My Twenty First Birthday

Becoming a legal adult is supposed to be a fun and exciting time. It’s amazing to think of all the changes that occur once you turn twenty one. You’re allowed to legally drink, your car insurance goes down (albeit a very small amount), and being carded no longer evokes feelings of anger. I expected a lot of these things to happen to me, and when they did, I wasn’t surprised. There was one tiny thing that happened to me that made my eyes shoot out of their sockets. I walked out of work the night before my birthday, and to my dismay, I discovered that my 1998 Dodge Stratus had been stolen!

Shocked, upset, and gasping for breath, I started laughing. I couldn’t believe it; my car was gone, nowhere in sight. I said to myself, “I know I parked it right here.” I work at WROC-TV 8, and though the neighborhood isn’t bad, it deteriorates quite rapidly three or four blocks away from the station. There are two parking lots at channel 8. The parking lot in the back is usually lit with bright overhead lights, but on this night the lights were not working. Recognizing this when I got to work, I parked my car closer to the building where there was some light. I locked my door as I always do and went into work at 7:15pm. At 12:02am I walked out of work exhausted and hungry; I headed over to where I parked my car earlier that evening. Noticing that it wasn’t there, I slowly turned around and scanned the back parking lot thinking I had parked in the back. “No,” I thought to myself, “I am 100% sure I didn’t park in the back. Where in the bloody hell is my car?” Not knowing whether to cry or scream, I started to laugh. I inspected the ground to see if there was any broken glass scattered about. I didn’t see any glass; so, I immediately thought I had left my door unlocked. I couldn’t be more positive that I had locked my door. I never forget to lock my door. Two years ago I accidentally left one of my doors unlocked, and someone stole all of my college notes, books, book bag, and art supplies out of the back seat of my car. To this very day I always lock my doors. After I calmed down a bit, I went back inside and called the police. They came and took a report, and the officer told me that 4 other Dodge vehicles had been stolen in the past three days around the area. One of the cars was stolen in broad daylight. When he was done asking me questions, Officer Friendly gave me a copy of the report and said someone would contact me if my car was located.

I hitched a ride home from my friend, Mary Beth, that night. When I got into my apartment I wasted no time locking the door. I entered my room, fell backward on my bed, and began to cry. “Why is this happening to me?”, I thought. I popped two extra strength Tylenol and cried myself to sleep. Morning arrived way too early. The bright warm rays of the sun struck my face like a warm blanket gently covering me. I rolled out of bed; shortly thereafter the phone rang. Anxious to hear any news about my car I lunged for the handset and very excitedly said, “Hello!” It was Mary Beth calling to see how I was doing and to wish me a happy birthday. She told me to keep my chin up and keep a positive attitude. I thanked her for wishing me a happy birthday and for being such a good friend. After talking for a couple minutes I told her I would talk to her later at work. About an hour later I received another phone call. Ah! This was the phone call I had been waiting for. My car had been found at 3:30am in a rather rough section of Rochester. The gentleman I spoke with said I could come down to the city pound and pick it up anytime. Elated, I called Mary Beth and told her the good news. I think she was happier about it than I was!

The impound was only eight to ten miles from my apartment; so, it didn’t take me long to get over there. I must have been driving ninety five miles per hour; I couldn’t wait to get my car back. I started to get nervous as I approached the entrance. Terrible thoughts entered my mind. What if my car was smashed to smithereens? Would all my tires still be there? How would I drive home if my windshield was missing? I tried to put those nasty images aside as I walked into the impound office. I crept up a small flight of stairs, palms sweating and heart racing. It was a cramped lobby containing nothing more than a few chairs, some telephones, and a glass window with a man in uniform hiding behind it. I glanced around the room then approached the window. “Hi. I’m here to pick up my car. It was stolen last evening.”, I said to the gentleman. He looked at me like I was a piece of meat, examining me from head to toe and back again. “Fill this out. Sign here, here, and here. I’ll need two forms of identification, your social security card, and your police report.”, the man rattled off like guns firing in rapid succession. I turned over all of the necessary paper work; consequently, as a reward, he gave me directions to where I could find my car. Finally, after going through all this rigamarole I was going to get my car back.

I followed the instructions on the piece of scrap paper that was given to me. The junkyard contained so many twists and turns it reminded me of a pretzel. I managed to find my car after a few minutes of seemingly driving in circles. When I stopped the car and shut off the engine I swear I could hear the sound of my heart beating deep in my chest. In between a totaled Cavalier and a rusted out old pickup truck was my purple Stratus. Amazingly the car was fine; so, I thought. The driver’s side of the car was perfectly all right, but my heart sank when I saw the other side of the car. Both doors on the passenger side were completely annihilated; I couldn’t even open them, they were smashed so badly. The front wheel was now residing under the car, but none of the windows were broken. I opened the driver side door and sat down, pulled my hair back, and let out a frustrated sigh. All of my CD’s were stolen, and left behind by the perpetrator was a pair of sunglasses, a black ski hat, a snack cake wrapper, and a bullet. I called AAA and had them tow the car to a local garage.

With my car in the shop for the next four weeks, I had to find some way of getting to and from work. I rented the cheapest car possible since my insurance only paid for part of the cost of rentals. I ended up with what I think is a go-cart on steroids, a Chevy Cavalier. Even though the world was crumbling before my eyes, I remembered what Mary Beth said to me, “Try to keep a positive attitude.” I wasn’t about to let this minor setback affect my birthday, a time of jubilee. Mary Beth had made plans to take me out for dinner and a movie. We had so much fun, and I totally forgot about my car being stolen and all the trouble associated with it. Just spending a couple hours with her put my mind at ease. We ate at a quaint little restaurant in Henrietta. The food was absolutely fantastic, it really hit the spot. After dinner we saw “The Green Mile”, an incredible film; I would recommend it to anyone. When the night started to wind down I started to become sad again. Reality set in, and I could feel salty tears beginning to form near the corners of my eyes. Mary Beth looked at me and said, “Don’t cry. Everything is going to work out; you’ll see. In a couple weeks, you’ll have your car back and everything will be as it was.” She was right, she usually is.

Four weeks later my car was completely restored. I felt like a huge burden had been lifted off my chest. I no longer had to drive the go-cart; so, I promptly returned the little bugger. For many reasons, I will have long lasting memories of my twenty first birthday. Sure, I’ll always remember the feelings I had walking out of work and discovering that I had become a victim of car theft. More importantly though, I’ll never forget the advise Mary Beth gave me, “Keep a positive attitude.” Now, whenever I’m presented with a stressful or upsetting situation, I just try to maintain a positive outlook. Life is too short to waste time dwelling on the negative side of things.

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