It was a dark and stormy night…oh wait, wrong story. Okay, maybe it was storming a little but it was daytime. It was 1999 and it was the last summer of college. I was taking one class and working at my university’s catering sales office. I was living at my parents’ house and commuting 38 miles each way, but often crashed at a friend’s place, who lived close to campus.
One morning I’d spent the night at the friend’s house but had car problems so I ended up having to walk to work. I had a brick-like cell phone so as I walked, I called the office to tell them I was going to be late, and to get my friend/co-worker Felicia’s sympathy for the long uphill trek. She felt sorry for me and relayed this to my boss Julia who decided to let Felicia leave and pick me up.
You’d have to understand this about where we went to college-the parking situation at the time was terrible for students. There were no parking garages, only massive parking lots on the outskirts of campus, and to get in to the center, you’d wait for a shuttle bus or take roller blades or skateboard to get yourself in. There weren’t assigned lots, just assigned lot types where, as Julia put it, the parking permit was really a hunting license. So if Felicia had a car parked in one of the yellow student lots, it would have taken her a good half hour each way just to commute to her own car.
Instead, Julia tossed her the keys and told her to use her white Dodge parked in the green lot nearby.
A few minutes later, a car that I didn’t recognize pulled up next to me as I walked. Felicia rolled down the window and told me to get in. I was happy to see her but somewhat surprised at the vehicle-an old Dodge hatchback.
“Whose car did you borrow?”, I asked.
“Julia’s! Isn’t she nice, she lent me her car to come get you!”
“Really? Because I thought Julia had a Dodge caravan.” I looked around the interior of this Dodge hatchback with its piles of papers and fast food wrapper. Julia came from a family of interior designers and she did event catering for a living. Her car was kept pretty clean and I couldn’t imagine her wolfing down Big Macs on the way to work.
“Well maybe it’s Karl’s car.” Karl was her teenaged son. His father was a chef. He may have been a secret slob and fast food fan but somehow I didn’t think so. I glanced at the piles of papers on the floor and saw an envelope addressed to the phone company with strange name written on the return address.
“Um, Felicia?” It dawned on both of us at once that we were somehow in a stranger’s car. The key to Julia’s Dodge Caravan somehow fit in this hatchback’s lock. We then attempted to return the hatchback to the green parking lot but by then the space it came from was taken by another car, so Felicia had to park in an adjacent lot.
We ran upstairs to check with Julia, in case this was really her car. She got a very puzzled look on her face and told us that no, she had only the Caravan. We ran back outside to the parking space the hatchback had come from, to find one worried looking grad student and 5 UC policemen scratching their heads.
Felicia meekly approached. “Um, I think I can explain…”
The grad student was so relieved to have her car safely back and the police got a good laugh out of it. But they did tell us that, had they spotted the car in motion, protocol would have been to arrest us at gunpoint and take us directly to Los Calinas Women’s Detention Center.
And that, my friends, is the story of how I almost got arrested for grand theft auto!
Haven’t told that story in a few years but every time I do, other people seem to have stories of keys fitting more than one lock. What’s yours?