Perhaps it was a crime of need. Or of desperation. Maybe even a crime of passion.
But whatever incited the burglary of my car last weekend, it was, in the parlance of all those pithy TV detectives, “a senseless crime.”
When I returned to the car from a concert I had attended, I didn’t detect any damage right away. Such was the level of the thieves’ expertise. Only later--when I was on my way into the house and popped the trunk to collect my belongings--was I struck by the enormity of this vile act.
At least the miscreant bypassed the passenger compartment and all its valuables: my car stereo (must have been ‘cause it’s an in-dash, or he didn’t like the Chieftains tape in it), my trusty Swiss army knife, automobile registration, Thomas Bros. map book and the sheet music to “Black Denim Trousers and Motorcycle Boots.”
The criminal mind. Go figure.
This desperado even left behind a tool box with some excellent, pre-storewide discount Sears wrenches and screwdrivers. (He’s evidently not one of those crafty vandals who sneaks into your house when you’re gone and makes the faucets leak.)
No, it seemed this villain knew just what he wanted.
Yep. My accordion.
“Why??!” wondered I, gazing in stunned disbelief at the space where only a few hours earlier my metallic-red, marble-finish instrument had rested. It had been on its way to join in the revelry at a St. Patrick’s Day party; still echoing in my ears was the sound of a rendition I’d just worked up of Elvis’ “Are You Lonesome Tonight?” which I had re-dubbed “Are You Gaelic Tonight?”
On top of that, they had nabbed a bag with some laundry and a hair brush, but that’s not what made me bristle: It’s time to step up the war on poverty when street criminals stoop to accordion theft.
I filed a police report immediately, though the desk sergeant sounded less than morally incensed when I reported the burglary at 2 a.m. He had that tone in his voice. You know the one: “What do you expect us to do? Arrest the guy or give him a reward?”
Obviously a man insensitive to the savage-breast-soothing charm of a good polka.
He asked whether I wanted to bring the car down to check for fingerprints or simply file the report over the phone. I scoffed. Certainly anyone clever enough to zero in on the one car in all of Southern California with a vintage 12-bass keyboard accordion in the trunk would be astute enough to wear gloves. Blockhead.
My insurance agent wasn’t much better: “And you don’t know who did it?” she blithely asked.
“Well, yes,” I said, “but then if I told you it wouldn’t be a surprise anymore, would it?”
Nevertheless, I want the scoundrel caught. Not to exact revenge (though I did have moments when I fantasized about what delicious sentence the Ayatollah would mete out for this offense. Always a believer that the punishment should fit the crime, I would stand the guy up against a wall, offer him a blindfold, then catch his chest hairs in the accordion’s bellows).
No, I wanted to understand the unfathomable. Who could have done this thing? Was it a disadvantaged youth from a broken home, the victim of a family driven apart by an incompetent accordion teacher? The owner of a Mexican restaurant finally pushed over the edge of sanity by bad nortenos music? Perhaps even a fellow musician contracted to play one too many Italian weddings?
I felt eternally grateful that I left my clarinet at home, lest I might single-handedly have provided the tools of a roving polka mob.
Even worse to consider: perhaps the thief had a partner in crime who now would insist they go for a tuba.
The worst part, of course, wasn’t the monetary loss I suffered but a sense that my person had been violated. I felt disoriented, slightly queasy. I’m told it’s the same feeling most people experience after a theft. Or an accordion recital.
And then there’s the ripple effect that these brigands never consider: Not only did this crime deprive me of a creative outlet, it also will be felt by the intermittent rock band I play in (we specialize in the little-known sub-genre of intermittent rock). Not to mention our fans, which number into the dozens.
I realize I’ll probably never see the accordion again. But be on the lookout--if you see some guy on a street corner who’s wearing steel-gray pants, a green-striped shirt, freshly brushed hair and playing a red accordion, call the cops.
Society will thank you.