Targeted: How I Handled a Carjacking
I thought I was all right after my car got stolen. But anxiety, vulnerability and insecurity all snuck in
I needed to run into Target for eyedrops and maybe a cute top. In three days I would be heading off to London, to see the Green Bay Packers play the New York Giants in Tottenham Hotspur Stadium. Not only had I secured a ticket to the game, I was going alone.
It was a nice, warm, sunny day — a perfect day for people who prefer that kind of weather. Personally, I prefer dreary, rainy, cold days, i.e. London weather. One more thing to look forward to. I parked the car in a space that wasn’t close to the door, something I always did to get my steps in, even though I had just come from the gym.
I was preoccupied, thinking of all those last-minute things I needed to do, when I heard footsteps coming up fast from behind. I moved slightly to get out of the way, because whomever it was had to get someplace in a hurry, and who was I to impede their forward progress? I didn’t expect to be grabbed and pulled backwards from behind.
My first thought was this was someone I knew trying to surprise me. Well, I didn’t appreciate it. “Hey!” I said.
Hands and arms were all over me. Tugging. Pulling. Groping.
“HEY!” I yelled.
It was 9:30 in the morning.
There were two of them. One kept pulling on the key fob to my car that was attached by a cheap metal ring to the carabiner of other keys I held in my hand. He kept pulling while his partner held me. The metal ring bent and the fob came off. That’s when I saw the gun.
This is not good.
His face was covered by a gaiter. He wore a hoodie.
So this is how it ends? In a Target parking lot? I just had a grandchild! Damn! This is what I get for bragging about my trip. Of course I’m going to get shot. Right in the gut. Messy.
The only thing I could see, besides the gun pointed at my gut, were his eyes. They did not look like the eyes of a cold-blooded killer. He was young. A kid. To me, his eyes said, “Lady, don’t make me shoot you.”
My police officer father always told me that if (when) I was assaulted, I wasn’t supposed to yell “Help!” but I was supposed to yell what was happening. I did exactly what Dad had taught me.
“THEY’RE STEALING MY CAR!” I yelled.
“OVER THERE!” I yelled.
“THEY’VE GOT A GUN!” I yelled.
Passersby were as shocked as I had been. They looked in the direction I was pointing and didn’t know what to do.
I repeated my litany three times before I was escorted into the store by a burly security person, who led me to the security office. Police were called. Inane questions were asked. “Did you give them permission to take your car?”
“That would be a ‘no.’” I said.
“Were you afraid for your life?”
“Check my underpants,” I said. “That would be a ‘yes.’”
The police told me the perps target elderly women. “Excuse me?! I am not elderly. My 93-year-old father is elderly. Sixty-eight is young-elderly. I’m yelderly?”
I was asked to give a description of the vehicle. The car was a Toyota Rav4 Plug in Hybrid, not exactly the kind of car someone would want to steal. It wasn’t sexy. We waited over a year to get it. Every time I drove it, I felt smug. I’d pull up next to a gas guzzler and give them a I’m-not-the-problem-you-are kind of look. Now it was gone.
Were they driving it to Chicago to be sold on some kind of plug-in hybrid black market? I pictured the two perps, laughing as they went for a joy ride at my expense, and that’s when I remembered the app!
I had downloaded it at the dealer, while we waited for the paperwork. I could lock the doors. See how much charge was left on the battery. I could even track where it was! I pointed to the blue dot on my phone. Showed it to the cops.
The blue dot was on the freeway heading north. I kept receiving warnings about a malfunction of the cruise control, sharp cornering, rapid breaking, acceleration. And then, the blue dot stopped moving. No indications that it had been in a crash. It was parked at an address and was recovered by the police.
It was a crime scene. DNA was gathered. The inside of the car had been covered with graphite powder to lift fingerprints. Damage to the car was minimal. Damage to me was also minimal — I wasn’t shot, kicked, or punched, so in the scheme of things, I was lucky.
I went to London as planned. I got myself from point A to B. I rode The Tube. I walked everywhere. Westminster Cathedral did not disappoint. The game didn’t have the outcome I would have liked, but I met all kinds of Packer fans from all over the world. How cool was that? Very.
When I got back and word got out about the carjacking, I was surprised at the amount of empathy friends showed me. They asked if I was okay. They gave me names of therapists if I needed to talk with a professional. I said I was fine. I went to London! I even went back to Target!
I attributed my problems sleeping to jet lag. My husband told me that I woke him up, screaming. He snores. I said we were even.
It was the feeling of vulnerability that I couldn’t shake. I had all these ‘what if’ thoughts racing around inside my head. What if the kid would have shot me? What if I had parked closer to the door? What if next time I’m not so lucky? Does luck have anything to do with anything? Or is everything random? And if it is, then, any day could be the day.
I told myself that I was being a wimp about it. That nothing happened to me. I thought about other women who have been through worse things — they’re the ones who get to feel these feelings of losing one’s footing, not being certain of anything anymore. Not me. I felt like I shouldn’t need to talk to a therapist, but there was the sleeping problem and the screaming problem and the anxiety, so…
She agreed to meet with me via Zoom. I described my ordeal. She said vulnerability, insecurity, and anxiety were all legit. I told her about my London excursion and how I was able to walk anywhere in the city without these feelings, and when she asked me why I was able to do that, I thought about it and then it hit me. “There’s no guns.”
We talked for an hour and that was all I needed. She gave me some tips and wished me well.
The car was at the dealer for over two months due to supply chain issues. I was prepared to feel strange getting back behind the wheel, but so far, all good. I do think about those two kids. The DA isn’t going to press charges. Since they’re juveniles, it’s within my right to sue their parents, but what good would that do? I think about those kids, especially the one with the gun. Why isn’t he in school? What’s going to happen to him, not as far as the justice system goes but, society? What’s wrong with us?
I am more aware of my surroundings now. I park closer to the doors when I go to Target. I keep my keys and my phone in a pocket. I called Target’s corporate HQ and told them what happened and how the security cameras had failed, me, anyway. I would have thought they’d have given me a gift card, or at least comped the eyedrops! They have installed better security cameras that cover the parking lot, so at least something good came out of it.