I returned home last night from a road trip that was equal parts camping, conferencing, book proposal team writing, and socializing. Given the lateness of the hour, I only partially unpacked my car -- removing one duffel bag with clothes, my computer and hiking backpacks, hiking boots, toiletries bag, two pillows, and one tote bag stuffed with philosophy tomes.
I was so tired that I decided to leave the other two bags of philosophy books where they were (one in the car cab, the other in the trunk) and retrieve them in the morning, along with the other contents of the trunk: my 2-human tent (thank you REI for omitting sexist descriptions of camping gear!), summer sleeping bag, a box of articles for the “Bioethics and the Deaf Community” course I'm teaching this fall, and the inevitable white plastic trash bag full of dirty laundry (literally).
I’d been careful on this trip while camping out and staying with friends – I’m über-paranoid about my car getting broken into. Since I am seriously addicted to my work, the books and articles always went inside where I slept, whether inside my tent or a house.
One of my biggest fears is that someone might break in and steal my books full of marginalia. Years of scoffing from family members (including my children) have never disabused me of this notion.
Because I’m slightly uptight about my organization skills when I travel, I categorize my books by bag, using mnemonic devices to help me keep track of everything. The tote bag with the artichoke print contains normative ethics. Why? Artichoke and Aristotle each start with “A”, contain 9 letters, and contain the same exact vowels appearing in the same exact order.
The applied ethics books go in an American Library Association tote bag decorated with a graphic of Paul Bunyan and the slogan “Attain Heroic Mental Stature: Develop Those Mind Muscles” (On rethinking, I probably should not have placed Cognitive Disability and Its Challenge to Moral Philosophy in this bag…)
The bag full of the creative stuff -- libretto for Strauss’s “Arabella”, Gertrude Stein’s Everybody’s Autobiography, and the July/August 2012 issue of Poetry magazine (100 year anniversary edition) -- has a silkscreened image of the blue planet, just because I think that writers of the imagination may be what saves us all in the end. Water justice seems to be a big part of this picture. But I digress...
When I woke up from a good night’s sleep on my own bed, I realized I had left my coffee supplies in my car. Said supplies being locally roasted Villa Myriam beans (David’s Roast is my favorite), my drip cone and filters, and my car hot pot. The latter makes it possible for me to boil water and brew a near-perfect cup of pour-over coffee anywhere on the road. To wit: this summer I brewed exquisite cups of coffee at Capitol Reef and Canyonlands National Parks, plus a few spots on the Navaho Nation near the Mitten Buttes.
I groggily strode to my car to get my beans, when I saw that the driver’s car window had been smashed to smithereens. Little oblong pieces of glass, some held together in 4 inch chunks, were strewn all over the street and my driver’s carseat.
The glove compartment had been popped open, as well as the storage cubby dividing the space between the two front seats.
I looked at everything carefully, then called my insurance agent before I touched anything. I wasn’t sure if I needed to make a police report or not. As it turns out, no police report is necessary for the broken window, but if you make homeowner’s claims on stolen property, you need a police report.
As I made my visual inventory, I noted that my dog-eared copy of John Rawls’s A Theory of Justice on the passenger seat was untouched, as was Elizabeth Brake’s latest, and this year’s copy of the Hume Society Proceedings. My automobile phone charger was still in place, and even my envelope in the back of the glove compartment labeled “emergency gas money” (there is a teenage driver in the home) was undisturbed.
The entire bag of normative ethics texts was exactly where I had left it behind the driver’s seat. Topping the stack was Sidgwick’s The Methods of Ethics. (Confession time: after wrestling with this all summer, I can’t say I’m surprised they left that behind!)
After I finished talking to my agent, I called my dad to check in with him about family plans for the weekend. When I mentioned my car had been broken into, he walked me through the contents. I discovered one thing that was missing, and possibly another.
The missing item?
Three squares of Green & Black organic dark chocolate (85%) wrapped in gold foil that was tucked into the cubby below the car ashtray. Dad thought the thief may have assumed it was a doobie, but I’m not so sure about that.
The other possible missing item?
Vegan Swedish salt licorice. For years I’ve kept a small supply in the compartment between the front seats of my car. I never did get around to replenishing it this summer, so I honestly don’t remember whether there was any left in the compartment.
The lesson learned?
The things I value -– coffee and volumes of philosophy -- aren’t valued by the person who vandalized my car. Rawls and Foot probably don’t have much street value in Barelas (or anywhere in Albuquerque – Cambridge might be a different story). Apparently, neither does a pour-over drip coffee apparatus.
My kids have been telling me this for years; I now have evidence that disconfirms my paranoid beliefs about book thieves canvassing my shelves.
It seems that what does have street (gustatory?) value in slowly gentrifying Barelas is gourmet candy.
I hope they weren’t expecting sweet licorice.