Santa Cruz Crazies - Priceless Lost Key Charm & Kindness from a Stranger
Buckle your seat beat for an, “Epic Journey into the Human Experience.” I could never make this story up; therefore I am sharing my unbelievable tale of what happened this morning at the Santa Cruz, CA Starbucks around 6:30am. My story ends with the help from an incredible young man named, Jesus F and his beyond gracious act of kindness to help out a stranger in distress. Before I launch into today’s story I would love to rewind into yesterdays fabulous day spent in Ft. Bragg, CA. The morning began at my Cliffside Heaven campsite overlooking the fabulous Mendocino bluffs of the Pacific. The rest of the day in Ft. Bragg, CA proved to be just as magical for me, as my sea spirit spoke to my soul multiple times.
I found Ft. Bragg to be a charming little community tucked in time beside the coast in small seaside village with immense charm, a quiet lifestyle, and immense character. There were several military history museums, a quaint downtown area filled with shops, but my favorite feature was the fascinating MacKerricher State Park Glass Beach. The beach was actually created from years of garbage that was dumped into the sea along the northern portion of town. I spent two divine hours walking the beach upon millions of pieces of beautiful glass that were at one time families belongings, bottles, windows, and dishes. A local man who had lived in Ft. Bragg area his entire life told me that they even pushed entire homes into the sea after an earthquake in the 1930’s. He explained to me that the process is estimated to take about 20 or more years for the glass to wash ashore and recycle the beauty upon the glass bluff and beach area. As I continued to walk along the beach I bent down and collected numerous pieces of old history in my hand as beautifully polished pearls of time. I could have spent days at this extraordinary place as it had all the elements of the perfect beach for me. Some of my favorite images of the Ft. Bragg community by the sea were the towering rock bluffs, foamy ocean spray, intimate beach enclaves, a small number of people, and mountains of towering redwoods.
As I finished up my walk at Glass Beach I wandered to the edge of the bluff edge and held the precious glass treasures against my heart. I was overflowing with a sweet soft peaceful love of this place. I told the sea, “You can have these back as they are not mine to keep. I will return soon to enjoy you another day!” I did keep one special piece of glass that had a special metaphor meaning deep within me and tossed my handful of glass beauties back into the sea to continue their journey of sweeping against the rocks in solitude.
Earlier in the morning I spent a couple of hours at my friend Janet’s property just a few miles down the road from Glass Beach. Janet provided some great directions to find the land and I found it quickly as this marvelous spot was like a positive magnet of abundant energy. As I drove up the grassy hill to reach the area that Janet had cleared for the future seaside cabin, I said to myself, “For Heaven’s Sake this is beautiful.” I texted Janet once I parked my car and said, “Janet this place is magical and when I drove up your driveway I said For Heaven’s Sake this is the spot.”
When I pulled into the property I saw a brush hog man mowing and cleaning up the tall grass. I noticed he had carefully left some beautiful flower patches at the edge of the woods facing the giant redwood forest. I found an ideal spot to sit on top of a sawed off giant redwood stump and watched the brush hog man for about an hour. When he finished up his work for the day he drove over to me sitting on the stump like a curious cat and he asked me, “Are you Janet?” I said, “No sir, I am a friend of Janet’s and she gave me directions to come over here and check out this beautiful spot. You did a great job mowing today. I love tractors and had a Kubota years ago that I loved driving around with my brush hog at my lake property in Arkansas.” The older gentleman grinned and said, “Yes I am in my 80’s and still love my tractor and I mow for several people around here.” As we continued to talk he took off his glasses, which had about an inch of dust on them, pulled them up to his mouth and gave them a giant blast of air. I laughed and said, “Oh I know that old trick too, and if you wipe them you will ruin them.” We said our goodbyes and he jumped back on his tractor and drove off down the road to his next brush hog job. I went over to my car and pulled out my yoga mat, folded it in thirds, and placed it on the redwood stump. I felt like this was a perfect spot for some afternoon meditation and prayer before leaving Janet’s little seaside coastal property.
