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Stereo Thief Adds Insult to Injury in L.A.

December 06, 1991|PETER MOST | SPECIAL TO THE TIMES; Most is an attorney who lives in Venice

VENICE — The other night I left the garage door open again.

But it really shouldn't have mattered.

After all, we are living in a post-Cold War/Berlin Wall/Soviet Union world--now we can all let our guard down just a bit. In this kinder, gentler world, why bother with garage doors? Why bother with doors at all?

Except that this is Venice, and the Cold War never mattered much here. In Venice, one simply cannot afford to let one's guard down, the demise of the East Bloc notwithstanding. In Venice, the New World Order continues to scowl.

The next day I awoke to find the car stereo gone--stolen--along with the garage door opener, which the thieves apparently did not need.

This was not a new experience for me; in fact, it was rather routine. But after three stolen car stereos, I still find it none too pleasant.

Had you asked, thief, I would have told you: Go ahead, take the engine, though I should warn you it prefers high-octane gasoline. Tires? Sure, I've got five of them, if you can call that little inflatable job in the trunk a tire. Take them, they're yours. But, please, don't touch the stereo. Not the stereo.

And, please, leave the garage door opener.

Some people are sentimental about their family, children, even pets.

In my mind, the only thing that stands between me and the State of Nature is my garage door opener. No alternate side of the street parking for me; no dew to cloud the car windows; no fighting for beach parking on the weekends. A garage door opener means a spot reserved just for me. What pooch ever gave you such pleasure?

It gets worse: Nothing else was taken. Not my volumes of cassette tapes (all pirated, of course); not my dozen Nordstrom ties; not even my cache of Evian.

Strangely, I was insulted, kind of the way I felt when the IRS sent me a check for $500 for having failed to compute my taxes correctly. Sure, thief, don't take the cassettes on the floor, but did you have to go to all the trouble to actually eject the Mary's Danish/Concrete Blonde tape in the cassette deck?

It is a strange feeling, being upset that someone perused all of your belongings and found them deficient. Some sucker would pay good money for those ties. I did.

Or were you just being considerate? Was this a kinder, gentler thief or just one not into '90s power ties?

What should I have done first? Call the police? I don't think so:

"They didn't steal your car? Left your gas credit cards in the glove box? They only stole your cassette deck? And you live in Venice? And you're calling us? Shouldn't you be selling your story for an episode of 'Amazing Stories'?

"And they left your Evian? Must have been one of those Pellegrino thieves we've had such trouble with lately."

Call my insurance company? I don't think so.

I'm already in one of those high-risk insurance groups: living male under the age of 65 located in Venice. And, besides, that special insurance policy rider for males under 65 in Venice with car stereos would apply. You know the one: the $1,000 car stereo deductible with the special if-your-stereo-is-stolen-don't-call-us--call-someone-who-gives-a-damn proviso.

Call my landlady? Sure.

She was sympathetic, although not to the point of offering to chip in to make up for hard feelings. Her sympathy was to become empathy the next night, when the thieves returned to the scene of the crime and stole $15,000 worth of her tools from the garage. My garage-door opener became their carte blanche, although they didn't touch my ties. Again.

As much of an assault as it was for me to have my privacy invaded, my stereo stolen and my musical and sartorial taste rebuked, I felt a far greater loss some days later during my commute to work.

I can deal with the financial loss--my insurance deductible notwithstanding. I can deal with the hole in my dashboard. It's the music I missed.

Sure, I had a tinny D-battery-powered boom box. I even carried extra Ds with me just in case. But during those days I realized puttering in L.A. that traffic is all right because good music makes it all right.

The Santa Monica Freeway just isn't a pleasant place without a soundtrack. Listening to the bus belch smoke in your face just adds insult to injury.

I'm not sure whether scientists have proved that music soothes savage beasts, but it sure works wonders on L.A. drivers.

Music in our cars is what permits us to get up every morning and face the ol' 405.

During this interlude, I had a chance to watch drivers as I'd never noticed them before. They were as intent on listening to their tunes as I had been. Their heads bobbed left, right or up and down, but they bobbed. I needed my bob back. I needed my acoustical buffer zone. I needed my car stereo.

I'd grown accustomed to its amber face. It was only recently, after putting on thousands of miles, that I learned how to program all 30 FM and AM radio stations.

All I had to do to go from Kevin & Bean to Mark & Brian was push a button.

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