Well, despite my telephone calls to the police, more calls to the lost-and-found, and scouring every inch of our car, I've concluded that my camera was lost, not stolen. How do I know?
The first thing is, I'm pretty sure we locked the car on vacation, and there was no sign of forced entry. And nothing else in the car was missing.
But the real reason I think it was lost, not stolen, requires a bit of explanation.
To begin with, we were visiting Cape Cod, Mass., which attracts a reasonably well-heeled, middle-class type of visitor. We spent most of our time in Falmouth, which is among the more upscale towns on the Cape. Are you sensing my prejudice here? White, middle class people don't steal things, do they?
Also, most of the people roaming the Falmouth streets after Labor Day are old enough to have kids in college or beyond. There are a lot of retired people living on Cape Cod. Retired people don't pilfer things out of cars.
But here's what really convinced me. I have just started volunteering at our local community college, as a writing tutor for students who want help on the essays and papers they have to produce for English, history, sociology and any other class requiring written work. When I was applying for the position (yes, there was an application, an interview, and two writing tests) the head of the writing center warned me that the students might not be like the kinds of kids I was used to. They are not the sons and daughters of upper-middle-class professionals, the kids taking AP courses and aiming for law school, grad school or med school.
According to the university website almost 50% of students "claim minority status," which is the highest percentage of minority students of any college in the New York state system. And the writing coordinator told me that for some of the kids English is neither the first language they learned, nor the language they speak at home.
So I went to my first session on Thursday. I was heading off to another appointment later in the day, so I brought along my laptop computer, a small bag of clothes, my cellphone and a few other things that were all tossed into the backseat. The parking lot was pretty full, but I also saw a city bus pull up and drop off a group of kids, about half males and half females, all of them nonwhite.
I found a parking space. I slipped on a sports jacket. I locked the car. And I walked off to the library where I would start my new "job."
I reported for duty at the writing center, and found the whole experience very interesting -- a topic for another blog post -- and then finally, three hours later, I walked back across campus, past a gaggle of kids waiting for a bus, and found my car. I pressed the button on my key to unlock the doors. I slipped into the driver's seat. And that's when I noticed that the window on the front passenger's side of the car was wide open!
I turned quickly to check my backseat. The pile of stuff was still lying there, untouched. My cellphone was propped up against a bag. My laptop computer sat on top, just the way I'd left it.
Obviously, when I'd parked my car, I'd buzzed the window down, instead of up. And so, despite having left my car wide open, with laptop in full view, at the multicultural community college, full of a diverse group of kids in their late teens and 20s, nothing had been touched. So how could my camera have been stolen out of a locked car in tony Falmouth, Mass.?