Suburban Kryptonite 2: Electric Boogaloo

“Bet you’re not going to be so positive about Detroit now, huh?” – sample message I got over the last few days

“Why the $#@% would you think that?” – me

Nine years ago, I wrote “Suburban Kryptonite” after getting some blowback from people while organizing an event downtown.

Flash forward nearly a decade: my car got broken into this past week… and while the break in itself was annoying, even more annoying were some of the messages and comments that I got from people over the following days.  Messages that let me know… well, they didn’t really let me know anything I wasn’t already fully aware of, but they certainly reinforced the knowledge that we have a long, long way to go in this area before things are ever going to get any better…

I was downtown Wednesday night at our studio to handle a few meetings and run a couple shows.  Afterwards, I went out with a few friends for a little bar hopping and fun, and decided it was best to leave my car where I had earlier, and take a Lyft home.  Something I’ve done plenty of times in the years since Lyft and Uber became a thing, and so I really didn’t give it much thought.

I woke up Thursday morning, got ready, and summoned another Lyft to get me back to my car… where I had a morning session with a new show setup before carrying on with the rest of my day.  I got there in plenty of time.  Grabbed a coffee, even walked out back to the lot where my car was parked and had a smoke.  Saw my car was exactly where I’d left it… didn’t give it any more consideration than that.  All was well and normal.

Then, as I was just getting ready to get the new corporate client up and recording, one of the bar managers knocked on the studio door, so I stepped out.  He asked if I’d seen my car… I said “sure”.  He then said “Ummm… did you see your window?!”… and I knew that things were about to take a bit of a left turn.

I got them up and recording, and then followed him out back… where, sure enough, the front passenger side window of my car had been shattered.  There was glass everywhere on the ground, as well as all over the interior of my car.  Wayne State PD was called, and they responded promptly.  My conversation with the responding officer was the first indication of how little things have changed over the years.  As he took down my details and filed the report, I could tell he was waiting for me to be the typical suburban white guy and lose my mind… and saw him physically and emotionally bracing for how to deal with me when I did.

So I just laughed and said “You can relax, officer.  I’ve been hanging out in Detroit… even here in Cass Corridor… since the mid-90s.  The more things change, the more they stay the same, eh?”

He snorted and chuckled a bit, and told me what I already knew – there was very little probability that the person responsible would be caught, that things like this happen all of the time downtown, and asked if I could tell if anything had been stolen.  As I looked in through the piles of glass covering both of the front seats and saw the rock laying on the driver’s seat, I happened to glance in the back seat and started shaking my head and laughing.  Sure, a handful of change was missing that had been in my cup holder, along with the charging cord that I keep in my car for my phone… but whoever did it had been in such a hurry that they didn’t take the three hoodies or two sport coats that were in the back seat, nor had they bothered to take the power washer that was in the back of my car (I had lent it to the folks there at the building, and just picked it back up the night before), a couple packs of cigarettes had been pushed to the passenger side floor off of the seat… and hey, at least I’d left my backpack with my laptop in it in the studio, so that’s a major crisis avoided…

I told the officer this, and we shared a laugh over his “criminal masterminds” comment, and then I got the report number and called my insurance agent to report the break in and figure out what I needed to do next.  I cleaned the glass out of the driver’s seat as best I could, put one of the hoodies down over the seat, called to rearrange my afternoon meetings so that I could deal with this situation, and then went back inside to finish the recording session with our clients.  I debated posting about it on Facebook for a moment, but you can’t always just post the “good” stuff out there pretending that your life is all sunshine and flowers and baby kittens, and so I did.

By and large, the comments and reactions were what one would expect – sharing my annoyance that it happened, asking if everything was okay, etc.  But there were the few others that I knew were coming as well – the ones deriding me for “being dumb enough” to leave my car anywhere downtown, or “what’d you expect would happen?”, or just generally knocking the city and the residents.

Wasn’t having any of it.  To one, I pointed out a reminder that his car had been stolen a few years ago… in Royal Oak.  With another, I discussed the shared issue we had wherein both of our houses had been broken into… in the suburbs.  Another conversation dove into how her car had been broken into… in her own driveway.  Another about the rash of vandalism in his subdivision he’d been complaining about on Facebook just the prior week…

So no, my attitude about Detroit hasn’t become any less positive because of this.  No, we’re not going to do fewer events downtown as a result.  No, I’m not going to be any less likely to leave my car downtown if I’ve had a few drinks and want to be safe.  No, you shouldn’t use this as something to bolster a negative belief about the city.  I could easily have chosen to move my car up closer to the building and further away from the back alley.  I could also have decided to not drink as much and stay sober enough to drive myself home.  I made decisions, and as a result I lost all of about two dollars in change and a charging cord.  I had a pretty cold drive home.  Since it was a “glass only” claim, it was super cheap for me to get the window replaced, and it took an hour.  The situation forced me to do something I hadn’t done in forever… clean out my car.  Those who know me know that I always have a ridiculous amount of items, trash, and other stuff all over my passenger side… and now that’s all gone.  I vacuumed out my car completely… and even though I’m sure I’ll still be finding pieces of glass for weeks, at least my car is cleaner than it has been in ages.  Whoever did it is clearly in a worse situation in life than I am overall, and so while annoying, at least I’m in the position that I had a car to leave parked there, a home to have taken a Lyft back to, and friends to have been with the night before.  Getting angry about it would’ve just gotten my blood pressure through the roof… and certainly wouldn’t have unbroken my window or brought that handful of change and charging cord back.

At the end of it all, with this latest rambling post of mine… I guess I want the takeaway to be that bad things can, and will, happen no matter where you are.  Go where you want to go, do what you want to do, and live your life however you choose to live it.  Similar to posting my experience on Facebook, I guess in part this post is to share the bad along with the good… but with the perspective that goes along with it, too.

Oh, and as the saying goes… don’t be afraid of Detroit.  Hit me up sometime, and I’ll show you some of the best places with great experiences awaiting that you’ll never find in the suburbs.