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Lessons learned from a car break in

It was a typical night out for dinner with friends when it happened. After finishing our dinner, my boyfriend and I slowly strolled back to my car, which was parked right across Walgreens. Both of us were in absolute shock as we slowly absorbed the scene in front of us: broken glass around and inside the back of the car, back seat being pulled down, and a missing bag with laptop.

I remembered being totally lost at what to do. Luckily, one of the two friends we were having dinner with had his car broken into before, and he told us to call the police. If you are interested, here's a great article that documents the things you need to do when your car is broken into.

Looking back, there were a lot of things that I've learned from this experience. For example, interesting facts such as:

  • Majority of the cars don't have sensors on windows. Alarm only sounds when the door is forced open.

  • So... hatchbacks are easier targets, because breaking the rear window would suffice to access the trunk.

  • And thus... don't leave phones or laptops in your car, even if they are in the trunk and not visible. Thieves have a scanner to detect these electronic signals in your cars.

But for me, the biggest takeaway came from the reflection on the emotions that went through me during the ordeal. To give you some context, my car was damaged on three separate occasions prior to the break in. All three times were "not my fault" - on two separate times at two different locations, each of my side mirror were damaged by a hit and run on my parallel-parked car, and once a random rock hit and cracked the front plastic bumper of my car while I was driving along 101. All incidents, including the break in, happened over a span of four months. To add salt to the wound, my car is only a little over a year new.

There was no one else to blame

The first time my side mirror was hit, I blamed it on the lack of luck. The second time the other side was gone, I was devastated. I could blame my boyfriend for parking my car an inch further from the curb, or the crazy LA drivers, or myself for not turning my side mirror inwards, or whoever's out in the universe to get me (and my money). Similarly, when my car was broken into a month later, I was again trying to blame "the unknown person who smashed my window".

It was hard. But why was it that hard? Why must I blame something? Why would blaming make me feel better? I realize, blaming means diverting my emotions to other people. They should feel guilty, they should feel the pain I'm feeling, they should get the punishment. But how does blaming improve the current situation? I MIGHT feel better if I can blame someone else, but I realize the only useful thing that came out from blaming, was blaming myself. When I "blame" myself, I take them as lessons learned. I learned to turn my mirror inwards when I park, and to not keep electronic devices in my car. It is still true that the "unknown person who smashed my window" and the "random crazy LA driver" shouldn't have done anything in the first place, but I didn't help by creating the conditions for such things to happen.

It's just a car (and $2000)

After my right mirror broke, and a big crack formed at the front of my car, I fixed my car. A month and half later, my left mirror was hit and I drove with a duct taped mirror for another 2 weeks before I fixed it. A month later, my back window was smashed and, surprise, I fixed it. Within 4 months, I spent $2000+ fixing my car without claiming insurance because my minimal deductible was $1000. I was fixing my car so often, that I became the mayor of Larry Hopkins Honda Service Center (reference only for those using Swarm/Foursquare). My car was only a year new then, and with all the new parts it has, I'm sure the average age of my car is younger than a year now.

It was really painful for me, and my wallet. Not because I couldn't afford; I have an emergency savings so paying wasn't an issue. The thought that such spending was completely unnecessary, and it "wasn't my fault" in the first place, made me feel that I could have used the money for something better. Additionally, it's a new car! Why would such unlucky things happen to my brand new car?

But I realize that this thinking was making me unnecessarily upset. The savings were there exactly for these unlucky situations! I should be glad that the damage was within what I could afford. And the car is just a car. Whether by wear and tear or by an accident, on a new car or an old car, change is unavoidable. It's just that such a change is dramatic and sudden. But no matter how I resist the reality, the change happened and blaming others wouldn't change the situation. So after all these ordeals, I decided to fix my car only once a year unless it's not drivable, so at least I can claim from my insurance.

There are other things to worry

After my mirrors were hit, my boyfriend felt really guilty because he was the driver. While I have a damaged car window, my boyfriend lost his work laptop and everything else in the bag. My friends who were around me at the time of the incident were really worried and found hard for words of console. My car was in a bad shape and we need to know what to do next.

It took a while for me to process, but I realize that instead of feeling upset about the current situation, I wanted to console my boyfriend and help him to work through these emotions. I wanted my friends to not worry too much about consoling me. I wanted to take this experience and turn it into a dramatic and funny story that I can talk about. I wanted to find the immediate next steps that I can do about my car. I wanted to do something different from now onwards to prevent similar things from happening. I wanted to share what I learned, so other people can benefit from it. There are many things that I could do besides feeling upset. I realize that being optimistic and forward-thinking, and focus on making people around you feel better, is a much better state to be in, than to feel upset by myself.

And the most important lesson that I'd like to share? Don't leave electronic devices in your car.

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