I was in the middle of dinner with a friend recently when he realized he'd left his wallet in the car and went to the valet to retrieve it. He returned with a story about an apparently disturbed man loitering in front of the restaurant and asking patrons for rides. (In one instance, my friend witnessed the loiterer asking a customer if he could sit in his wife's lap). More harmless LA craziness, we thought.
The man was as harmless as a budget sequester. While waiting for the valet to retrieve our cars after dinner, my friend was rather surprised to see his car accelerate past us in what can only be described as an attempted Mario Andretti run. After a language barricaded exchange with the confused valet, we came to understand that the valet had given my friend's car away to the disturbed loiterer in front of the restaurant, who must have gotten bored asking others for rides and decided he needed his own car. By some amazing leap of logic, common sense and a lot of other things too, the valet had come to the conclusion that the would-be lap-riding loiterer hanging around in front of the restaurant was my friend's son. (I'm assuming the lap-rider had something to do with propagating the idea).
What, you may be asking yourself, might support the conclusion that my friend had sired this curious stranger? My friend had arrived at the restaurant alone. The stranger had been loitering in front of the restaurant trying to get on laps before my friend went out to get his wallet and he remained there when my friend came back inside to finish dinner. Is there some rash of wayward sons on the Westside of LA hanging out in front of restaurants where Dad is dining (and where they are not invited), attempting to bum rides from strangers and then leaving Papa stranded with no ride at the end of the evening? Perhaps the valet was overly susceptible to the wild rantings of Limbaugh and Beck about blue-state family values. I can't explain it. It doesn't seem necessary to say much more about the absurdity of this except to add that when I described it to the 911 operator, his initial response was "You've got to be kidding me."
That may seem like a lot for one night. This, however, is Los Angeles. Since my friend didn't know his license plate number, I took him home to get it (he lives close to the restaurant) and he followed me back in a separate car. When he arrived, one of the four officers on the scene approached him angrily. Why did we leave? the officer asked us, leveling what seemed to be more an accusation than a question. My friend explained that he didn't know his license plate number and went home to get it. The officer responded in a way that seemed designed to poke holes in what he apparently thought was a wildly incredible alibi: Why would we leave the scene of a crime if we were claiming that a car was stolen? Again, we explained that we needed to get the identifying information on the car -- sending the police simply to look for a silver Range Rover somewhere in LA didn't seem to be all that useful. The officer was having none of it -- claiming he needed to "investigate" the situation, he continued to interrogate us about our suspiciously mysterious attempt to go home and get the plate information. (He'd cornered Bonnie and Clyde and was determined to deliver to us our just desserts.)
Given the fact that a seeming lunatic was roaming the streets of LA in his car while he was being grilled about his apparently suspect efforts to collect information that might help recover it, my friend grew frustrated. (No, he was not just "frustrated," he was very angry.) The officer then surmised that he'd been drinking.
I don't know how most people behave when the valet gives their car away to a crazy loiterer and in the course of reporting the crime they're treated like a cagey felon on the run. Maybe they act drunk. My friend, however -- who, when he isn't having new "sons" foisted on him who take it upon themselves to steal his car, is normally a pretty calm, buttoned-up lawyer -- wasn't acting drunk. He was acting mad. (And he certainly wasn't drunk.)
When I suggested to the officer that his "investigation" of my friend's stolen (and now long gone) vehicle seemed to be taking a strange turn, he told me to leave the area. I refused, telling him that since he had turned the reporting of a crime into a hostile interrogation I would remain present as my friend's counsel. The officer then threatened to arrest me. When I told him that while he sometimes might get away with that tactic, he was "barking up the wrong tree with me" (I don't know, it just came to me), he apparently concluded that Bonnie and Clyde were not so dangerous after all and he redirected his attention to the task of actually trying to catch a criminal.
The officer later went to my friend's house to collect more information about the car, said he regretted his handling of the situation, and asked my friend to convey an apology to me.
The would-be lap-riding joyrider was apprehended under the influence of something. He'd taken the car to the Valley, collided with a couple of other vehicles and totaled my friend's car.
The valet company is disclaiming responsibility because my friend was inside the restaurant when his fugitive "son" took the car -- we were waiting inside the restaurant while the valet brought our cars around because it was cold. (That, of course, will not be the end of that.)
I wish there was something I could add to all of this, but there just isn't.