Me: “Hey kids, Mom’s tired. Can we check out the fireworks from across the river, closer to the hotel?”
Melissa: “Great idea, my feet hurt. Let’s head to the car.”
The carful of kids lumber across the parking lot from the Canada Day street festival (the birthday of Canada) in the old port area of Montreal. Revelers fill the streets, enjoying street food and listening to one of several bands; everyone is flapping their little Canadian flags. They wait for the climax of the evening, the fireworks over the St. Lawrence River.
Me: “I think it was here.”
Melissa: “I don’t know, I can’t remember.”
The carful of kids walk around the parking lot for the second time.
Me: “Yes, it was; I remember, we parked in front of that grassy section, right there.”
Melissa: “Yep, I’m remembering that, too. Where is it then?”
The carful of kids, still in denial, stand in the middle of the parking lot looking in all directions for their 2012 white RAV4, with all-wheel drive. Melissa spots something in the distance.
Melissa: “Hey, there’s our roof carrier, did the wind blow it off?”
Me: “Ugh.” Denial fading.
Melissa runs to the black, soft-sided roof carrier laying on the ground. She picks it up. The kids follow, still confused.
Melissa: “Look, your passports!” She looks side-to-side to see if the perpetrators are still lurking in the background.
Fade to every poorly-written spy thriller I’ve ever seen.
Me: “#^*%, stay with the kids! I saw the police at the entrance to the parking lot. I’m going to get them!” I run off leaving my best friend of 30 years to deal with my confused kids.
Previously on the Carful of Kids blog–a mom, three kids, aged 6, 9, 11 and one best friend and traveling companion were on a 7,000 mile road trip from Central Texas to Cape Breton, Nova Scotia, Canada. We had driven up through Memphis, Virginia, Pennsylvania and Vermont before crossing the Canadian Border into Montreal.
Earlier in the day, we toured the BioDome, Insectarium and the Montreal Botanical Garden; we drove down to the old port area of Montreal to eat some crepes and to enjoy the fireworks over the St. Lawrence River.
My mind zooms past light speed as I race to the only entrance of the well-lit, security guard-paroled, paid parking lot that I chose for those reasons just hours before.I grab my phone and dial. <Step 1>
Husband: “Hello?” Hissing in the background, the sound of dog’s claws scratching the wood floor is unmistakable. A large thud.
Me: “Hey, our car just got jacked.”
Husband: “What? I can’t hear you. I’m moving the office chair. The cat and dog are at each other again.”
Me: “Are you listening? I don’t have time to explain. Our car has been stolen. We are OK, but I need the VIN number. I don’t have much battery left so text it to me soon as you find it. I’m running to find the police.”
I hang up before he can say what?again. I see a man in a uniform. I run to him.
Me: “I need the police, I need to report a stolen car.”
Man: “Pardon?” (all dialogue should be read in the best Pepe Le Pew accent you can muster)
Kids: “Where’s our car?”
Melissa: “I think it might be gone.”
Kids: “Who took it and when is it coming back?”
Melissa: “I don’t know. But your mom is looking for the police and your parents have lots of insurance.”
Son #1: “What about my skateboard? My surfing magazines?”
Melissa: “Might be gone.”
Daughter: “My Harry Potter’s, I have five in the car.”
Melissa: “Good Heavens, five? I’m sure your parents will replace them.”
Kids in Unison: “Our iPods!”
Melissa: “Ok, what else was in the car?” Digging out an old envelope from her purse to write on, she realizes her iPhone is gone too.
Me: “J’ai besoin de la police.” (I need the police)
Man: “Ah,” the man points to another man in a golf cart. “Sécurité.” (Oh, Security.)
This guy is not the Police but the uniformed officers I just saw minutes before when we walked past them on our way to the parking lot have moved on.<Step 2>
Me: “Ma voiture est allé.” (My car is gone.)
Security Officer: “Pardon?” (No translation needed. But add morePepe Le Pew)
Me: “Ma voiture a été…comment dites-vous…Stolen! (My car has been…how do you say…Stolen!)
Security Officer: “Ah…your car?”
Me: “C’est une 2012 White Toyota RAV 4 avec Texas Plates.”
Security Officer: “Ah…White Toyota? All-wheel Drive?” (more French accent)
Me: “Oui, j’ai besoin de la police. Aurez-vous les appeler?” (Yes, I need the Police. Will you call them?)
Security Officer: “Oui, bien sûr. Où avez-vous garez?” (Yes, of course. Where did you park?)
Me: “Huh? Je parle un peu français.” ( I speak a little French.)
Security Officer: “Pardon, you speak well. Did you study aboard?”
Me: “Non, j’ai étudié le français au Texas. Oùsont la Police?” (No, I studied French in Texas. But where are the police?)
