon’!

    • Well, in that case it should be spelled de Von or De Von! How is anyone supposed to know you pronounce it “wrong!”
      I moved from CA where a street spelled “Division” would be pronounced like it was Spanish. Now there’s a nearby town with a street spelled that way, and I get laughed at for not saying it like the opposite of multiplication!
      Of course, pronunciations change. Anyone remember when VW bugs were “folks faugens” and not “volks wagons?” I say it the old way and no one knows what I mean. Of course, I pronounce the l in almond!

  5. Thank you for sharing that great story! When my oldest was little we got a new to us car, and when I picked him up from some class or other I walked up to a white four door sedan and open the back door for him to get in. Then I stopped. Didn’t our car have blue seats? I shut the door, and hoped no one had seen me open the wrong car! It wasn’t even the same kind, it was much newer!
    I like your thinking about delving into other things now that the gardens are soggy and boring. I started another blog to review books! Plenty of time to read about now.

  6. Oh wow, what an experience! I had not idea either that keys sometimes work in the ignition of another car (or even in the door!). I’m glad everyone got their cars back in time. I remember those days when minivans were the rage, and we had a similar one…although I think I would have noticed the fuzzy dice. 😉

  7. Great post! I have gotten into cars that looked like mine before. One time I got inside and someone I didn’t know was sitting in the passenger seat. We both had a good laugh. My own Ford Explorer was right next to it. In a small town no one hardly locks their car doors. Thanks for sharing!

  8. I came back to read everyone’s funny stories, and realized I had one, not really quite as funny, to tell of my own. I drive my husband everywhere because of his bad eyesight, and in our region of the country the Prius Hybrid (what I drive) is a very popular model. Many, many times while on the street, or even while my husband has been in the car, or sometimes when I have driven up somewhere to pick him up, I have been approached by strangers trying to get into the back seat, thinking I am their Uber. I’ve considered putting a sign on the car saying “I Am Not Your Uber.” One time as my husband got out of the front seat, a guy tried to get in the back, and at my husband’s strange look he said, “Is this my Uber?” And my husband said, “No, mate, that’s my wife.”

  9. This is too funny. Could this happen now?? I sure hope not. I have almost gotten into a strange car. More times than I like to admit I have walked up to a red car that isn’t even the same model as ours. Geez… Shouldn’t be let out without supervision.

  10. GTA 4… I had some difficulties in trying to imagine you roaring around Liberty City. 🙂
    What a fun story. I don’t have similar experiences but that’s only because I drive very seldom.
    Thank you for your comment. Our Eurasian red squirrel has a grey winter coat with noticeably large ear-tufts. Squirrels try to raid the bird-feeders but are very cute nevertheless.
    Today I start visiting blogs and wishing Merry Christmas… but I’ll try to visit you again before the festivities.
    Have a lovely week!

  11. Too funny! The same thing happened to a friend of mine, back in the late 70’s when it seemed like everyone owned a white Impala. I believe “Larry” was sitting in a bar on Main Street of a small town in the Midwest and lent his car to a friend who got into the wrong Impala and drove off. Later, the rightful owner walked into the bar complaining his car had been stolen. Fortunately, all was resolved without involving the police.

  12. Oh I love it. Fuzzy dice and all. What are the odds? I don’t think it could happen these days, which is almost too bad. I mean, I just had to go through authentication to get into my WordPress account so I could read and comment on your post. Then there’s tamper-proof packaging… Thanks for the chuckles. I second the motion for a movie.

  13. Too, too funny! I laughed so hard! 😀 I’ve ALMOST gotten into the wrong car before but that’s as far as I’ve gone. My mom has talked about the time when her key unlocked her friend’s car. She didn’t drive off with it but she did think it was a little scary that a key will work on more than one vehicle!!

  14. We have a word over here for you behaviour DOZY. I can just imagine it to be the kind of thing I would do myself. I have a friend who most definitely would be capable of it. He recently sat down on the backseat of his car – and he was the driver! (He is not a gardener and would never read this exposure)

  15. Great, you had me laughing out loud there. George Clooney hey? But, it’s so easy to do, I’ve often tried to break into the wrong car. Mind you furry dice would be a bit of a give away. I’m surprised you didn’t notice the furry dice.

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