Archived Story

Straight stick saves the money [UPDATED]

Published 10:06am Wednesday, February 26, 2014 Updated 12:10pm Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Back a lot of years, the oldest of The Young Girls (My three daughters) was ready to learn to drive. I came upon an old Datsun, straight stick, that was well past its “use by” date. I bought it. The local fire department needed a car to check out their new metal cutting tool, so they chopped the roof off of it. I put some hay bales out in the field so The Girls could practice parking.

Not only my three, but some of their friends chugged around out there in the field. So all my kids know how to drive a straight stick.

In planning to leave on an airplane for a week’s trip to Florida a week ago (I’m back, and I’m oh so sorry about that.), I talked to daughter Mary who lives in Minneapolis. About me parking my Focus Hatchback there while gone. Leave her some keys in case it snowed and she had to move it.

So I parked the car in front of her garage, which is on an alley behind her house, put the keys in a zip-lock sandwich bag, threw them behind the driver’s side rear tire, and left for the I’m in Florida at my brother’s place that same night, the phone rings: “Dad, where are the keys to your car?” Then she added: “How come you didn’t leave it locked?” Uh, oh. I did leave the keys, I told her. And I did leave it locked.

“Well, the car is unlocked and the keys are gone,” she said, and then she added: “Were they in a zip-lock sandwich bag, because there’s an empty bag lying beside my garage?” Double uh, oh.

I’m sincerely puzzled at this point. So I said, more or less, let me get this straight. The car is unlocked, someone has the keys, and my car is still there? She said that’s right. Then she said: “What should I do?”

Now, that is truly a good question. Can’t lock it up very well, someone has the keys. So I said: Call the cops, see what they think should be done. She did. The cops, to make a long story short, didn’t care what she did. It’s Minneapolis.

One more stolen car apparently isn’t a big deal. I was disappointed in their apathy, but not surprised. Any town building a billion dollar football stadium in which to play eight games cannot surprise me.

“How about,” my daughter said, “I take the battery out of it?” Huh. Good idea. And that’s what she did. Plus emptied it of my stuff, including the glove box.

Now, she’s getting on an airplane to join us in Florida early the next morning, so the little red stick shift car is going to sit there for four days while she’s gone. Talk about vulnerable. But, I figured, they want to go buy the proprietary battery that fits that model, it’s their car.

Daughter Mary thought about it, and when I saw her in Florida (Yes, you have by now figured out that I could have handed her the keys when I saw her in Florida, right?) she said that some young teenagers have been suspected of stealing cars and driving them several blocks and abandoning them.

That made sense. Here’s how I think it went. Knucklehead Teenager number one says to Knucklehead Teenager number two, “Hey, I think I just saw some guy throw something behind the tire of that little red car. Let’s go see.” K.N. 2 agrees. They go look, and sure enough, some country bumpkin has hidden the keys to that car behind the wheel. They’re juiced. A car. All theirs. Quick joy ride. No sweat.

K.N. 1 unlocks the door, looks inside, says something like: “Oh s…! It’s a straight stick!” Which he doesn’t know how to drive. And neither does K.N. 2.

So they decide to go play computer war games, it’s cold out there. Here’s what they left behind them (besides my car): Two pairs of Thinsulate dress leather gloves, like new. (But I see teenagers waiting for the bus. Gloves? Not cool.)

And what else? Well, a goose down parka. ( Coats are even less cool than gloves.)

But the best part? I had forgotten that I cashed a check the week before, and thrown the money into the glove box .(Which my daughter emptied.) That added up to about four hundred bucks.

All because they didn’t know how to drive a straight stick.

And my next car was going to be an automatic.

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