Monday, August 25, 2014

The Break-In

Yesterday, after posting the previous blog, I checked out of my hotel and returned to the van, ready to make the trip up from Bakersfield, through San Jose, and to Medford, OR for the second leg of my journey to PAX.

Unfortunately, what I found when I approached my van altered my plans a bit.
As I approached the van, I noticed a box sitting on the ground outside of the driver's side door. "Well that's strange," I thought. "It looks like someone delivered something to the van." When I got closer, though, I noticed that the box was actually one of the boxes of our Cards of Legend and, in fact, it should have been inside the van.

My mind was racing before I was even within 50ft of the van.

The driver's side window had been shattered, and glass was all over both seats, the floor, and the ground outside of the van. Oddly, the door was still locked. It seemed that the thieves (it must have been more than one person considering how much they took) broke the glass with great force, then climbed through the window grabbing anything that looked like it might be valuable.

I suspect they took boxes randomly, hoping they contained something worthwhile. In fact, they ended up with a film projector and a few iPads, making it a decent haul. They also took a tripod, my headphones, an audio recorder, a box full of game boxes for an unreleased DS game, and a box full of display graphics. he display graphics in particular kind of puzzle me, since that box was quite big and would have been difficult to fit through the window they broke. Yet the door was locked when I arrived, and I can't imagine them opening the door, taking stuff out, then closing and locking the door when they were done. So, they went through an awful lot of trouble for a box that turned out to be worthless for them.

I immediately called Reid to inform him of the situation, then informed the hotel and called the police to file a report. Hotel security completely missed the event, though apparently there was security on the property that night.

Due to a popular bar attached to the hotel, parking was not available close to the hotel itself the night before. Instead I parked well within the property, which seemed to be secure. However, in the light of day I discovered that the hedge fence I was parked near led directly to an abandoned vagrant camp, which I explored while waiting for the police officer. The camp existed between the hedge fence and a proper, steel fence, which was heavy breached nearby. Assuming the thieves came on foot and didn't enter and leave by the distant front entrance, they could have easily walked in from that breach and ended up right next to the van.

Anyway, the police officer came an hour or so later. He noted a few things, asked a few questions, bemoaned the fact that break-ins are endemic in California, dusted for prints, then left.

I then drove around Bakersfield looking for a place that could replace the window, mostly so that I wouldn't have to worry about rain and so I could feel slightly safer leaving the van alone overnight. (Though clearly having a window doesn't prevent robberies, I'm pretty sure they're a better deterrent than no window at all.) However, most auto glass shops are closed on Sundays, and the ones that weren't did not have the proper part in stock. So, rather than spend another day in Bakersfield, I simply drove to San Jose without a window hoping to figure something out that would allow me to protect the van until morning.

The solution: a brightly lit parking spot near the entrance to a hotel lobby. Also, covering the window's lack of glass with a towel. If there's one lesson I've taken from Douglas Adams (hah, as if there's only one), it's that towels have myriad uses: they can determine the direction of the wind, hail people from far away, protect your body from the wind when it's cold, protect your body from the sun when it's hot, and cover your window after someone has smashed through it.

I don't think I've ever used my travel towel to dry anything.

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