This was the perfect place to sit quietly upon the sawed off redwood tree facing the ocean breeze so the sea wind could blow through the trees upon my face. I truly wanted to stay and camp another night as this little place had immense energy for writing and space to contemplate my life journey. Janet almost had me convinced to pitch my tent and stay, however I knew that I had a lot of miles to drive to get down the coast to the Venice area by Friday. I loaded up the Subaru once again and headed out of Ft. Bragg with a complete and happy heart. Janet had mentioned that I would probably hit some pretty heavy traffic going through San Francisco and that it might take me 6 hours. I figured I would just get down the road and make a call later in the night as to where to camp. The drive out of Ft. Bragg was another Mario Andretti thrill seeker for me, as I pushed the little Outback hard in the corners, shifting her like an Italian racecar driver around the redwood switchbacks and tight winding roads. The next 40 miles was packed with exquisite wineries off the side of the road. If I had the time and the funds to stop off for some great Vino, I would have never left Ft. Bragg. Nevertheless, I knew I would soon be back to Ft. Bragg and could taste some great Pinot on my next trip. I looked at my clock and it was approximately 6:00pm when I finally exited off the 1 and entered the 101 heading SOUTH. My plan was to head down to SF, however I wanted to go visit Santa Cruz, as this is a place my brother Starr always talked about as one of his favorite areas in high school. I punched in Santa Cruz as my destination and Google maps said it would take me 4 ½ hours. I set the cruise control on the Outback and drove with the windows all the way down to great soft rock jams complements of Sirus radio. I was making great time and noticed that Google maps had routed me through Oakland, completely around SF so I continued to drive right through the city with NO delays or traffic issues. Since I cruising with no traffic in my direction, I was excited to definitely make it all the way to Santa Cruz by 10:00pm.
Upon my arrival I texted Janet and Beth just to let them know I had made great time and safely tucked into my hotel parking spot for the night. When I popped out of the mountains into the Santa Cruz downtown area, I sensed this the area to be a little seedy, so I chose to find a higher end hotel parking lot. I spotted a Hilton Gardens on one side of the street and a Hampton Inn Suites on the other. I assumed either hotel would be a good choice and safe option for the night. As I pulled into the Hampton Inn Suites I spotted an armed security guard by the front door of the hotel. Wow this was no Barney 5 security guard. This guy was packing some heat, therefore I knew this hotel was serious about watching customer cars at night. There were signs everywhere at the hotel that said, this parking lot is under 24 hour surveillance, and we have an armed security guard at all times. I spotted an open slot towards the back of the hotel by a well-illuminated area and promptly slid into the back of the Subaru for the night. My windows are tinted and with the sunshade in the front window it is pretty dark and difficult to see into the car. Last night was pretty quiet until about 5:30am when 2 very loud obnoxious homeless guys were scouring the parking lot cussing back and forth at each other while picking up trash. I was not sure what the hell was going on with these guys, but one guy was screaming at the other guy to stop whatever he was doing and get to work. I watched for a few minutes as they were picking up cans and litter. I noticed one guy scandalously looking into car windows as he was picking up trash in the parking lot. I grabbed my glasses and slammed on my shoes, popped out the side door in less than 30 seconds flat before the guy made it over to my car. Just as I opened the door on the right and planted my feet on the ground the guy hustling around picking up trash was in my face. I said, “Hey man how is it going? Let me get out of your way so you can get around me.” He said, “These people are F_____ing slobs around here at night, and if I get this parking lot cleaned up before 7:00am they give me free breakfast.” I said, “That sounds awesome let me get my car out of your way.” I jumped in the drivers seat and immediately got the hell out of that parking lot. I figured this was my sign to pass on the Santa Cruz visit and just get on down the coast today. I wanted to grab a quick Starbucks coffee and brush my teeth so I asked Siri, “What is the closest Starbucks to my location?” She said, “Deb 1.2 miles would you like directions? “I said, “Hell yes.” Siri did not understand my humor so I repeated, “Yes!” I found the Starbucks quickly and looked for a close street side parking location. There was nothing directly in front of the Starbucks as the street cleaning crew had everything blocked off, so I had to go one block over and found a street side slot in front of an ATM machine. When parking my car I had an uneasy feeling about this area, as there were many homeless people on the sidewalks and others lying around the area. It was pitiful as half of these people