One morning earlier this month I opened my front door, ready to jump into my Honda Civic and head for work.
I was struck by a startling realization: The car was not there, by the curb under the tree, where I had parked it the night before.
Could this be a senior moment? After all, I am 67 years old. Could I have absent-mindedly parked it somewhere else?
I had to get to work, so I didn't have much time to think about my missing car.
I took my wife's car, and thoughts continued to churn in my currently calm, but potentially frantic, brain.
After a few minutes of driving, I finally concluded there was no other explanation: My car was gone.
It had been stolen.
Once I moved from denial to realization, I knew had to call the police. I explained to the Los Banos Police Department dispatcher that my problem wasn't an emergency, but I did need to give an immediate alert. I said quite simply, "My car has been stolen."
The dispatcher was calm and efficient. She asked for all the pertinent information: name, address, make and model of car, license plate number. Then she said, in passing, "I think we know where your car is."
I wondered if I were dreaming. First, my car was gone, and then the Los Banos police knew where my car was even before I had reported it stolen?
I asked the dispatcher, "Did I hear you say you may know where my car is?"
She asked me to hold a minute while she talked with one of the police officers.
"Yes," she said, "we believe we know where you car is, but I'll let the officer who will be handling this case tell you more when he comes to your home."
Since my work that morning was teaching a class at the Los Banos college campus, and since the class doesn't go on without me, I would need my wife, Sandy, to meet with the officer when he came to our home.
I had just enough time to double back to the house, talk with Sandy, and still not be late for work.
I casually said to her, "I think our Honda has been stolen."
Her response was something like "What?!" Then I explained an officer would be calling her, coming to the house and taking a report.
I also said, "I think the police already know where the car is."
Her response was something like "What?!"
While I was teaching, a friendly and efficient officer came to the Spevak home and took all the information he needed from Sandy.
Then he told her the Honda was parked on a street about a mile from the Spevak home. He gave her the address and said that she could pick it up any time, since the police had finished a fingerprint dusting of the car.
Sandy asked her friend Vickie to drive her to the Honda. She found it was not damaged, but the glove box and storage compartment between the seats were open, and their contents scattered on the front passenger seat and floor.
Even the bag of candy I had in the car since Halloween had been opened and the small pieces of candy scattered about. Nothing seemed to be missing except the spare car key I had hidden in the bottom of the glove box.
Sandy drove the car back to our home, and Vickie took her out for coffee. After class, around 11:30 a.m., I drove back to the house in Sandy's car and checked out the Honda. Except for fingerprint dusting on both front doors, there were no signs of disturbance. Nothing was dented or broken.
Inside the car, there was no damage but a big mess. Anyone who has ever ridden in my Honda would not be surprised that it was messy, but now it was extremely messy.
Amazingly, I had the car back within four hours of realizing it had been stolen. I was grateful to the Los Banos Police Department dispatcher and officers for their almost miraculous efficiency.
How had they been able to do this? And what should I learn from this experience? The answers will come in a future column.
Comments on the writings of John Spevak, an Enterprise columnist for 29 years, are encouraged, and can be sent via email to
Comments on the writings of John Spevak, an Enterprise columnist for 29 years, are encouraged, and can be sent via email to email@example.com.