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Who to Call When You Lose Your Car and How to Avoid Trouble that Might Lead to 17 Phone Calls to Mom

Updated: Mar 4, 2019

I made a New Year’s Resolution to try new things/experiences in 2019, and I’m soon to have 2 kids in college, so the things on the list need to be on the cheap (but still fulfilling) side. Easier than it sounds, I swear.

Thing number one was a poetry slam. RVA peeps, check out The Writer’s Den Held at Addis Ethiopian restaurant. I’d never been to a poetry slam or had Ethiopian food; both were stellar and earned a “highly recommend”, though I did pass on being a judge since that seemed like far more pressure than I could handle. 

Thing number two was a swoon-worthy house tour of an historic and green preservation on Monument Avenue sponsored by House StoryIt’s worth even a drive by. 

5 seconds into that presentation my phone vibrated. I hit end. 7 seconds later it buzzed again. End. Buzz. End. Buzz. End. I finally looked and saw 4 missed calls from the boy man. 

He’s persistent (again, future employers please take note). 

I texted him…

Instant end to the house tour. 

And beginning of 17 frantic phone conversations (for the record, only one of us was frantic). Also I was the recipient of the 17 calls, and I'm pretty sure his dad and grandmother received at least the same number each. Fun!

Call number 1 started with me asking the obvious, “was it towed?” 

He assured me “no way.” He was parked in his apartment complex and had a parking pass. I asked a couple of reasonable follow-up questions, “you’re sure you weren’t in some sort of restricted spot?”, “did you read the parking rules in your lease?” and “you gave your license plate # to the apartment complex, and didn’t just slap a sticker on your car, right?” Every answer made it sound less and less likely it was towed, but I told him to look around the lot for signs about parking/towing anyway.

Call number 2 opened with the boy man screaming “there’s no way it was towed!” and me calmly (well, semi-calmly) asking “was it locked?”

No. I only lock it at night.

I might have started to lose my cool at this point. And I’d rather have been a high stakes poetry slam judge than been in this conversation.

“Why wouldn’t you lock it? You literally just have to push a button.”

There are way nicer cars than mine to steal.

Right and all those ‘way nicer’ cars were probably locked. Also if they get stolen their insurance check will be enough to buy a replacement ride. Your truck is 13 years old. If it gets stolen, we’ll get enough to buy dinner. At Chick-fil-A. For just you, and we’ll probably still need a COUPON!!”.

My patience disappeared faster than the 2 boozy milkshakes, burger and tater tots I devoured after the failed house tour (successfully ruining resolution number two). Those milkshakes though

Call number 3: I’m gonna go apesh#t if someone stole it!"

"Gonna?? And did you call the apartment complex office yet?”

They’re closed.

"They must have an after hours number for emergencies.”

I don’t know what it is.

“Look. For. It. Google is a verb.” (I had to repeat that in every exchange below)

Call number 4: Good God…this is ruining my night!

“Your night?? I think you should call the police.”

I highly doubt it was stolen. 

“I highly doubt you’re right. Call. Them. Now. NOT 911, the non-emergency number.”

Call number 5: It just rang, no one answered.

“Keep trying.” 

I don’t know why I should keep calling when no one is answering.

"um, because you want your truck back, and you don’t want us to kill you.”

Call number 6 : They’re still not answering.

Try the campus police.”

I don’t live on campus.

"I know that, but you ARE a student and they might be helpful.” 

Yeah right.

Call numbers 7-16 involved the boy man ranting about how if someone towed it he was going to sue because he was parked legally, and if someone stole it he was going to find them and sue them too, and me seriously wishing I had more tots.

Somewhere after call 16 he did call campus police who were super helpful. Patched him straight through to the local police. That line gets answered immediately, and the person who answered knew all about which tow trucks troll which lots and gave him an impound number to try. Whose answering service confirmed they had his truck. Yay. 

And also boo. 

After lots more phone calls the next morning, a trip to a part of town he never wants to see again, tons of cash handed over, some valuable lessons learned, and more than 24 hours later his vehicle was safely back in his possession.

