. . . a continuation from previously, when I entered our secure garage to find my car gone . . .
There was an awful blank moment when the enormity of the empty space hit me like a train. Where was the bloody car? Being big on personal responsibility my first reaction was ‘where the heck have I put it?’
According to my family anytime they can’t find anything it’s because I’ve moved it.
I stood dazed, wanting to laugh. How could I forget where I’d put a car. Had I parked it at the front of the building? Had I sleep-walked during the night? What the . . . I decided to check out other options as if the disappearance of a hulking heap of metal were no more than a mislaid set of keys.
Going back to the elevator I met Kees coming the other way. I obviously looked distracted as he gave me his concerned look.
“Kees, I think I’ve lost my car!” His concern turned to panic. We went up in the elevator, checked the front of our building and returned to the garage together.
On seeing the empty space where a vehicle should have been he went into overdrive. He headed off to check the CCTV cameras with me in hot pursuit, explaining in pidgin Dutch it had been there yesterday around 5.00pm and no, I hadn’t been out since. Had I?
We sat in his office fast forwarding the security footage from the previous day, following the jerky hurried comings and goings of my neighbours. While it was playing the cold realisation started to take hold that this was not a mental blip on my part, or a prank by one of our offspring.
As the footage rolled the day moved into evening and the lights in the garages dimmed, activated by motion sensors after dark. At 11.30 the lights whooshed on and there, as if from nowhere, were three men. Not furtive, adrenaline fuelled or criminal looking, just casual and laid back as if they had every right to be there. In silence we watched them amble up the garages. Within ten minutes my car was driven out of the building, the men inside, right past the CCTV camera – a perfect head shot of all three.
Stunned doesn’t cover it. I’d stopped laughing by this stage; here was the proof it was nothing to do with me. My heart sank because you know how much hassle this is going to be. Leaving Kees to phone the police I headed home to pick up the paperwork to take to the local constabulary. Except some of it was missing, left in my vehicle after I’d taken the originals to the garage a few weeks back. Don’t say anything.
My car had been there only a few weeks before for it’s APK, (equivalent to an MOT in England and in the USA it would be a comprehensive Brake Tag including emissions checks etc). We’d had four new tyres fitted and a complete valet service.
I phoned my Dutch friend and colleague Regina to cancel our meeting and she advised me not to expect the police to do much. She was outraged that my car was the one that had been taken.
‘”Of all the cars they could have stolen in your garages they steal an old one!”
I hadn’t thought beyond phoning our insurance broker to ask what I was supposed to do. Unable to contact them by phone I sent an email with the subject line ‘Help – stolen vehicle!’ I figured that would grab their attention. I also assumed that wherever you were in the world the first thing any insurance company would want would be a police report.
I’ve had some serious dealings with insurance companies, mere mention of them can induce a stomach churning need to vomit. Never mention ‘Katrina’ and ‘Allstate’ in the same sentence.
Our local police station is well known to me having visited it twice in the past year to report bikes stolen from Harry. We won’t go there right now. Nor are police stations a complete novelty having raised three exuberant teens. It was quite nice to be greeted, by name, by the same policewoman I’d seen previously. There’s something to be said for living in a small town.
On this occasion Kees had insisted on driving me there and dealing with the paperwork, he’d even come equipped with his CCTV footage on a memory stick. He was taking the whole situation very personally. I was fading fast trying to concentrate on heavily accented Dutch with vocabulary definitely not included in my Dutch classes. In between flashing what paperwork I had to the policewoman, the insurance broker was phoning giving updates on what I needed to do, what we were covered for.
It took an hour and a half to complete the paperwork with people waiting behind us and only the one officer on the desk. I was not popular. Well, no surprises there.
Returning home and downing a medicinal brandy (come on give me a break) I made a call to Franck. No, the Captains car would not be ready for at least five days. They’d still not located the tracker then. I explained my predicament, sought his help and the knight in shinning armour that he is, sighed heavily and told me a car would be available for my use that afternoon.
There is definitely a benefit to having my name on the registration documents of both our vehicles. It gives me real credibility in the world of car dealerships and repair shops. I am treated with a respect and deference not experienced elsewhere. I sometimes wonder if they think the Captain is a kept man, that he’s married to an independently wealthy woman.
The reality is, my name is on the documents because there was only me in the country to sign the papers at the time of purchase. And a good thing too, as I was now the responsible party who had to deal with this mess.
Regina offered to drive me to the garage to collect the car in the hope we could still manage an hour or two of work later in the aftrenoon. By now she was convinced it was an inside job at the garage. I tried not to think about that, I wanted to be sick. A personal aspect was creeping in and I didn’t like it.
It was a long and tiring day. Things like this happen regularly when the Captain goes out of town, I think it amuses the Gods to keep me on my toes. So my car is gone. The consensus is it was stolen to order, although Regina is not convinced. She still thinks it’s a garage scam. Sorry Francke.
The neighbours are in shock and have upped security. It appears the thieves, or thugs as I prefer to call them, broke into our garages through a locked fire door which has now been ‘sorted out’.
I’m a great believer in silver linings. Our neighbours are taking the time to talk to me, are solicitous and kind. It’s very disconcerting, rather like finding yourself in a parallel universe. I’m driving a basic Jeep reminding me how much I love vehicles with solid knobs and switches instead of fancy electrics which are always going wrong.
Most of all I’m relieved the Captain’s car was not in the garage that night; they would have taken it. He’s left it unlocked the past few weeks because of the problem with the alarm. And with no tracker and no security certificate the insurance wouldn’t have paid out. Trust me, I’ve had some experience.
The biggest hurdle of all is still to come, meeting with the insurance agent. He’s called, set up an appointment and I have no idea what to expect, how things will go. And we have a language issue. I missed the Dutch class dealing with deductibles and ‘like for like’ policies.
It’ll be an interesting meeting. Will let you know how it goes.