Sunday, January 02, 2011

Pandora's Boxes, Escheatment, and a Stolen Wheel


Tanguely Frere emerged from the racquet club damp with sweat and ready to make the long drive across the dark city to her mid-town apartment where she planned to take a hot shower and to collapse into a soft bed with clean cotton sheets.

It was not to be.

As she approached her car, parked under a light and in view of the surveillance camera, she saw that the right rear end of her car resting on the ground. Someone had stolen her right rear wheel. Not the tire, but the entire wheel. There was a small pile of 5 lug-nuts on the ground.

It was the second time in two weeks that it had happened. The first time, Tanguely had interrupted the thieves, who sped off in a souped-up box of a car – an Element or something like it-- that sounded like a Harley Davidson with glasspacks. She did not realize what had been happening until the wheel started to come off as she drove down the road, heading toward Starbucks.

"At least the wheel did not come off while I was on the turnpike or in traffic," she said to the tow-truck driver.

They stole her wheel sometime before 9:15 at night on the shortest, darkest day of the year, which happened to coincide this year with a full eclipse of the moon, slated for around midnight.

"You were right." Tanguely texted her hair stylist who had become a mystic, soi-disant, with tarot cards and psychic visions. She wasn’t alone. Others were feeling the psychic groundswell, as late-night Coast-to-Coast radio interview subjects waxed eloquent on underground civilizations, reptilian aliens, Trilateral Commission meetings, Bohemian Grove, and 2012.

The eternal return of the apocalyptic narrative.

In the QuikTrip convenience store where Tanguely bought a coffee after airing up the spare tire, she noticed a bleached blonde woman with a chipmunk-like laugh that was so loud it echoed off the glass doors of the refrigerated SmartWater and sugar-free energy drinks. The woman was young, but with a laugh like that -- the result of being goofed up one whatever cheap stimulant around (meth? glue? shoe polish?) -- she would be wizened and toothless within three years. She could run around the trees with the other toothless chipmunks on crystal meth, thought Tanguely. Ordinarily, Tanguely felt a twinge of compassion for the drug abusers who seemed to gravitate to the convenience stores. Tonight, though, after having her wheel stolen, Tanguely felt hostility; raw aggression.

“I wonder how much they got for my wheel,” mused Tanguely. How long would it keep them high? They need to switch over to huffing gasoline. It’s cheap.

“Except they probably did it partially for the thrill,” commented Tanguely to no one in particular.

Someone was speaking Mexican-accented Spanish in a squeaky baby voice that someone had probably told her was "perky," and not simply annoying. She was showing her friend an engagement ring.

Tanguely paused by the door and punched the number in on her new iPhone which had a finicky touchscreen.

"You seem grumpy," commented her friend. Although it was pointless to call him, since he around 150 miles southeast of the racquet club.

"I am grumpy," said Tanguely. "I should be grateful. I know that. At least they took the whole wheel, and just one. It's better than having it fall off at 60 miles per hour."

Tanguely walked across the parking lot, and the sound of chipmunk laughter bounced up and down. Tanguely felt like turning around and running up to the chipmunk woman, recording her laugh and uploading it to iTunes.

That laugh would be perfect for horror films. You could play the laughter just before the knife came down in the shower, or the chainsaw appeared in Lovers Lane.


Tanguely walked through the door and opened her mail. She noticed a holiday card from the stock transfer company that had escheated 90,000 shares of stock she had inherited from her mother. The stock transfer company had claimed they had tried to establish contact with her. Unfortunately, the stock transfer company tended to deluge everyone on their mailing lists with spam and junk paper mail, to the point that whenever she saw an envelope with their return address, she expected a sales pitch for unneeded (but very expensive) workshops and third-party goods and services -- insurance, travel deals, even cosmetic surgery.

So, she didn't open her mail from them. She did not know she was not in contact. As a result she was turned over to the State of Colorado.

Getting her stock back once it had been escheated -- basically seized -- by the State of Colorado was harder than Tanguely ever imagined.

Now she was opening her holiday card.

It was a cute pop-up of gift boxes -- blue and purple. Undoubtedly, someone had thought they were nice little Hanukkah or Christmas gifts.

Pandora's boxes, thought Tanguely.

Beware the gifts proffered by a securities transfer company. Not Trojan horses, but worse. Open the box, open the present, and unleash pesky, needling, schadenfreude-ish energies of the night.

Was it the kind of energy that drove people to steal a wheel from a car in a racquet club parking lot? Did someone know she was inside, playing tennis on an indoor court?

"Doesn't your current boss live down the street from the racquet club?" asked her friend. "Doesn't he have a 16-year-old who just got a small SUV?"

"That looks like an Element?" responded Tanguely. She paused. "Yes."

Her friend sighed loudly. Tanguely spoke.

"I wasn't taking it personally until now," she said. "I guess I should. The police seemed to think it was an unusual event and that no one wants Subaru tires and wheels. If I had a Ferrari, yes. A 6-year-old Subaru? No."

She picked up the pop-up holiday card and peered inside the little pop-up boxes. Did they have gifts inside? The card was not elaborate enough for that.


The big questions:

How do we tell good from evil and right from wrong?

What is reality?

How do we know what we know?

Which professions are most ethical and which are the least ethical?

Why is being a circus clown a morally better choice than being an Olympic athlete?

Revenge fantasies flowed through Tanguely’s mind. How could she entrap the wheel thieves? It was not worth it.

Switching gears, Tanguely thought that the answers to the “big questions” were patently self-evident.

Therefore, they were not too interesting. She was more interested in the “nano-questions” – the subtle questions that left no “psychic footprint” to disrupt the flow…

“Morality does not unfold in a linear way,” commented Tanguely.

She assumed the thieves were young, male, with beliefs of impunity and immortality.

How about cornered rats? Desperate, angry, unwilling to conform?

Time for a few rat traps, of the human type, thought Tanguely.

And, well, rats were of any age.

It was sad.

Happy New Year.