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Candid Camry

Steal this car—please

THE CAR is an '89 Camry. White. Manual transmission. Odometer: 199,000 miles. A few hubcaps missing. The axles screech if the wheel turns too sharply. The front tire guards are somewhere between attached and not there, dragging on asphalt as the Camry chugs along. Inside, the windows are smeared with the aftereffects of a few years' worth of cigarette smoke. Ash, pistachio shells and empty juice containers can be easily located in most parts of the interior. There's no loose change, save for eight or nine pennies stuck, as if glued on, in dried-up juice on the console. The seats and carpets are stained as a result of various accidents that occurred over the years: Thai food spilled about six years ago in the front seat; a half gallon of milk on the back carpet; cans of soda here and there. The car—not worth the change stuck to it—cost $500 to get smogged.

So imagine Biter's surprise (glee?) when Biter stepped out to go to work one fine morning last week and discovered the Camry missing. After ascertaining that the poor car was not towed, as it has been several times during the course of its unfortunate life, Biter had to swallow the fact that somebody stole the car, that somebody actually wanted the car.

Biter, obviously not in any significant hurry to get the car back, went to work and finally filed a police report that night—18 hours later—after an associate convincingly claimed that any crimes committed in the car could be pinned on Biter if a report wasn't filed. Once the cop got in touch with Biter, Biter quickly learned that an average of 10 cars a day are stolen from San Jose's mean streets. Nationwide, a motor vehicle is stolen every 27 seconds, and according to the National Insurance Crime Bureau, Biter's own 1989 Toyota Camry topped the list as the most-stolen model two years in a row.

A day after the incident, Biter's spouse was already thinking big. A new car? One that started up when needed? One that was clean? But before Biter's family could get too comfortable, the cops called back (at about 2 in the morning). They had found the damn car. Parked the wrong way on a one-way street about two blocks from Biter's house. It was undamaged, except that the CD player, the only dependable instrument in the contraption, was gone. To top it off, it was freshly washed.

As the police officer dusted Biter's Camry for fingerprints, he recommended that Biter invest in a $20 Club steering wheel lock to prevent another theft. Biter, not wanted to invest $20 in the car, responded by saying he read that the Club doesn't work. "Well, not to insult your car," the officer said, "but it'll work on a car like this. If you had a Benz, then the thieves would work around the Club. But not with your car."

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From the October 13-19, 2004 issue of Metro, Silicon Valley's Weekly Newspaper.

Copyright © Metro Publishing Inc. Metroactive is affiliated with the Boulevards Network.

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