It’s taken me several days to be able to write about what happened in Houston. But the more I think and talk about it the more I realize that I do have to tell the full story so all can understand what really evolved.
On Thursday, July 14th I made the long drive from Natchez, MS to Houston, TX. I was originally supposed to meet up with a girlfriend who is currently living there. But due to a death in the family she wasn’t going to be in town. I didn’t really have any major interest in seeing Houston and visiting her had been my main reason for going. However I was also enroute to Austin so I had to stop somewhere in Texas! I had absolutely no interest in going to Dallas so I decided to just use the Houston stop over as a ‘me’ day…which translates to a spa/maintenance day. So I got another priceline room reserved at the Marriott and headed out.
I don’t know why but Ms. Garmin took me on every stupid 2-lane, windy county road thru Louisiana and Texas. And of course I ended up behind every logging truck out there. You know what there is to see through LA and TX…??? Absolutely nothing. It was beyond boring!!! And there was 6 hours of it!
I finally arrived in Houston just in time for rush hour traffic. Yay! Just what I wanted. I had done a little research on the town to find out what there was to do, neighborhoods that might interest me and other tid bits. From what I read Montrose was my kind of place so I headed over there for some dinner. Even though Houston, like much of the Southeast, had been going through some severe heat waves that evening was actually quite pleasant as there was a hint of rain in the air. So after dinner I decided that since I had been cooped up in the car all day I didn’t really want to go straight back to the hotel. So instead I decided to go to a nearby park for an evening walk. NO. It wasn’t Memorial Park as many people have asked me. It was Tinsely Ellis Park just off of Allen Pkwy. for those familiar with the neighborhood. There were loads of people out running, biking, walking their dogs and other normal park activities. The park really was quite large with a small canal or lake in the middle of it. As I was power walking my way around I looked up and noticed there was a rainbow arching right over the skyline. It really was quite beautiful. The air felt really pleasant with random sprinkles flirting that it may, or may not rain. I saw several photography students out with their tripods taking pictures of the skyline and I wondered if they had caught that amazing rainbow. As I walked the opposite side of the loop I looked over and saw my car and inspected it. At first it looked to me like someone was looking inside of my car. But then i realized it was just the garbage can beside it. However it was starting to get dark so I picked up the pace feeling a sudden desire to be back inside my car.
The loop never seemed to end and I finally made my way back to where the car was parked. Many of the cars that had been there when I arrived were gone, but there was still a handful remaining. I can’t quite describe it, but when I was walking up to the car hitting the unlock button I did feel an anxious knot in my stomach. I got in the car and looked to my right. What I saw didn’t quite register with my brain. A giant hole in the window. Glass everywhere. The last time I had a car broken into there was a gaping hole in the dashboard with wires dangling out. But this time everything was still there. I turned again looking at the window and then suddenly looked down in the floorboard….where my purse had been. I looked again at the hole and the glass and suddenly the reality of the situation sank in and the strangest piercing scream came out of my body! Not my mouth…my entire body screamed! The kind of scream you feel come out your head, your eyes, out through your hands and shake through your legs. I started pounding the steering wheel stammering “No no no no no no no no no no no!!!!!!!!!” This was MY roadtrip! The one I’ve been saving and planning for a year. And this was my mother’s brand new car. This was NOT happening!!
All of this probably took place over the span of 30 secs. but it felt like ages. I saw headlights coming in my rear view window and bolted out of the car frantically waving them down. The car pulled over and a window came down. “My car’s just been broken into” I spat out. I don’t quite remember what happened next. I know they pulled over and were instantly on the phone calling the police. I think I paced around the car, still trying to grasp what was happening. I got back in the car trying to take inventory of what happened, and that’s when things got weird for me. I had put my purse in the floorboard, but covered it up with the hand towel down there like I always did for the Garmin. That’s what was weird! The Garmin was still there. My ipod was still there. My camera was still covered up in the seat. The only thing they had taken was my purse. And then I thought what a stupid thing it was that I hadn’t taken my cell phone with me on the walk like I normally would have.
After we called the police I was talking with the couple and realized I should call the bank. Luckily the woman also banked with Chase so she had the number. They were telling me how they often came to this park and had never seen this happen there, but that there were quite a few hobos and it was probably one of them. I had passed one on the way back to my car so I ran after him asking if he had seen anything but of course he was unhelpful. After answering a million security questions from the bank I finally got access to my account. She asked me what the last transaction was and I told her. Then she asked me if I had been at the Exxon, or the Chevron, or another Chevron. Um, NO! These were definitely NOT hobos. The couple and I searched nearby garbage cans thinking they may have dumped the purse. Cos let’s be honest, it’s all the personal stuff in the purse that really sucks to lose. All of my essential oils, my lip glosses. The business card holder that had my name engraved on it, it was a graduation present from dear friends. But more than anything it was the cell phone, with all of my private clients, long time friends & new friends stored inside. And all of those favorite texts I had save, that made my heart melt and put a smile on my face. It was my little day planner with so much information inside. UGH!! All of that! This indeed really sucked!!!
