Alex in Transit(ion)

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Remember the time my car was stolen and later recovered?

Oh snap! The blog is back and boy, do I have a story to tell. I figured this would be a better way to address the situation because it will have all the details in one place.

If there is anything anyone knows about me, it’s that my 2006 Toyota Rav4 is the apple of my eye. I received her after my 2005 Toyota Matrix, which my grandparents gave me after my high school graduation, was totaled in the Flood of 2006 that devastated many parts of Sullivan and Delaware. The damage was so bad that even now, businesses and families are now beginning to get back to normal yet some towns never fully recovered.

The Rav4 symbolizes my first grown up decision. After my Matrix was totaled, I was given a check for the full value of the vehicle and since it was probably the first and last time I’d ever receive a check for a car that would be fully financed, I decided to run with it and put down a payment on one of the best compact SUVs on the market. 

She lived up to her reputation- I’ve never had a problem with her. She can go through 18 inches of snow without any problems and truly was my home away from home. Even while I jumped from one campaign far away from home to another, she was the one true constant and I took such good care of her. I’ve had her for six years and she only has 85,000 miles on her. Although other cars have caught my eyes and I considered trading her in for something newer and sexier, reality always sunk in and I realized that she is still a great investment. I always said  I would drive her until the day that I couldn’t anymore.

On November 2nd, some poor souls wanted to make that day come earlier than I anticipated. I remember starting that morning with such high hopes. I was coming off of such an amazing week and a half- my friends from back home came down to help me on the campaign and we were on the brink of sealing the deal and turning out more Democrats than Republicans at our polling site for Early Vote, which was incredible because we were working in the most rural portion of the county. I was so proud of our neighborhood teams and we were getting ready to prepare for an awesome Election Day. 

I walked down to the driveway, with my door hangers in my hands, and I saw my host dad walking to his car and he looked at me and said “Alex, where is your vehicle?” 

A lot of people have asked me “how does it feel when you realize your car is stolen from your driveway?” I’ll tell you that is something I would never want to wish on anyone. There were so many places that I could expect this from; I used to live in Washington, DC and Albany, NY where break ins were the norm and I never had a problem. But here we are, four days before Election Day, and my car is missing from my rural driveway at the end of a cul de sac. 

This part is the hardest to write. Over the last two years, I’ve gone around the country working political campaigns far away from home and the one thing I could always look forward to was going home to my car. I panicked and my host dad, true to his kind and understanding nature, put his arm around me and said “we’re going to go inside and call the Sheriff.” 

So many thoughts were going through my head. I wondered how could this happen and I was in such a state of shock that I made up this story in my head that I must have either left the keys in my vehicle or I must have left the vehicle open, which my host families can all attest to, is very unlike me because I’m that kind of person who will literally get up in the middle of the night to make sure that either my car is locked or the house is locked. I didn’t think to check in my bag, I just assumed that if the keys weren’t in my hands, that they must have been in the vehicle.

I was also starting to fear for my life because this wasn’t the first incident that happened to me since I came to Titusville. In September, the day before a very big event in our county, my car was keyed up and the tire was slashed, and it wasn’t like that the night before. I kept saying to everyone that it must have happened in my host family’s driveway, but the town residents always said that it was the kind of neighborhood where that would never happen, so it probably occurred while my car was parked at the office. It turns out that I had good reason to feel like someone was after me because I went into my vehicle at 1:30 to see if we had anymore door hangers to put labels on and came back into the house around 1:36. The surveillance camera shows the thieves entering the driveway at 1:39. We were literally minutes apart from a confrontation. When I spoke to the police, they told me that they didn’t even want to imagine the scenario that could have taken place. 

When my best friend and I got to the office, we received a call from the police that they found my stuff. We were so shocked because we would have thought that if you’re going to steal a car, with New York tags and Democratic stickers all throughout the place, and not to mention with the low fuel light on, why in the world would you take the time to dump most of my stuff out in a parking lot? I was grateful that they did at least do that but it just seemed so odd. There it all was though, all strewn across the parking lot. My heart dropped when I saw one of the apartment’s residents pick up a 2012 sign and gave it to me. Together, we picked up the pieces and put my belongings in my friend’s car. However, what stood out to me was that they took most of our door hangers, except for one particular precinct. We had labeled around 10 or 11 precincts and had them stored in my car and we were only left with one. It was then and there that I determined that we were going to knock the hell out of that precinct and that we were going to win it.  

I beat myself up though. Remember when I said that I thought I left the keys the car? I made myself believe that story that whole day because I was in such a state of shock. “How could someone so smart be so stupid?” were the thoughts that went through my head and I felt like an idiot everytime someone asked me “how did they steal the car?” I replied with what I thought was the truth.

It was even worse when I received my rental car. I hated driving for the first couple of days because it was nothing but a painful reminder that yes. This happened. This happened because I left the keys in the car. I could have prevented this. 

Yet the next day was my Grandpa’s birthday. He passed away in 2006 but I’ve always been a person that believes in signs. After I came back from a meeting with my canvass captain, I sat in my car, praying for a sign for something good to happen and then, I did something that I didn’t do since the car was stolen: I went through my purse. Lo and behold, the keys were there. I had them the whole entire time. It wasn’t my fault. As I type these words out now, I still feel the rush of relief knowing that this wasn’t anything I could have prevented. 

