• Mike Matson

Horse Thieves

This column was published September 3 , 2022 in the Manhattan Mercury.


My wife’s car was stolen last Saturday in Kansas City, Missouri. A week ago today.

As life crises go, this one was mild. No one died, no physical injuries, there was a sense of violation and some wounded pride. We emerged slightly inconvenienced and enormously grateful.

She’s CEO of an organization over there, had parked in front of her office and was hauling some stuff inside. When she came back to get the next load, no Bronco.

It was unlocked with the key fob in the cup holder and the next load was to involve her bag containing her drivers’ license and credit cards. She’s beating herself up over it and that’s all I intend to say about that. If you know my wife, you are aware she is not easily rattled, and good in a crisis. She played through the shock and worked her plan.

First call, the cops. Then me. Need to cancel our credit cards. We divvy up the duty, make the calls, ‘splain the circumstances and we are protected.

Credit card company customer service representatives are farmed-out boiler room operations, but every one of them led with sympathy and assurances. One of them on my list sounded like she was ready to drop everything, catch a flight from Bangalore and bring us a green bean casserole.

Next call, the bank. There was a debit card and some blank checks in her bag. It’s Saturday afternoon. Bank’s closed, so she calls a banker friend at home, and he springs into action. If the Bronco thief tries to hang some paper in Kansas City, they will be thwarted. Foiled, even. We are protected.

That evening, she has no way to get home, so I fire up the lone remaining family vehicle and motor east. They also serve who fetch spouses whose Broncos have been boosted.

It’s Sunday before we get around to reaching out to our insurance company via email, but first thing Monday morning, a claims adjuster calls and the wheels are in motion to make us whole. They’ll “total” the stolen car, pay off the note and we start fresh.

Both cars were scheduled for service on Monday. When we told our mechanic shop we were down to one, they serviced it on the house.

Like most, we’re a dual career family, mine in Manhattan, hers in Kansas City. Clearly, we need two cars. It’s now Monday afternoon. She needs to be back in KC Tuesday. We call our fav local car rental agency, which often runs out of cars late in the day. We walk through our tale of woe, they work their magic, and we snag a rental. A pickup truck. Right up her alley.

Protected. Again.

A pair of purple cowboy boots and a necklace handed down from her favorite Aunt are likely gone forever. We can probably get her K-State license plate number back. I mean, “123” is worth hanging onto.

Part of it is personal relationships with people involved with these companies, part of it is decades of paying our bills on time. But there’s something else the bank, the credit card and insurance companies, mechanic shop and the car rental outfit have in common. Every one of these systems is a for-profit, private enterprise. Good customer service baked into the business plan allows them to make their car payment.

Unfortunately, there’s a yang to this yin. Two specific systems essential to a positive outcome did not come close to the performances of our bank, mechanic shop, credit card, insurance and car rental companies. Both are government systems. As happy as we are with our private sector dealings, we’re that frustrated with the public sector systems that have a role.

As tempting as it is, I won’t give you the blow-by-blow of those interconnected opposite forces. Let the horse thieves take the low road. They already have.

Much better to know that systems designed to protect us from life crises work. Much better to believe that most people want to be helpful. Much better to bask in the warmth that faith in our fellow man is not misplaced.