I was out of breath from running. The hot summer air hit my face and caught painfully in my chest as I exited the building.
I watched the woman get into a vehicle ahead of me and start her engine. The sudden realization that I was helpless overwhelmed me.
In desperation I ripped off my right shoe and hammered the heel into the diver’s side window of the burnt orange SUV as it pulled out of the parking lot.
The woman stared back at me, shock playing on her face through the tinted glass.
“Damn you!” I yelled after her.
Several of my staff had gathered outside and were staring at me. They had witnessed the running through the clinic, white coat flying, shouting to stop the woman now driving away and wanted to know what the ruckus was all about.
“Who has a phone I can borrow?” Silence. No one was making eye contact with me. “I need a phone… Please? Anyone?”
Someone stepped forward and handed me their cell. I quickly dialed “911”.
I ran the license plate numbers in my head over and over again hoping not to lose them before the call connected.
“911. What is your emergency?” The woman spoke slowly, deliberately, no sense of urgency in her voice. A disinterested, uninvolved party.
I breathlessly relayed the details.
Wait. Are you supposed to put a 911 caller on hold? What if I were dying?
Before I could finish the thought, the voice was back. “Ma’am, I have passed the information to an officer and they will be there shortly.”
“NO!” I yelled. “I don’t need them here! I need them following the BURNT ORANGE SUV! I need for someone to get her!”
I could hear the sirens in the distance and hoped that meant they were pursuing her.
Thirty seconds later, however, two police cars pulled up in front of me. Four officers got out… slowly… and approached.
“Ma’am, are you OK?” One of them asked.
“No. No, I am not ok. Is someone going after her?”
“Why don’t you just come back inside and tell us what happened.” One officer grabbed my arm, speaking in that even tone I use when dealing with irrational people.
(Was I irrational?)
“Isn’t someone going after her?”
“No, ma’am. Not until we know what happened.”
“She will be long gone by then! Look, she is in a burnt orange SUV. She would still be easy to catch, she went that way!” I said as I wrested my arm free of the officer and pointed down the highway.
Who drives a burnt orange SUV when they are going to commit a crime, anyway? Pick something like black or silver. Blend in with everyone else…
“Come with us.” It was a command. Now I felt like the criminal. I acquiesced.
I was escorted back through the clinic to my office, flanked by the four uniformed police officers. Patients stared. A few whispered.
Yeah, yeah, yeah.
“Look, I don’t understand why you didn’t just go after her.” I sat down behind my big mahogany desk. Two of the officers took seats and two remained standing.
I didn’t offer to get extra chairs.
One took out a notebook and said simply, “Tell us what happened.”
So I told them about seeing the woman in scrubs lurking around my office, about assuming she was there assisting a patient. She looked official, like she knew what she was doing. How my social worker found her digging through my purse and asked her what she was doing. I told them about the knock on the door while I was seeing a patient, when my nurse stuck her head in to tell me to check my belongings. How my credit cards, bank cards, and driver’s license were all missing. About chasing the woman through the clinic and then about my high heeled shoe on the windshield in the parking lot.
“You shouldn’t have gone after her.”
“Right. Well if I didn’t, who was going to?” I glared at each of them in turn.
“Doc,” (by now they knew who I was) “That was just plastic. It can be replaced.”
The anger drained out of me. But the sense of violation remained and was magnified. A lump formed in my throat and the tears stung my eyes as I fought them back.
Turns out, I was not her first victim. Nor would I be her last as she made her way across the state targeting other clinics and healthcare professionals.
So what deep and profound lesson have I learned from this? I will tell you:
The Department of Motor Vehicles sucks.
I know, I know. That seems like an odd thing to say. Let me explain.
I went to get my replacement drivers license and had to stand in line for hours until my number was called. I explained the situation.
“Look up please.”
Bam! The flash. Wait! I wasn’t ready. You can’t take my picture like that! I want a do over! They don’t do do overs.
Then she issued me a card with the same number.
“Ma’am? There must be a mistake. You just gave me a temporary with my old number.”
The women stared at me through her bifocals with a look that suggested hellfire and damnation was going to rain down upon me. “Why would you get a new number?”
“Because someone stole my old one. Identity theft?”
She sighed an exasperated sigh and then leaned forward across the dirty counter, speaking slowly so that I, a dimwit, would be sure to understand. “Your license is going to have your picture on it. You are the only you there is. A new number is not necessary.”
“Ma’am, I beg your pardon but I don’t even look like my drivers license picture!” Who does, really?
She didn’t even respond. She just looked over my shoulder and said, “Next!”
And that, folks, was THE END!