Travelers Beware!

By Jim Predmore

We just returned from our summer vacation to Tennessee where we visited family and explored the many sights of the old country side. We started our 1988 mile journey home on Thursday morning with 6 of us in a mini-van, along with our entire luggage and some treasures my wife brought back from her hometown. We left Mc Kenzie, Tennessee around 9am and headed west on I40.  We reached Memphis just before 11 am and decided to stop for a late breakfast at a Cracker Barrel just off I40. As we were enjoying our meal, we heard a message over the loudspeaker about a van that sounded like it could be ours. I went to see what the problem was and was met by the manager, who looked quite grim. As we walked around to the driver’s side of the van I saw a pile of broke glass on the asphalt. There was glass every where, on the ground and all over the driver’s seat, carpet, and cup holders.  My wife had left her purse under the front passenger seat. It was gone. I told the manager that it was gone and he went inside to call the police. I went back inside to our table and told my wife what had happened and took her outside to see the damage. One of the patrons came up to me and stated that he saw a couple of young guys standing around the van. The manager stated that there was surveillance video and he went inside to capture it as we waited for the police. While we were waiting, I started thinking that we needed to get the drivers window replaced as there were thunderstorms reported for areas all along I40  west. I thought to myself, “Where do I start?” We were nearly 1900 miles from home and not at all familiar with Memphis. We had purchased the vehicle from relatives.  The make and model of that particular van was only manufactured in the years of 2007 and 2008. Knowing that the van had been only produced for two years, I thought that it was going to be hard to find a new driver’s window. I imagined it would have to be ordered and that we would have to get a hotel and probably a rental car.  This would be a problem as we had only allowed a couple of days to get home.

Prior to us leaving I had saw a headline on Yahoo that stated, “The Ten Most Needed Apps Needed While Traveling“, one of them being the Yellow Pages App. I downloaded it before we left and I am glad I did. I typed in the name of the manufacture of our van and asked for their parts department. I got a parts man on the phone and he stated that they didn’t carry any glass replacement parts, so I asked him who he could recommend. He told me of a glass shop. I went to my Yellow Pages App and typed in their name. It came up and with a push of a button it connected me to them. I told the person on the line of our predicament and gave her the make, model and year of our van and asked her if they had the window. To my surprise, she said yes. The app also gave directions to their shop, which was only about two miles away.

Meanwhile the police had arrived and the manager had came back out after looking at the surveillance video. he told us that they captured the subjects on video and that one of them had actually gone inside the restaurant and asked for a job application as the other waited in a car that was parked in front of ours.  Apparently we had been targeted, having a vehicle with out of state plates. They watched us get out of the van and go inside the restaurant.  Talking to the police they stated that they were having a real problem with these kinds of thefts and that the thieves were usually looking for quick cash.

After the police had taken their report and got some finger prints off the van, we headed to the glass repair shop. As soon as we arrived, they showed us to the waiting room and took the van back into the shop.  After about an hour they brought it back with a brand new window and we were on our way.

My wife had only about $40 in her purse.  The rest was credit cards and debit cards, which we quickly canceled. She was more concerned about her planner, the keys to the cars and offices and her new sunglasses. The thefts made a quick run and reached over our Nikon SLR camera, two laptops, and a Gibson guitar that was probably worth more the van.

This was a wake up call for us and in the future I think we will park our vehicle in a place where can keep an eye on it and not leave items of value inside. All in all, we were lucky to have the repairs done so quickly and to be able to continue our way back west across the country. I think were just about to hit Texas when my wife’s cellphone rang with a call from Memphis.  Someone had found her purse and agreed to ship it to us in California.  There are still some good Samaritans in this world.