And yes, it was towed from his own apartment complex’s lot. And yes, buried in the verbiage of the lease it states for a small fee (which he paid) he can park in some areas of the lot, and for a larger fee (which he didn’t opt to pay) he can park in the more highly desired closest-to-the-building spaces. All of which are designated with a restricted parking sign that apparently is not visible to the naked eye of boy men in the broad light of day.

I relayed that story to a couple friends while saying I would NE-VER have called my parents until I’d exhausted every other avenue first. That led to lots of discussion about how to help our kids learn to problem solve.

Kids heading to college? In high school? They’re likely to hit an emergency or two along the way, so it pays to have a solid list of resources in their phones. Some you may want to add:

  • AAA  (has more than paid for itself, and covers them if they’re driving their own car or passengering in someone else’s. That’s huge.) 

  • Local # of your home pharmacy– especially if they deliver. They’ll have health history, allergies, and insurance info on file. And pharmacists are great resources.

  • Closest urgent care center – because when they do get sick, it’ll be on the weekend or late night when student health is closed. Urgent care is less expensive than ER care.Health

  • Insurance App (the big insurers have ’em; download it – it’ll have everything they need including ID card). And read your summary of benefits. Yes it’s boring and confusing (it’s not called the SOB for nothin’), but you should be well versed in your own coverage. Be good health care consumers. Know if in-network docs are nearby. Know if you have out of network benefits, if you need a preauthorization, a referral, how much your copay is, if you need an “away policy” for your college student. Teach your child to ask questions – if there’s lab work, is the lab in network, if they get an RX where is it on the formulary? Is there a generic that would work as well? Explore virtual visits. Bet your kid’s comfortable with them, and they cost way less than office visits.

  • Trusted nearby friend. This one is on you parents. Have someone close to call in a true emergency. We’ve never had to use ours, but like knowing someone can get there quickly. Make sure said friend knows they’re on the list, has your child’s contact info & then go one step further & set it up to ring through even if on do not disturb. College kid emergencies tend to happen late night.

  • Their doctor – my boy man had a bout w/ anxiety and panic attacks one semester. Hard to handle from afar, and throwing a new doc in the mix seemed wrong. After we got him home and to his pediatrician (who sees patients all the way through college) we sorted it out. His Dr.: “why didn’t you call me?” “I’m your guy and I’m kind of offended I wasn’t your first call. Here’s my #, put it in your phone.” 

  • And their dentist/orthodontist – especially if they still have retainers; make sure they call their office and not you if they lose ’em. And they should be scheduling their own dentist appts for Christmas and summer break (pass that baton people). 

  • Service station (do your research before there’s a car emergency. Angie’s list, yelp, whoever you trust for recommendations, use them and have someone at the ready).

  •  800 number for their bank/ATM card provider (if they never lose their card, good for them. But I had one roommate use another roommate’s card to steal $500. Weird stuff may happen. Be ready and know who to call if it does). 

  • Uber/Lyft app (You don’t want to fund them riding everywhere, but you do want them to always have quick access to a safe ride. You can negotiate terms and limits up front). 

  • Emergency SOS – I know where it is on my iPhone. Make sure your student’s info is up to date, and that they know how to use it.

  • Car & insurance info – in case your 17 calls end in an actual stolen car, or an accident. They should have make/model/license #/vin#/insurance agent # and photos of their car in their phones. Same goes for whatever transportation they’re using…bike, scooter, pogo-stick. *Car insurers may offer a discounted rate for carless students away at school – don’t forget to ask for it.  

  • List of electronic devices…we hope they don’t encounter loss, breakage or theft, but if they do, it helps to have all the info, location tracking turned on, and know who to contact (besides you) if they have a problem. 

  • Safety apps like Circle of Six and LiveSafe. I hate that they’re necessary, but love their features. Circle of Six lets you send one of 3 messages to your circle of friends (with only 2 discreet taps): “I need to talk”, “Call and pretend you need me.” or “Come get me”— that message is sent w/ your GPS location. 

Panicked yet? Thinking of building a cage in your basement so they can never leave home? Totally normal. They’ll be fine. You’ll be fine too. Just make sure they know how to read signs.

And if they’re high school juniors make sure they’re looking toward the spring SATs, because you don’t really want them home in the basement forever.

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