What Happens After You Get a Car STOLEN on Vacation

The light peeks through the gap in the drapes, just enough to get my brain spinning. What city am I in and where am I driving to next, are the usual thoughts in the morning when I’m out on the road.

But then it hits me hard, our SUV was stolen from the old port area ofMontreal, Canada, last night. The carful of kids can’t drive on to the next stop on our three-week road trip from central Texas to Cape Breton, Nova Scotia, Canada, without a car.

I’m up now, no coffee needed–time to regroup. I told myself not to make any hasty decisions last night. But it’s morning and I have to figure this out; three kids will wake up soon and I need some answers for them.

I turn over in bed and grab my iPhone, my remaining lifeline. I vaguely remember remotely deleting my MacBook and iPad late, last night–all my professional work, my life. Here’s to hoping that back-up is safe and sound back in Texas.

Time to check the messages and email. My husband has been busy overnight and he’s on it. Great.

Next problem–clothes. I tiptoe around the room to see what we have left. The girls are good but the boys lost their suitcase, all that’s left is the dirty stuff in the laundry bag.

If I let them, they would wear dirty clothes for the next two weeks; I grab their bag and head to laundry room. Loading the machine, I see I’ll have to replace some stuff before we leave Montreal. Time to start a list.

Back in the room, the kids roll over and Melissa is up. I motion to the bathroom, needing Melissa to join me for a conference.

Me: “Ok, here’s what I’ve got. Spencer got us a rental car reservation with a mid-morning pick-up. I need to stop by the police department to get a copy of the report for the insurance claim he placed overnight, plus I have to report that his passport was stolen and that’s a big deal.”

Melissa: “OK, so what are we doing? Should I look for some flights home?”

Me: “Not for us, we can’t get on a plane with the kids. They only have passport cards.”

Melissa: “Aren’t we suppose to check-out this morning?”

Me: “Let me go downstairs and get a late check-out. That will give us some time to regroup. I’ll take a cab to pick-up the rental car and stop by the police station. Hopefully I can get all that done before noon or so.”

Melissa: “OK, what about the kids?”

Me: “Can you stay with them for the morning, hang out at the pool while I deal with all of this?”

Melissa: “Are you sure you don’t want me to come along?”

Me: “Nope, I think it’s best for the kids to have some fun at the pool. Forget about last night and look forward.”

Melissa: “What about our reservation at the park? Do you think we’re going to make it? All the camping stuff was stolen right?”

Me: “We still have our sleeping bags and air mattresses. The camp site is equipped so we just have to replace our food, cooler and a lantern. Let’s see how the morning goes, maybe we can get there by late afternoon.”

Melissa: “OK, sounds good. Breakfast?”

The kids are already chatting when Melissa and I get out of the bathroom. Time to talk.

Me: “Dad’s got us a car; what do you guys want to do, we could head back to the US or continue on to the national park for camping?

Boys: “We’re going to get our car back. Can you get us some guns and hand grenades?”

I spend a minute listening to the boys relay their plan. This is a real-life adventure complete with bad guys. After a talk, the carful of kids decide to continue on with our trip. We have too, we won’t let the bad guys win.

After a little research, I find a police station within walking distance of the rental car agency. The front desk calls a cab and I’m on my way.

On my way into Downtown Montreal, I see a Target. I make a mental note of its location for later.

Time to call Spencer.

Me: “Hey, I’m headed to get the car. What’s up?”

Spencer: “Trying to get another passport on the fly.”

Me: “You can get one, if you can work the system and prove need. I knew flight attendants that replaced them in 24-hours but it requires a trip to the passport office and all of your documentation in order, plus new pictures. The closest one is in Houston or Dallas. I think you need to open withMy family has been a victim of international crime.”

Spencer: “I pulled out my old one last night and I talked with a couple of buddies that gave me some advice. Can you fax a copy of the police report when you get it? I’ll add it the file. How’s everyone holding up?”

Me: “Great, we talked and we are moving forward; we’ll be in Maine tomorrow to pick you up. Keep me posted on the passport, I don’t even want to think what we are going to do if you don’t get a new one.”

Spencer: “Yea, I’m trying. Waiting for the passport offices to open so I can talk to an actual person. I got a toothbrush and boxers in my computer bag. I’m hoping to hop a flight later this afternoon if I can get an appointment for tomorrow morning.”

Me: “Good Luck, I’ll call you later.”