The couple was so sweet. They sat and sat with me and talked and tried to take my mind off things. But how could I? I felt so violated! Someone had broken into ‘my’ car and touched my stuff! And now they were running around town racking up hundreds of dollars at gas stations on my card. UGH! My brand new driver’s license that I worked so hard to get. Now once again I didn’t have one. Then I started to worry about the fact that my check book was in there. Or the fact that my hotel room key was in there. Oh god! what if they when back to my room to steal more stuff. But obviously they were lazy thieves or they could have gotten off with much more. As I sat there waiting for the cops I started thinking about how lucky it was that I had taken my passport out of my purse after I got my license. Anyone who knows me knows my p.p. is my most prized possession, with all those stamps and such. And thank goodness this time they didn’t take my camera. In fact my small point and shoot would’ve been in there except I had been taking pictures from the road that day. So at least there was that.
We kept waiting and waiting for over an hour. The woman commented on how the police station was only a few blocks away and how ridiculous it was that there wasn’t even a police car patrolling the park! I felt bad that they were having to wait so long with me and only then started to notice that they had a young child in the back seat and that she was 6 months pregnant. But they assured me that they would just be home watching t.v. That was really sweet. Millasenth (sp?) and Tecumsah. I noted in the back of my head how ironic it seemed that a black man from the south would be named after the General of the Union Army that defeated them, he was just impressed that I was the first person who could actually pronounce it. After nearly an hour and a half and still no police we called once again, told it hadn’t even been dispatched and asked if we could just drive over to the station ourselves. Oh sure they said. Well why didn’t they tell us that sooner we all wondered. They said they would show me the way and I gave them both a huge hug. As we drove out of the park Tecumsah saw more glass and pointed it out to me.
When we got to the police station the whole intake took about 5 minutes. The police officer jotted my information down on a scrap piece of paper! It felt so casual for something that to me was not! But atleast I got my police report for insurance purposes. Or rather I should say, I got a piece of paper with an incident number on it. When we walked back to the car my angels gave me garbage bags to cover up the window with. The drive back to the hotel was awful. Glass kept falling and the sound pierced my heart each time. The air and the sound of the highway being right inside the car with me was awful. When I got back to the hotel I faced yet another challenge. What in the world was I going to do with a car full of stuff with no window! I spoke to the front desk about the situation and they called the security guy who helped me tape the garbage bag over the window and he told me I could leave the car right at the front door entrance so they could keep any eye on it. That was something, but of course I still felt uneasy. The hotel had free wifi in the lobby so I brought my laptop down there to e-mail everyone and keep an eye on the car. Luckily I had taken my lap top out at the hotel right when I got there, so at least I had that. I e-mailed everyone requesting phone numbers and quite frankly a little moral support. I had called my mom twice from Milli’s phone but never been able to get a hold of her. That was my number one concern. Then I was anxiously thinking about all the other things I had to take care of in the morning. The security guard told me there was a Chase bank only 2 blocks away that I could go to. And that cell phones and these things can be replaced. I knew he was right. I was ok. The car was basically ok. That’s when I remembered the spare key my mom had given me and thought ‘WOW!’ I’m really glad I didn’t keep that key in my purse!!! Yup, if I came back to find the car gone that most definitely would have been the end of the roadtrip! One more thing to be thankful for. I stayed downstairs until 2 AM and then decided that I really should try to get atleast some sleep. I slept with the lights on and ended up going downstairs to check on the car atleast 2 more times. And finally at 7 AM I got up to face the challenges of the day.
First thing I had to take care of was the phone. We got it turned off and ordered a new one. Luckily I am visiting several good friends on this trip so I had addresses for things to be shipped. “How would you like to pay for this?” she asked me. Well um, all my stuff was stolen and I no longer have any cards. Can’t you just charge it to my account? After talking with her supervisor she said they could since it was an ‘extenuating’ circumstance! Well I should say so. I had to wait until 9:00 to go to the bank and I was there at 8:55. I walked into Judith’s office mainly because my car was parked right behind her and I could keep an eye on my window. But honestly I believe there was some divine guidance because she turned out to be an absolute angel! She had only been living in Houston for a month and told me she didn’t see herself living there long because of these sort of things. She completely understood how I felt and printed out all my recent transactions so we could go thru it together. She closed down my old account and opened a new one. She made copies of my police report, She helped me fill out all of the credit bureau fraud reports. She let me use the phone to make calls. And on and on and on. “I want to make this as easy as possible for you” she told me. Honestly, after going through a traumatic and violating experience, she was exactly what I needed. She spent over an hour and a half with me getting all the in’s and out’s taken care of so that atleast I had peace of mind that my money and credit would be protected. I will be forever grateful for her kindness and helpfulness.
After I finished up at the bank it was time to get the window replaced. While sitting with the couple the night before I had asked them if they knew of a glass repair shop and in fact they had and gave me the name and address. Luckily it wasn’t far and a guy at the bank had told me that that was the area to go to to get a good deal. I drove up to Juan’s Autoglass and explained my situation and he said ‘no problem’. An hour and a half later I had a new passenger’s window and it only cost $75!! I couldn’t get over the price, or the quickness of it. They had vacuumed up most of the glass, though I think I’ll be finding pieces for quite a while, but atleast it no longer had that fresh crime feel to it.
I stopped by the bank one last time to thank Judith once again and let her know I got my window fixed….and that I would never come back to Houston again! I was on the road to Galveston to meet up with some long time friends and extremely grateful for it.
As awful as the situation was, it could have been SO much worse!!! And I met some incredibly kind and helpful people along the way. Let’s hope that’s as bad as it gets!!