The Marine View Driver: More of Wrecking Yards and the 1992 Honda Accord

In which the perps learn to circumvent the limitations of insurance companies.

by Mike Smith

The third time the Honda was stolen was probably the most memorable. (I promise you’ll hear about number two later, once I recall the less-memorable details.) We had swapped cars with a good friend and someone stole it from the street in front of her condo.

Delightfully, when word of the theft was sent out to our circle of devoted friends, we received three loaner cars. One was a brand new Dodge Ram (my favorite). The others were an older but like-new Cadillac, and a Subaru. Since it was spring time, the Subaru was not as necessary, but we drove them all out of respect for their owners… and our own amusement.

CaptureAfter a couple of weeks we started to think that the Honda was a gone-a. And due to theft number two and the resultant repair, our insurance company had washed their hands of us. So our car was officially totaled and we could only put the minimal liability insurance on the car.

Early one Sunday morning I received a phone call from the Federal Way Police department. The call went like this:

Me: Hello? (You’ll recall my clever retorts from previous stories)

FWPD:  Is this Mr. Michael Smith?

Me: Yes. (At this point I thought it was a telemarketer)

FWPD: This is Officer ________ from the Federal Way Police Department. Has the Kent Police called you about your Honda?

Me: No, they usually wait till sunrise to call.

FWPD: (pause) Oh, well… We have found your car. It is at the following address… (the rest is a blur but I got the address to the impound site)

ME: Thank you very much, I’ll check it out. Thanks again. I must say I am surprised, but good work.

FWPD: Thank you Mr. Smith. Any questions, call the Kent Police Department.

ME: Oh, okay… bye.

FWPD: click

Law enforcement efficiency, I reckon.

Having your car stolen as often as we have has a bit of a silver lining. You learn so many interesting things about wrecking yards, towing companies, police officers, and insurance companies. One of the most surprising things I’ve learned is that even a wrecking yard can be portable.

Later that day, when the sun came up, I drove to the appropriate site. You will remember that in my previous story I became suspicious of the detailed knowledge of the wrecking yard regarding car-theft scams? Well, here was a new wrinkle.

You’ve all seen wrecking yards. They are uninviting and dirty. They usually have a cheap but opaque fence of some kind so as to prevent eye soreness. But since they are private businesses, they have a sign or some identifying spray-painted words on a rotting hulk of a car at the front of the business.

I drove to the appropriate address. Well, I actually drove past it several times. I grew up driving up and down Pac Highway all my life, so I was familiar with the road; but I drove past the establishment because it was unlike any wrecking yard I had seen in my growing experience. There was no sign, no spray-painted letters, no obvious business entity in sight. On my third pass I noticed a temporary fence with a portable trailer outhouse way off the road. The fence was chain linked, so I could see my car in the corral.

It was a ramshackle temporary fence planted in cinder blocks in a poorly-executed semblance to a square.  I drove up to the cardboard sign that said “offis.” The offis was a microscopic trailer that looked every bit like it was also impounded; but it was a convenient and fitting HQ for the enterprise.  I walked up to the window and said I was there to retrieve my car “by the power vested in me from the Federal Way Police Department”–thought that might help.

I divined that I was to wait a moment by a bloodshot look from The Face in the Window. He had to finish something on his computer. I could see what it was. He was in the middle of a poker hand.

He shared this tiny space with a woman I had to assume was his wife. Now, I have a personal life-creed which comes as a result of experience, good will and, well, good sportsmanship. That creed is: “There is no such thing as an ugly woman.”  Notice I quote me on that.

That Sunday morning, I confirmed that there is an exception to every maxim. I will let things go at that. As my mother said, if you can’t say anything nice…

Okay, I can’t let things go at that. (Sorry, Mom!) After all, this is a true-life experience that I relate.

The Face’s partner in slime resembled a pumpkin in both shape and garb. Standing up, she would represent the letter “A.” The tiny office was challenged by her size and she sort of oozed out of the reception window. She smoked a good deal, obviously ate to excess–especially Cheetos–and wore an orange-stained T-shirt with a long-ago faded logo. She also had a tattoo on her belly that I could see through the stained and worn tee. I think it was a unicorn. But there was room to tattoo the entire My Little Pony catalogue.  Despite her unpleasant shape, she played the vixen by not wearing any undergarments. I’ve seen a lot in my day, but never so much at once.

She liked sports I think. Like The Face, she played internet poker, except without ceasing. She only glanced at me, and I guessed she was an unsuccessful player because she would interrupt herself with scatological speech that resembled hiccups in their urgency, but with way more than four letters.

The Face was equally blimpish, and it was he who ultimately spoke to me.

12649486963_c688600489_zAfter some mimeographed paperwork, I was allowed access to my car. I was surprised to find it intact. That was a good thing because as you know, we were on our own to repair it. When I opened the door I noticed the headlight switch was on. The battery was dead. Mr. Face was on the spot with a jumper and battery and the car started right up. We let it run awhile and everything seemed okay.

I noticed the radio was missing from the dashboard but everything else appeared okay; in fact, more than okay.

The car had been repainted. A few small dents had been pounded out. The only thing really missing was the Honda emblem on the front and rear. They’d been obviously removed for painting.

The Face held open the gate for me–more like held up the fence–so I could drive out. It was a warm day in the early spring, so I opened the windows to let some air in. As I drove the car down the road it began to get much cooler than could possibly result from simply opening the windows.

After a few blocks, it got downright cold.

Hey, I thought to myself, these crooks fixed my air conditioner! The A/C had quit working the prior fall, and we had not been able to afford to fix it.

I called the police in Federal Way to thank them and got an idea of the story. It seems my car had been stolen and slated to become the boss’s car. They had performed some body work and comfort-system repairs. One more day in the chop-shop, and I might have actually gotten a pretty sweet sound system out of the deal!

We were enchanted that we got the car back once again, and in better shape than the thieves had found it. We never replaced the radio but rejoiced in the gift we’d received from yet another group of “professional” car thieves.

So there I was, in a car that did not exist in the minds of the insurance company, and yet managed free repairs. Another fine mess we got out of!



2 Responses to “The Marine View Driver: More of Wrecking Yards and the 1992 Honda Accord”
  1. BirchCreek says:

    So were you able to get it insured again?

    • Michael Smith says:

      All we could do was get liability. We were on the hook if anything happened. All the more remarkable that the car was repaired rather than damaged.

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