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The $700 Movie Ticket

Thanks to the opening of Harry Potter and The Deathly Hallows: Part 2, my screening of Super 8 on Friday was a ghost town. I drove my 1999 Toyota Tacoma down to Century 16 on 3300 South to catch a rare afternoon movie. I used to love going to the movies but the responsibilities of home and work makes sitting down for a couple of hours in the middle of the day both difficult and decadent. Parking in the large parking lot, all I could see was a flood of kids and parents dressed like wizards, carrying home-made wands and wearing mismatched capes.

Those of us who grew up on E.T., Goonies, Stand By Me and Close Encounter of the Third Kind will easily relate to Super 8. Set in a small town in Ohio during the summer of 1979, it’s about a group of junior high kids trying to make a zombie movie when they witness a terrible accident. Scared of both their parents and the authorities, they try to make some sense of what they witnessed and what is happening to their town. It is directed by JJ Abrams and produced by Steven Spielberg. So, if you loved Lost or Jaws, there is a good chance that you’ll like Super 8.

I walked out of the theater elated. I hadn’t seen a cool summer movie since Zombieland and was already planning on buying the DVD when it comes out. I had about 90 minutes before I had to be at work, so I quickly walked out into the sea of cars and found my truck. I opened my door, fastened my seat belt and started the engine.

Brraff-buff-buff!!!

Instead of the familiar hum, I was met by this gravelly explosion. Jesus! I quickly turned off the ignition and jumped out of my car. I felt like Lefty Rosenthal from Casino. I thought my car was going to explode. For one brief moment I thought I was back in the movie and the aliens were attacking my car. It honestly took me a moment to collect myself after the unfamiliar roar of my truck. I looked under the hood and everything looked to be in the right place. It wasn’t until I checked the exhaust system did I realize something was horribly wrong. There was an eighteen inch gap between the exhaust pipe and the extension pipe.

Somebody had stolen my catalytic converter.

Some miserable thief had climbed underneath my truck with a cordless reciprocating saw, cut through my exhaust system and stolen the catalytic converter. In broad day light, somebody brazening slid underneath my truck and hacked off the most expensive part of the under-carriage of my vehicle. All somebody needed was two minutes, a Sawzall, a pair of snips and an unmanageable meth problem.

I weighed my options and decided to drive my car home. The second that I got on the road, I knew that I had a serious problem and was regretting my decision. The performance of my truck was dramatically diminished and it was roaring like something out of the Indianapolis 500. I usually only get looks from people of the side of the road when I have my dog, Samson, hanging his head outside the window. On Friday, I was getting looks because they thought the second coming of the apocalypse was coming.

Mercifully, I made it back to the house without the engine seizing or total hearing lose. It wasn’t until I got home did the entire experience finally sink in. How the hell was I singled out? I felt like I would have a better chance of getting hit by lightning then my catalytic converter being stolen. I like to wrench on cars but I am in no way a mechanic. I enjoy popping the hood and staring at the engine with a beer in my hand and make random motions as if I actually knew how to change out a carburetor. In all of the years that I have been working on my truck, I never once paid any attention to my catalytic converter. Laying on my back in the garage, I looked up at the exhaust and saw the gap where the converter should be mounted. All of the cuts were made smooth leading me initially to believe that the people responsible for this were professional thieves.

This wasn’t the first time that I have been a victim of theft. On the 2nd of November, 2009, what should have been the happiest day of my life; somebody broke into our house and cleaned us out. I had just finished signing the papers on selling The Woodshed when I came home to a distraught girlfriend, trashed house and scared dog. They stole all of our iPods, computers, money and my guitar.

You don’t lose your faith in humanity when something like this happens; you just lose your trust in strangers. Instead of just having to lock the doors when you leave for work, you now need to double-check every window, deadbolt every door and set the alarm. I honestly believe that we were targeted for a home invasion. People probably suspected that I was paid in gold bullion and my house was filled with liquor and cash. Instead, they found a humble home and took every valuable of ours. The Tacoma, on the otherhand, was a victim of opportunity.