What made me even angrier about the situation was because in college, I took a Prison and Prisoners in American Society class which required us to visit maximum and medium prisons multiple times throughout the semester and I got to know the reasons why folks turn to a life of crime. Here is an excerpt to one of my old blog posts of what I experienced there: 

Another misconception I had was that I would be meeting cold blooded killers. I thought that I would be meeting men that planned out these murders. I was also wrong about that as well. These men grew up in a neighborhood unlike one I could ever fathom. They referred to their neighborhoods as war zones and that it was a kill or be killed lifestyle. They loved school, school was a haven for them. But after school, they had to come back to a home where things weren’t always stable. They were worried about if they were going to get jumped. They were worried about fitting in. And most of the men I met committed murder when they were about 16 or 17 as a result of a drug deal gone bad. They said that they did not mean to kill- they were caught up in the moment and next thing you know- the other guy is dead.

Looking back at that, it makes me ache to have these folks brought to justice because I want to say to them: “I get it. I understand why you did this and that’s the reason why, even in the smallest communities, there needs to be more outreach to the youth so they don’t have to turn to a life like this. You are probably a very smart person and are using your gifts in the wrong way. Things can be better.”

Even with all of that, there was a job to be done. Election Day wasn’t going anywhere and it literally took everything in me to pick up the pieces and say to myself: “Am I really going to let this situation hurt the campaign? Or are we going to win this thing?” I chose the latter and I do not know if I could have done it without the help of my best friend, who was supposed to leave the next morning and told me “So, Alex, if there was any excuse to stay with you until EDay, I think we found it,” my host family, my own family, my colleagues, and our beautiful volunteers. 

The volunteers were incredible. When I needed to break down and cry, they held me. When I needed to work through the panic, they sat down with me and helped me drew up checklists of my responsibilities. When I was alone in the office at night, they rushed over with their dog and stayed with me until I needed to close up shop. When one of them found out that I wasn’t eating, she went out and bought me Ensure and flowers. Words will never, ever, ever, describe how grateful I will always be for their constant support and I guess if there’s anything I’ve learned from this situation, it’s brotherhood. It taught me how to treat people and you can bet that I will always pay it forward.

Another question I get was “couldn’t you just take a break from work?” The answer is no. I mean, I’m sure if I really wanted to, I probably could of, but it’s always hard to explain the mentality you need to win a campaign to folks outside of it because to be a campaign staffer, it is required of you to have a “whatever it takes” attitude. Think of it this way: During the Super Bowl, do you say “eh, my ankle hurts and I’m the starting QB, I’m sure everyone is going to understand if I just take it easy, it’s alright, we’ll still win and the fans will sympathize with me that I’m tired.” No. You don’t do that. I just kept replaying Eminem’s “Lose Yourself” to psych me up because:

Success is my only (insert choice word here) option. Failure’s not.

With the help of my amazing, amazing, ahhh I miss them soooooo much right now, colleagues and volunteers, we did it. And it was an Election Day to be proud of and I still smile about. All of the pain and panic I experienced melted away when my colleague and I were rolling on the floor and hugging each other when we found out that we won and that for four more years, President Barack Obama is going to take care of this country and we worked our butts off to make it happen. 

I eventually got over the material things, especially after finding out that I was literally minutes away from the unspeakable. We won. We won during the craziest situation ever. We weren’t just on the brink of winning Early Vote at our polling site, we DID turn out more Dems than Rs out. And that precinct we recovered? We won that precinct by an overwhelming percent and another one too. The rest of my days in Florida, I didn’t worry about the car or the other things I lost, I was more concerned about spending time with my beloved colleagues and volunteers and seeing the things I always wanted to see but never had time for. 

John Lennon said “life is what happens when you’re out making other plans” and that rang true on Friday. I came back from Black Friday shopping with my cousin, who I haven’t seen since I left for Florida in March, and took a nap after a very fun day. When I woke up, I saw a ton of missed calls from the Brevard County Sheriff’s department.

My car was found. In fact, it was in Mims, which is the next town over, this whole time. Everyone assumed it was taken to Miami, taken apart at a chop shop, torched, or at the bottom of the Indian River. Basically, they told me that a cop noticed my car and went back to run the VIN number. Then the thieves noticed the cop, ran into the car and started a car chase. When they realized it wasn’t worth it anymore, they dumped the car into the woods, and ran into a safe house. 

Yep. Pretty crazy, right? Of course, there’s all sorts of things. Oddly, what makes me feel good is that there really wasn’t a way for me to prevent this situation from happening because I did lock the vehicle. They broke in through the rear window, took apart the ignition, and started the car with a screwdriver. Good times, great oldies on that one. But there were condom wrappers and other lovely things found in the car and one of the things I need to do is get over whatever happened in my vehicle during its short lifestyle as a deviant renegade.

Well, you made it throughout this crazy, crazy story. In closing, I guess the motto of the story is not to sweat the small stuff, especially when there is a bigger goal at hand because eventually, everything takes care of itself. If you have a great support system, be thankful for it, and let them know how grateful and appreciative you are for their kindness. 

Thank you everyone ❤ Stay tuned, because there’s more adventures pertaining to this situation coming soon!