Don’t drive like my brother.
– Tom and Ray Magliozzi
Did I ever tell you the one about the time I met the Car Talk guys?
Monday, I had the chance to speak virtually to the District Technology Leaders of Orange County, CA about what digital spaces and digital learning can and should be. Rather than risk running late for class or getting cut off from my apartment’s super sketchy Internet access, I travelled to campus and reserved a room in the library so I knew I’d be able to hardwire into a network connection. At the appointed time, I spoke for an hour to and with what I was told was a room of about 20 people from around Orange County about the spaces they could imagine online and they affordances of such spaces. It was a learning experience in how to shape a talk around of people I can’t see or physically interact with.
The Car Talk guys were not a part of the talk.
Feeling suitably pleased with the talk, I headed to the Crema Cafe in Harvard Square for a lunch. Normally, I’d head to the commons on campus, but I was feeling pretty good, so I thought I’d splurge.
At Crema, I ran into a few other folks from my program. They were sitting at the bar whilst I was waiting for my grilled cheese, and I struck up a conversation. Three of them needed to head to class (none of them the Car Talk guys), and I took one of their seats next to Meaghan and Eric to catch up on our weekends.
I took off my bag and set it at my feet between the wall of the counter and my chair.
Ten minutes later, as Meaghan and Eric were standing to leave, I heard Meaghan say, “Where’s my bag?”
I looked to where I’d seen Meaghan’s bag when I sat down, “It’s right over…” Nope.
We looked around. I looked from table to table, pointing to the bags at strangers’ feet, “Is that it?” as if we were playing some impromptu game of I Spy.
None of the bags was Meaghan’s.
I looked down at my own bag.
Well, I would have, if it were still there.
My bag, too, was missing.
Again, I surveyed the immediate area of the cafe – this time for my bag.
I stood and walked the length of the building – nothing.
I walked up the stairs to the loft seating – nothing.
In the initial moments, my thinking was that someone we knew had moved our bags and was going to pop up from behind the counter – that rapscallion. And then we’d have a pint of ale and sing sea shanties.
No such luck.
Our bags had been stolen.
We had been robbed.
We caught the attention of one of the women behind the counter and explained what had happened. In an understanding tone, she said they’d had a problem with that before and said she’d go get the phone number of the police.
I called and the voice on the other end said an officer would come to us. After I hung up, I learned Meaghan and Eric had asked if the place was outfitted with security cameras.
“Yes,” said the lady, but not on the space where we were sitting. They were more focused on the front of the cafe, near the entrance.
“Could we see them, just the same? Whoever had taken our bags had to leave somehow.”
We needed to talk to the owner.
Excellent, how could we do that.
The lady pointed to the front of the shop. The owner was showing around a new hire. She’d be with us as soon as she could be.
While we waited for the police officer to arrive, the lady told us they’d had a meeting just that morning where the employees had talked about how their weren’t adequate security camera’s in the place and that they needed more.
This was offered in a tone I suppose was meant to help us feel better.
“See,” she seemed to be saying, “we weren’t ignorant of the possibility that your day would suck a few minutes after you sat down to your iced tea and grilled cheese.”
We went outside to wait, away from the noise and frustration of the cafe.
Eventually, an officer arrived to take our report.
While we’d been waiting, I popped my head in to let the lady we’d been speaking with know we were outside when the owner was done.
We never heard from the owner.
At some point, a new lady, a manager, came out to talk to us. It was as she was reiterating the lack of adequate camera coverage and the fact that they’d had a running problem with bags being taken that the police officer showed up.
She stood their for the first part of the conversation, and I’m not sure when she headed back in.
The officer took our details.
We described our bags and their contents. For me, it meant my laptop, iPad, course packs, statistics notes and two books for class were gone.
Meaghan lost her laptop, course packs, a paper due that day, her wallet, cell phone and keys.
The officer, after explaining the process for filing our case and the assignment of a detective, tried to make us feel better.
They’d had several cases of bags being taken, he said. From this place, particularly, he said. They tried to increase their presence, he said.
We thanked him kindly for his time, and he headed off to do more policing.
“Should we go talk to the Car Talk guys,” I asked Meaghan and Eric.
I’d noticed when I walked outside that the voice of one of the men sitting at one of the cafe’s outside tables sounded like a voice on which I’d been brought up.
As soon as the man to whom the voice belonged stood up and said, “Do you want anything, Tommy?” I knew it was the voice of either Click or Clack of the Tappit Brothers. They’re otherwise known as Tom and Ray Magliozzi .
“I guess we might as well,” said Meaghan.
The table had been feet away from us as we talked to the police officer, and they were clearly interested in what was going down.
We exchanged pleasantries and told them the story of what had just happened.
I found myself rushing through the explanation of the events to get to the end. After we’d said our piece, we were met with “That’s terrible,” and “That’s horrible,” and “I’m so sorry.” They were to be the refrain of the next couple days.
I accepted their condolences tersely and said, tripping over my excitement, “Are you the Car Talk guys?”
One said yes, the other said no, and that sealed it.
We told them how important they’d been to us as we were growing up and that we’d been longtime listeners, and they said thanks in their trademark self-depricating fashion.
We didn’t ask for autographs. It wouldn’t have mattered anyway.
Anything we would have asked them to sign had just been stolen.
We walked away wondering at the weirdness of the universe.
In the day since, I have learned exactly what kind of community I am a part of here.
Our program director, Lola Irele, sent us immediately to the head of Student Affairs, Liz Thurston, when she learned what happened.
Thurston asked us what classes we were in and what had been taken. This morning, I had an e-mail explaining that replacement course packs were waiting in the registrar’s office.
I received an e-mail from one of my professors, asking me if I needed anything and letting me know I had extra time on an upcoming assignment if I needed it.
Thurston e-mailed all of our professors to let them know what happened.
Classmates I met just a few weeks ago started e-mailing offering to help, lend course readings and let us know they were sorry to hear the news.
Charlotte, one of the three who left the cafe just before I sat down, started a chipin campaign for people who were interested in helping to offset the costs of replacing what had been stolen.
All day today, I’ve been getting e-mails letting me know people have been contributing.
I won’t be going back to Crema Cafe. It’s not because that’s where my bag was taken, but because the owner never paused from showing the new employee around the place to see if we were okay.
I will be thankful for the community here at HGSE. People who I’ve spoken to only once or twice have gone out of their way to help out when there was no pressing reason to do anything.
Plus, I got to meet the Car Talk guys.