Security Officer: “D’accord, Oui, show me where you left your car?” (OK, Yes, show…)
The wind whips through my hair as the security officer drives as fast as his golf cart will allow back to the scene of the crime. The sense of denial has vanished–my SUV and its contents are gone. I will not make it back to my hotel room anytime soon.
I hold onto the roof of the golf cart as the security officer rounds the last corner on our way to the location of the alleged grand theft auto. As we arrive on the scene four faces look into mine, hoping that I have found our SUV and we will be on our way shortly.
I look at Melissa and shake my head in the tiniest of shakes that only a friend of 30 years understands. As I open my mouth to break the news–I hope for the best, but prepare for the worst. Just Rick Perry, the Texas Governor, used to say before every big hurricane. I just don’t know if the kids are going to lose it. This is their first international crime experience while on vacation.
Me: “Hey, guys, it looks like our car got stolen.”
Son #1: “Yea, we thought so.”
Daughter: “Melissa told us.”
Me: “Hum, OK, thanks for being so cool about this.”I tell myself a Good Job Mom, I raising some well-adjusted kids.
I turn to the security officer, who has been inspecting the crime scene.
Security Officer: “So where did you last see your car?”
Me: “Right here, next to the Toyota Sienna–see, it’s still here.”
Security Officer: “Yes, it appears your car is gone. I will call the police and check the security cameras.” (the French accent is really pissing me off now. It seems I have been asking for this for 10 minutes.)
Me: “Ok, and what should we do?”
Security Officer: “Ah, yes, stay here. The police will be here shortly. Make a list of the missing contents.”
The security officer walks back to his souped-up, turbo-charged golf cart and flicks gravel up in our faces as he speeds away. (Think Inspector Gadget)
Me: “OK kids, thanks for taking this so well.”
Son #2: “It’s OK, Mom, it’s just a car. Melissa said you would buy us new iPods.”
Me: “OK, it might be a while.”
The carful of kids sit down on the only thing we have left from our SUV–the black, soft-sided carrier that holds all our sleeping bags. We use it as a bean bag chair in the middle of a random parking lot in Montreal 2,000 miles from home. We itemize our lost contents. The sun sets.
As the golf cart screeches to a stop, we all stand up.
Security Officer: “The police shall be here shortly. It’s a busy night, it’s Canada Day–lots of people.”
Me: “Yes, there are a lot of people walking around. I thought that would’ve prevented my car from being stolen.”
Security Officer: “Ah, Yes…” He looks away.
Me: Is he in on this? I think to myself. Or is it the statuesque blonde at the entrance booth selling parking.
The Montreal Police car drives up with lights on but no siren. I hear Melissa humming The Pink Panther theme song. The officers get out and introduce themselves.
Police Officer #1: “You reported a stolen car?” (Would they quit with the accent.)
Security Officer: “Yes, a white Toyota RAV4, with all-wheel drive.”
Police Officer #2: “Ahhh.” He nods.
All men give each other knowing looks and speak to each other in fast French that I can’t translate.
Police Officer #1: “Does someone else have keys?”
Me: “Yes, my husband.”
Police Officer #2: “Ah, yes. He took the car?”Ready to solve the crime, be the hero.
Me: “No, he’s in Texas.”Sorry Frenchie, I’m a Texan if it was that easy to solve, I would have done it myself. I squint as I keep that comment to myself.
Police Officer #1: “Oh. Did you lock the car?”
Me: “Yes, I locked the car. I tested the doors. I looked around to see if anyone looked suspicious. I felt safe and thought my car would be here when we were finished sightseeing.”<Step 3>
The police officers and the security guard look at each other. Police Officer #1 grabs his report book out of his back pocket and opens it.
Police Officer #1: “Your name?”
I give the police officer all my information.
Police Officer #1: “Do you have anyway to identify your car?”
Me: “Like the VIN number? Do you want the VIN number?”
Police Officer #1: “Yes, do you have that?”
Me: “Yes, my husband texted it to me, from Texas.”
As if on cue, my phone dies as the officer writes down the last digit of my VIN number.
Police Officer #2: “I see you have an iPhone. Is it a 4?”
Me: “No, it’s a 5S.”
Police Officer #2: “Nice.”
Me: “Do you have a charger?” (I might have adopted the French accent.)
Police Officer #2: “No.”
Police Officer #1: “What was stolen besides the SUV?
POP! Bang. The fireworks start. We stop for a moment to enjoy them.
Police Officer #1 to Security Guard: “They are nice this year, no?”
Security Guard: “Yes, very nice.”
