By Jordan W. Charness
Neil had a car he couldn’t get rid of. It’s not like it was a bad car, it was just a car that he had grown tired of. It was basic grey outside with basic grey and plastic inside. It was endlessly reliable, but just plain boring.
He took it to a dealer to see how much he’d get for it on a trade-in but since it was not a really highly sought-after model, the dealer did not offer him very much money, and not anywhere near what the car was insured for. Neil put the car up for sale but he got very few offers. And once again, the amounts that he was offered were below what he felt the car was worth, and what he thought the car was insured for.
Neil also enjoyed hanging around bars. He was not a big drinker but he enjoyed the camaraderie and all the new friends that he could meet. One day he was discussing his boring grey car with a brand-new friend he had met that night, named Warren.
Warren suggested to him that perhaps if he wasn’t crazy about the car maybe he should just help it get stolen. Neil did not want to do anything that seemed flagrantly illegal, but Warren convinced him that if he just accidentally left the car doors unlocked over the next two days the car may just disappear.
For the next few days, wherever Neil went in his boring grey car, he left the doors unlocked. No one stole the car but he did receive a ticket from a conscientious parking patrol officer who noticed that the car doors were left open and gave him a ticket placed on the inside dashboard for this illegal act. The parking cop then locked all the doors and carefully noted down that he had done so. In this way, if Neil ever contested the ticket, the cop could attest to the fact that the car doors were definitely unlocked.
Two weeks went by and Neil was still cursed with his boring grey car. Warren then suggested that perhaps he wasn’t trying hard enough to get it stolen. Maybe he should start leaving the car doors unlocked and the key in the ignition. That way, perhaps the thief would be more inclined to take the car off his hands.
The next few times that Neil visited bars he not only left the doors unlocked but actually left the key in the ignition. After week and a half of leaving it that way the car was still parked in the same place he left it every time he returned to it.
At this point, after a few drinks, Neil complained loudly to Warren that no matter what he did he couldn’t get rid of the stupid boring grey car. The dealer didn’t want to give him any money for it and he couldn’t find anybody to sell it to. He even loudly complained that leaving the car doors unlocked and the key in the ignition still did not encourage anyone to steal the car.
About two hours later, Neil left the bar and to his pleasant surprise found that his car was missing. He ran back into the bar announcing loudly to Warren that his car had finally been stolen. He then made a big show of calling the police to report the stolen vehicle.
The police don’t always turn up for every stolen car report, but there happened to be a patrol car in the neighbourhood and the police arrived at the bar. Neil told the cops that he had been at the bar for about three hours and had parked right in front. When he returned to the parking lot he was surprised to find that his beloved grey car was missing.
The police took the necessary notes and then did the logical thing. They interviewed the various people at the bar to see if anyone had seen the car disappear. While no one could remember seeing the car drive away, several people told the police that they had overheard Neil and Warren discussing the fact that he had been trying to have the car stolen and had left the key in the ignition and the doors unlocked.
This completely changed the police investigation. Now they had two crimes on their hands: number one, someone had indeed stolen the boring gray car. Secondly, they arrested Neil and charged him with conspiring to have his car stolen and for mischief.
When Neil came to trial he first tried to blame Warren and secondly claimed that he had really done nothing illegal by leaving the car doors open and the key in his car ignition.
What do you think the judge decided? I’ll take some of your best answers and tell you what happened in a future column.