Tom went to a friend’s birthday party in West Oakland last night. Locally, saying "West Oakland" or "East Oakland" can be code for "mostly poor and mostly crime-ridden." The plan was for Tom to spend the night at his friend’s place; Kate and I were OK with that since he wasn’t going to be abroad in the neighborhood, which, frankly, can be dangerous at night.
The phone rang about 1:30 in the morning. I don’t like middle-of-the-night calls simply because they’re usually wrong numbers or bad news. I had been asleep and wasn’t able to get to the phone before our voicemail kicked in, but I wasn’t assuming the worst: Tom’s always been great about checking in with us when his plans change, and he knows we’d rather he wake us up is something’s going on that we ought to know. I called our voicemail, and there was a message from him: His friend had come out of his house to find Tom’s car, parked on the street in front, fairly seriously vandalized: smashed windshield, smashed passenger’s-side window, and crushed-in roof — apparently someone had climbed on the car and jumped up and down on it.
I listened to the message, and before I could call Tom he called back. He was pretty upset, but he was handling things pretty well: He and his buddies had pushed the roof back out, and he had already thought through calling the police and the insurance company. I was pretty calm, for me — just angry over the wanton destruction involved, really; the important thing was that Tom and his friends were all OK.
Later on, Tom called the police; in Oakland, the cops apparently don’t bother to send anyone out for cases like these, and they took the report over the phone. Then he and a friend drove the car to her house so he could park in her gated driveway — it was only a matter of time until some passerby started impromptu salvage operations on the car’s interior. Kate and I drove down to meet him there — the scene above. Looking the car over, it looked like all the damage came from one person — the same footprints were all over the roof and on a couple of windows that he apparently tried and failed to break. I drove the car the slow way back to Berkeley. I thought maybe I’d get some reaction from people on the street — "Hey, what happened to your car?" — and I had a good line ready: "Just got it detailed!"
Now, I just feel bad for Tom. He and some of his friends have grown attached to it during their trips to concerts, and he calls it the "Machine Messiah." It’s just sad to see your wheels trashed. But he says, "The Machine Messiah will roll on."