I called the cops and made a police report. South Salt Lake PD was responsive only in that they gave me a case number. Strike one! I then called the insurance company and filed a report. Unfortunately, I only carried liability and collision. Incidents that occur when the car isn’t moving are covered by comprehensive which I didn’t carry. Strike two! Contacting Century 16 only resulted in them telling me that you park in their lot at your own risk. Strike three! You’re outa here!

Work at Keys On Main that night was trying. I was testy the moment I walked in through the door. To be successful behind the bar, you need to leave your problems at the door. Complaints come your direction, not the other way. I was irritated for a variety of reasons but mostly because the last thing I wanted to do was manage a bar and pour drinks for people who were celebrating the end of the week. My co-workers were supportive but what could they do short of passing the hat?

People’s reactions varied for two reasons: one, I don’t think they knew where a catalytic converter is located and what it does. The catalytic converter is mounted on the underside of the car below the passenger seat. It links the exhaust manifold to the muffler. It is used to reduce pollution causing emissions from the engine. Two, why somebody would steal a catalytic converter? Sold to scrap yards, catalytic converters can fetch $60 to $100 for the precious metals inside of it. The catalytic converter is able to reduce the amount of carbon monoxide and hydrocarbons because it is filtered through a screen composed of platinum, palladium and rhodium.

Show of hands: has anyone heard of rhodium before? If I said Rhodium was north of Zimbabwe would you argue with me? Probably not. Platinum, palladium and rhodium are some of the most valuable metals on earth. Palladium trades for about $800 an ounce, platinum around $1,800 an ounce and rhodium clocks in around $2,000 per ounce. For comparison, an ounce of Meth cost about $800 which is what I suspect my catalytic converter was stolen for.

Scrap yards buy catalytic converters for pennies on the dollar but the ease in which you can remove one from somebody’s truck is absolutely frightening. In less than two minutes, somebody can easily work their way through a large parking lot boosting converters in the time that I waited for popcorn.

Speaking of which, all of my future popcorn purchases will be done at any other theater than Century 16. Century 16 is the crappiest theater in the valley and a hotbed of property crime. The managers running the theater couldn’t give a damn that cars are being broken into and have done absolutely nothing to curtail the crime on their lot. The manager that I spoke to after my car was vandalized was a ball of vapid mess. She said emphatically said that the theater has no liability and people park in their lot at their own risk. Completely devoid of empathy, she sealed the deal with my permanent boycott of her theater. Century 16 will never receive another dollar from me and I implore the readers to ban Century 16 until they at least install cameras on their lot. Considering the reputation of Century 16, I know this won’t happen anytime soon. This is the same theater that somebody left their infant in the car when they went to go see The Dark Knight and only some passerby had the wherewithal to report it.

The bitch of the bunch is that my truck is a POS. After everything that I have been through with this truck, the last thing I wanted to experience was one more major repair. It has been repossessed, survived three accidents and undergone a dozen jerry-riggings that’s gotten me through the last six years. The stereo hasn’t worked in five months, the air conditioning is more of a suggestion and there are rips in the upholstery. It smells like a thousand fast food meals eaten on the run and it is covered in dog hair. Yet, through it all, it’s the coolest thing that I have ever owned. It’s the kind of truck that begs to be driven in the mountains, haul trash to the dump and help friends move. It naturally drives to Home Depot. It has been indispensible setting up our home, getting the gardens planted and giving me the freedom to go for a drive. Moreover, there is no place better to drink a beer than off the tailgate.

Do you know how many Long Island Ice Teas I have to pour to replace my catalytic converter? Probably 2,000 and that’s what I am going to do. I am not going to let some meth-addled jerk-off(s) from South Salt Lake to take away my ability to drive. The Methamphetamine Anti-defamation League can suck a lemon. I know one of your members stole my catalytic converter and I just deputized myself. If I catch somebodies feet hanging out from underneath a car in a parking lot, I will be investigating and slapping on the bracelets. How good would it be to say in all honesty that you are making a citizen’s arrest?

If I catch you stealing somebody’s catalytic converter that is exactly what I will be doing.

Follow me on Twitter @BennyRaskin or become a fan on Facebook @ Behind The Bar.

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About Ben Raskin

Born in El Cajon, raised in Las Vegas, educated in Reno and living in Salt Lake City. I bartend, write, box and live in Sugarhouse UT.

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