By Skye Jalal
When you go to start your car, you will quickly notice something wrong. It will sound like there is a bear fight inside of your engine, or perhaps like the entire vehicle is on the brink of explosion. On the phone with your Dad, he will encourage you to start the engine again so that he can hear it. Against all of the senses that six million years of evolution bred you to have, you will do it, and after this and a peek under the car, you will find yourself a confirmed catalytic converter theft victim.
Read up. You don’t understand this yet, but you’re going to want to know a lot about catalytic converters. After the theft, you will go to your friends for support, but instead find yourself Oberlin’s new resident catalytic converter expert- explaining what they are to almost everyone you talk to about it. Get ready to answer questions that will make you wonder if some people you know have ever seen a car.
Go to campus safety and fill out some paperwork. Sit in the office and ponder the motives that caused someone to stare out at a parking lot full of unlocked luxury vehicles to steal from and target the car whose back-window was secured with electrical tape. Some sort of reverse Robin Hood situation? You won’t know.
Be sure to forget to take the two neon yellow “STUDENT DRIVER PLEASE BE PATIENT” reflective magnets off the back of your truck, so that when the campus safety officer drives you over to the lot, you can make sure they’re in every photo for the police report.
Drive with Campus Safety to the police station, and fill out–guess what?--more paperwork. You will be led into a small gray room, and you will wonder who else has sat in this seat before in the past. Did Lena Dunham sit here once after the theft of her catalytic converter? Perhaps there was once the girlfriend of some Northern Ohio drug lord, sitting right here as she apprehensively turned him in, in exchange for her own freedom.
But no, it is just you. Trying to figure out how to fill the rest of the victim statement page after you've already written, “I looked under the car and it was gone.”
In the days that follow, sometimes you will pause and think to yourself, “Someone cut a fucking hole in my car.” Other times you will feel like you found a connection to something.
Reddit forums and random conversation will show you an entire network of converter victims just like you- people you didn’t know existed before you became one of them. Something that was once an abstract story on the news, you will now know most acutely.
They say grief is the great unifying force. Divorce and death do break us, but also stitch our pieces closer to each other. You will find this with the loss of your catalytic converter.
It will be painful -- the theft and the paperwork and the calls to insurance. But you will understand something that you didn’t before. Something about that pain will feel satisfying, like pressing your thumb into a bruise. It will feel like growing up.