At the rental car agency, I tell the agent my tale of woe. It seems they have lost rental cars at the port area, too. Great, good-to-know.

I get into my new KIA and look at the dashboard and see it’s in KPH. This should be interesting; next stop, the Montreal Police.

I stand in line and see that there’s a female officer, here’s to hoping she takes care of me.

Officer: “Suivant.” (Next.)

Me: “Je m’appelle Catherine Parker et je habite au Texas. Ma voiture a été vole la nuit dernière.” (My name is Catherine Parker and I live in Texas. My car was stolen last night.)

Officer: “I know English, I went to university. I heard your story this morning when I started my shift.” The French accent prevails.

Me: “Great, I am here for a copy of the police report.”Good to know the carful of kids made an impression.

Officer: “Number?”

I hand her the card that the officers gave me last night with the number hand-written on it.

Officer: “It is not in the system. You will have to wait until the reporting officers finish the report.”

Me: “And when will that be?”

Officer: “After they report for duty.”

She goes on to explain, the finished report will not be ready for 14 to 21 days after the initial report is filed and I will have to request a copy in writing along with a check for $15, Canadian.

Me: “I need to add some additional items also.”

I am trying my best to be polite. I hand her the list that we compiled over the last few hours.

Officer: “Who is Spencer Ford?”

Me: “He is my husband.”

Officer: “Where is he?”

Me: “He is in Texas.”

Officer: “Why did you have his passport?”

Me: “He thought he might forget it so he gave it to me for safe keeping. I’m meeting him in Maine tomorrow night.”

Officer: “He’s an adult, right?”

I used to like a French accent before they stole my car and insinuated inferiority with every statement.

Me: “Yes, he’s an adult.” Obviously, this officer is not married with three kids.

Officer: “He needs to keep his own passport if he’s an adult. I can’t make a stolen passport report unless that person is here to make the claim themselves. You don’t even have the same last name.”

Me: “I see, what if it was for my children? Would you accept my claim then, they have a different last name?”

Officer: “Yes, of course.”

I take a deep breath and explain that my husband has put a stolen passport claim into the passport office back in the United States already and they have flagged it as stolen. I just needed to follow up and put it on the police report. It seems the US doesn’t have the same issue.

Me: “I will work with my government and their passport agency. Can you just add it to the report along with the other stuff?”

Officer: “We like Americans, we have a special relationship.” She hands me a printout of what she has on file.

You can steal our car but you can't steal my smile.
You can steal our car but you can’t steal my smile.

I feel realspecialright now as I grab the paperwork and head for the door. I hop into my rental SUV and make my way back to the hotel across the St. Lawrence River. It might be a while before I want to come back to Montreal again.

When I arrive at the hotel I find Melissa has loaded all of our stuff on a valet cart and they are sitting in the lobby, dressed ready to go.

WOW,that’s a friend.

I fax what I have in lieu of a police report to my husband’s office. Everyone pitches in and gets the rental loaded. It’s just a bit after noon and with a quick run through Target, I think the carful of kids can make it toLa Mauricie National Parkby the late afternoon.

Hotdogs for dinner and muffins for breakfast; new jeans, new underwear and a couple of shorts for the boys; new water shoes for all and of course, marshmallows. I stuff the receipts into an envelope from the hotel labeled THEFT/INSURANCE.

Before heading out of Montreal’s cell phone range, I call my husband. After a quick update, we merge onto Autoroute 40 and head north out of Montreal.

La Mauricie National Parkis in the Laurentian Mountains in between Montreal and Quebec City and is two hours away. I have reserved anoTENTikfor the night, part A-frame, part platform tent.

I unload the rental, Melissa fires up the grill and the kids find wild strawberries.

There is a wildflower meadow right next to our campsite. I take a deep breath and enjoy the moment, I have earned it.

As I walk over to Melissa, I look over my shoulder to see if the kids are busy.

Me: “Hey, Spencer is on his way to New Orleans to try to get a new passport but that storm we have been watching, it’s strengthening and threatening to shut down the East Coast now.”

Melissa: “Geez.”

Catherine Parker has a passion for travel and seen all 50 U.S. States. As a former flight attendant with one of the largest airlines, there isn't a North American airport that she hasn't landed in at least once. Since clipping her professional wings after 9/11, she combines her love of the open road with visiting architectural and cultural icons. She is based out of Central Texas dividing her time between writing and restoring a pair of 100-year-old houses. She shares her life with her three kids and her husband.

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