Me: “Ok.” Interrupting. “I have a MacBook, 2 ipads, one with the retina display, 2 iPods–32 gig, 2 iPhones 5s, my Canon 60D camera with upgraded lens and external flash, 6 audio books, 2 pieces of luggage with contents and a box of camping equipment.” The police officer stops me, having a hard time writing everything down.
Police Officer #1: “Nice stuff, you do well in Texas.”
Me: “You wrote down Canon camera, I need the model number attached for my insurance.” I tell the Police Officer, who adds it begrudgingly.
Police Officer #2: “Do you have the Find Your iPad app?”
Me: “Yes, but my phone is dead.”
Police Officer #2: “You can use mine, they might still have your iPad on.”
I sign into it but I get the offline message.
POW. Raining Sparkles–my favorite. I look up to enjoy a moment of the show.
Kids: “Oooo, Ahhh.”
Me: “Did you really think they would have left the devices still on?”
Police Officer #1 interrupts: “They were professionals, see.”
We walk over to the alleged parking spot and look on the ground. We see tiny bits of metal, like shrapnel.
Police Officer #1: “They drilled out your lock. See? They are good.”
Police Officer #1: “Your passports, do you still have them?”
Melissa: “Yes, I found them on the ground.”
Police Officer #1: “They were nice, they left your passports.”
Me: “I would’ve appreciated it if they’d left my car.”
A couple of shrugs and a lip curl from the men. I sigh.
Police Officer #1: “I think we have enough. Can you sign this report and I will give you a case number.”
I dig through my purse for my favorite 4-color pen, in the girly colors of pink, lime, turquoise and purple. I ignore the police officer’s offer of his blue Bic. I find it at the bottom, pull it out.
Me: “It’s French.” As I look down at my pen.
The police officer shrugs and puts his pen back in his shirt pocket.
Me: “And my car? Leads?”
Police Officer #2: “Oh, it is gone. Probably on a ship down the St. Lawrence already.”
Police Officer #2: “Yes, they are loaded into a container and put into a cargo ship within a few minutes.”
Me: “Where’s it’s going?”
Police Officer #2: “Africa, probably. They like the white Toyota SUVs with all-wheel drive. Rugged, you know.”
Police Officer #1: “Bonne Chance. Little chance of recovery.” (Good Luck) He shuts his report book and slides it into his back pocket.
Security Officer: “I have the tape pulled if you would like to come to my office?”
Police Officer #1: “Oui, Bien Sûr…” (Yes, of course.) Fast, French talking ensues.
Me: “And me and my three tired kids? Can you give us a lift?”
Police Officer #2: “No, sorry. Too many people. A cab will get you back to your hotel.”
Security Officer: “Yes, I will call a cab. But it will be awhile. There are a lot of people down here. Canada Day, you know.”
Siiiing. Flash. BANG.
I walk back to the black roof carrier, sit down and watch the last of the fireworks with the kids. I consider renaming us the Carless…with Kids.
The fireworks end. People see us. They ask questions. They all seem to know about the car thefts. Some elude to organized crime. Russians, maybe. Son #1 wants to know all we know about hot-wiring. Son #2 falls asleep. I breathe heavy and long for the hotel room.
Then the security guard screeches through his empty lot to inform us, he has secured us a cab. He seems to be amazed by our good luck or impressed by his skill at hailing cabs. I would have been happy if he had done the one thing he is paid to do–KEEP THE CARS FROM GETTING STOLEN. But maybe this is his job security.
When the cab arrives, the cabbie offers us a discounted rate to take us over a bridge I’ve never heard of and back to our hotel but only if I agree on his price before we leave. I kindly tell him Merci but I used to live in NYC and the meter would be fine.
Me: “Et prendre le pont du Jacques-Cartier sur le Boulevard Taschereau, s’il vous plaît.” (And take the Jacques Cartier Bridge to the Taschereau Boulevard, please, n the best French accent that I can muster.)
Cabbie: “Oui, Madame.”
We load the black carrier into the trunk and climb into the cab. Melissa sits in the front seat with the cabbie. I sit with the kids in the back. The traffic has thinned out. The wind whips through the rolled down windows blowing my hair into my eyes. All the kids fall asleep. I look out the window and mumble.
“Montreal, you may have taken my car but you will not take my spirit.” (If I had had a cigarette, I would have lit it.)
I slide the card into the lock and push open the door. The kids flop on the bed while Melissa pushes the valet cart into the room with the black roof carrier. We heave it into a corner of the room like a dead body.
I plug in my phone and wait for a minute. Sure enough, it starts to beep and vibrate. I look at Melissa.
Me: “Well, should I call him?”
Melissa: “You have to.”
I dial his number and my husband answers.
Me: “We are back. We are tired. I want this day to end. And by the way, your passport that you thought you would forget so you sent it with me. Well, it got stolen.”
And that is how you get a car stolen abroad in three easy steps.