Sunday, September 23, 2007

The Drama of Returning from Vacation

It has been a very dramatic week at work since returning from vacation. It started with a phone call at home on my last night of vacation, when I learned that a Manager -- my so-called "business partner" -- had not been to work for several days. I went into work the following morning to discover that another Associate had quit without notice while I was away.

The first day back was hectic, as can be expected. I quickly called several applicants to schedule interviews for the week, and wondered exactly what would happen with my "business partner."

My second day back to work was when the drama really got intense. I had received another call the night before, on my way home from work, to inform me that my "business partner" no longer was. He had been released from employment with the company. His Assistant Manager had worked the past ten days without a day off, and no sign of one in the near future.

As I drove across Indiana on Interstate 70 heading to work, I was making good time, expecting to arrive at work about 15 minutes early. I was toying with the idea of stopping for coffee when brake lights and flashers lit up the highway ahead of me. The rapidly approaching offramp was clogged with stopped traffic, as well. Not knowing the cause of the delay can make choosing a course of action a bit difficult: join the clogged traffic on the offramp, or park myself in the fast lane and wait. I chose the latter, hoping traffic ahead would begin moving soon.

It didn't. No faster than 3 or 4 miles per hour, anyway. I inched my way forward to a break in the guardrail, crossed the median, and headed back a quarter mile to the west-bound offramp. I joined some mildly congested, though moving, traffic on U.S. 39, hoping to detour the highway traffic by heading through Plainfield.

On U.S. 40 in Plainfield, my plans changed again. As I merged in with all of the other motorists who had chosen the same detour, the traffic again became heavily congested and snail-paced. I quickly made a turn onto Indiana 267 and began a second detour toward Avon.

Indiana 267 to U.S. 36 to Interstate 465, and I was back on track. Back on track, but not back on time. Instead of arriving at work 15 minutes early, as I'd anticipated, I was almost 45 minutes late. It turns out that a semi truck and trailer had turned over in the median in I-70, causing the delay.

Not long after arriving at work, I discovered that the store had been the victim of vandalism and theft. There is a secured, gated area next to the building, and there were some cars parked in this area. The gates were locked, and the fence is protected with barbed wire at the top. At some point during the evening, person or persons unknown entered the gated area from the back side of the building, dismantling the fence to gain access by peeling the chain link away from the corner post. The opening was large enough to drive a small vehicle through. This person (or persons) proceeded to the front of the secured area, past several other vehicles, to a Ford Probe parked near the front gate, and proceeded to strip the vehicle of anything of value.

Several things made this interesting, and just a bit suspicious. First, the perpetrator(s) went straight to this one vehicle, and no others were touched, indicating that they (and I'm pretty sure there was more than one) knew exactly what they were after and where to find it. Interesting.

Second, the car was left with no wheels, sitting up on bricks. Bricks that were not readily available in the parking lot. Bricks that the perpetrators brought with them. Interesting because they knew they would need the bricks, meaning they knew they would be taking the tires. Interesting because they chose to use the bricks, not wanting to cause damage to the vehicle. Your average thief would not care about damaging the vehicle and would have just dropped it on the blacktop, resting on the hubs. Who would want to protect the vehicle from damage? Interesting.

Another interesting thing: the driver's door was left standing ajar. But there had been no signs of forced entry. The doors had been locked the night before, but the perpetrators gained access to the vehicle without using force. How could they have done that? Interesting.

But there's more. One of the most interesting parts of the story is the list of what was stolen. Tires and rims, as I've already said. Stereo. Speaker boxes. A performance intake from under the hood! A performance starter! Who would have known to even look under the hood for performance engine parts? Or under the vehicle for a performance starter?!

These were not your common thieves. These were trained mechanics, or people with mechanical skills and experience. People who knew where the vehicle was and what was on it. People who cared about not causing damage to the vehicle after stealing thousands of dollars worth of goods from it. Obviously either (1) people who had a vendetta against the owner of the vehicle, or (2) people who, one of which, was the owner of the vehicle.

It became clear which was the case as the story unfolded. When the owner of the car was contacted and told his car had been burglarized, he responded with a very unenthusiastic "Oh really?" When he arrived to meet the police to file a report for the theft from his vehicle, he was shocked to learn that my company was not responsible for the loss of items from his vehicle while on our lot. And after speaking with the police, they were very certain, as well, that the owner of the vehicle was indeed the perpetrator of the crime. And his status as a student at the local automotive school wrapped up the case nice and tight.

Of course, there was nothing to charge him with. The car was dusted for prints, but it was his car -- his prints would be all over it. And apparently the Indianapolis Metropolitan Police Department didn't feel they had probable cause to visit his home and scout around for the stolen goods.

The drama didn't end there. Oh no. The day was a very hectic day, right up to quitting time, when I walked across the parking lot to my car and saw another of Indy's Finest, inspecting a pickup truck with latex gloves on. Curiosity got the best of me, and I approached the officer to investigate. Every single interior panel had been removed from inside the vehicle and discarded into the bed of the truck. When I inquired about this, the officer told me he believed that someone had been searching the vehicle for hidden drugs. It had been stolen and abandoned in our parking lot. I later learned that the panels had not been removed while searching for drugs, but to allow access of the thief to thousands of dollars in high quality audio equipment that had been installed (and subsequently removed) from the vehicle.

Next day, more drama, starting again with the drive to work. Another commute on I-70, and another delay. This time, apparently, they were repairing the guardrail that had been destroyed by the flipped truck the day before. Traffic kept moving and only delayed me about ten minutes this time. Not much more drama, really, but I stopped for gasoline during lunch, just up the street from my store, and once again, there was Indy's Finest, with a car stopped blocking most of the parking lot of the gas station (two cruisers), cuffing the driver of the car. Don't know what that one was for.

The rest of the week was a bit less dramatic, but no less hectic. Here's hoping for a smoother week starting tomorrow.


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