Detailing, West Oakland Style



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."

5 Replies to “Detailing, West Oakland Style”

  1. Admit it. He was asking for it with that superfluous “h”. Glad he’s OK and you’ve softened your stance on Yes. Have you reconsidered Donovan as well? Uh-oh. Gotta go. A seasoned witch is calling me from the depths of my disgrace…..

  2. That is really bad, but is just a machine. All the same I look at something like that and marvel at the rage it would take to do it. And it makes me reflect on the notion that somewhere along the line my kids will cross paths with some violence or violent type(s). And I hope everything turns out okay. Glad Tom is safe. JB

  3. Sorry to hear that. I am really glad that Thom wasn’t hurt. Hope you guys are all doing well.

  4. John — that’s exactly it: The rage and the malice
    involved. I just don’t get it

  5. The damage one person can cause is pretty amazing – and you’re right: why?
    A group of friends and I were jumped one day in high school while goofing off, studying, and waiting for a basketball game. Some gang of eastside SJ guys (and a couple of girls) came prowling through school looking for someone else. But then they snuck up on our table, and beat the crap out of four of us. After all the post-beating analyzing and stitches, the bottom line: Just the wrong place at the wrong time.

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