literally appeared to be half dead. I grabbed my purse, back pack with computer, the atlas, and a few valuables that I wanted to keep on my person just incase my car window was busted out while I was in Starbucks. I had to feed the meter by my parking slot, so I put in $1.00 just to be sure I did not get a ticket while drinking a little caffeine and studying my map route for the day. Upon entering the Starbucks I observed poor man bent over by the door so weak, or hangover that he could not even pick up his head. Someone apparently had bought him a coffee and sat it beside him on the sidewalk. I found a nice long counter by the front glass window that would provide decent light to study my atlas and enjoy my coffee. I laid my map by the far corner of the long table to save my spot as it was starting to get busy about 6:20am. I noticed there was guy wearing an old ragged leather coat, with dirty shorts, and miss matched socks, sitting at the end of the coffee bar. The man was sitting quietly by himself about 8 feet away drinking his coffee and listening to music, so I did not think much about it. I walked over to the counter and ordered my usual venti Pike with heavy cream, 2 Stevie’s, and venti ice water. I told the lady I was going to use the restroom and be right back. She said to me, “Do you have the code?” I looked at her perplexed and said, “What code?” She said,” The bathroom code is 34765.” Ok, this was a very swanky Starbucks in downtown Santa Cruz and they have locking bathrooms. The only other Starbucks location I have found to have locking bathrooms was located in Santa Fe, NM about 3 weeks ago. This should have been another sign to me, then again I just wanted to brush my teeth and drink a cup of coffee. I was in the bathroom less than 3 minutes and walked back over to the counter where the barista said, “Your coffee and water is right there.” I said, “Thanks man I appreciate you.” I grabbed my coffee and water and walked over to the area where I had laid my atlas on the coffee bar and immediately had a sick feeling in my gut that something was very wrong with this situation. I suddenly remembered that when I placed my atlas on the counter top I had my key ring wrapped around my index finder, because that is how I usually carry it. For some reason which I have NO idea why, I laid my single Subaru key fob with my dads 1,000,000 mile safe driving medallion on the Atlas before I went to the bathroom.
The events that transpired for the next 30 minutes are both a frightening nightmare and a miracle. I knew instantaneously that someone had snagged the key to my car! I promptly went into crisis solving mode and stayed calm so I could continue to think clearly and make immediate best-case decisions. I calmly stopped and took 10 deep breaths to lower my heart rate and calm my racing mind, which was flooded with Deb you are F___Ked options. A calm peace came over me and I said, “Ok Deb think your way out of this situation and everything is going to be just fine. You are smart and witty and this situation is completely under control.” I said an immediate prayer to God and said, “I could use a little help with this situation and would appreciate it if you would help me find my car key.” I coolly went through my purse and backpack to make sure I had not slipped the key into one of them. I knew my search was in vain as I was positive that I threw the key off my finger and onto the atlas on my way to the bathroom. Nevertheless, I went through the motions of looking through my purse and backpack twice and of course no key. The guy in the corner was still sitting there and I had keenly observed he was watching me search for my missing key. I felt strongly in my heart that he had snagged the key when I went to the bathroom. I walked over to the barista and said, “Hey did you see anyone over by that table with the atlas? Someone just stole my car keys.” He looked at me and said, “No, sorry I did not see anything.” Well of course he did not see anything as he was slammed with customers at 6:30am providing everyone’s favorite caffeine beverage to start the day. I continued to not show any signs of panic and continued to watch the guy sitting at the end of the long coffee bar. I decided that I had to approach the guy and ask him a few questions. I said,”Hey mister did you see anyone over by my atlas, as someone stole my car key.” The guy just ignored me like I was not even standing there with my mouth moving. I waved my arms in front of him and said with a little more authority, “Hey mister did you see someone over by my atlas take my car keys?” He finally looked up at me and said, “I know nothing.” Well I can read a liar pretty quickly, as his beady eyes looked up and away when I asked him for a second time. I walked over to the barista and said, “Hey someone swiped my car keys off my atlas when I was in the bathroom. I see you have a camera above you. Can you look at the film from 5 minutes ago and help me ID who stole my keys?” The barista said, “Sorry you have to file a police report for us to look at the camera film.” There was no way in hell I was going to wait for police bullshit. If I did not handle this situation right now my car was going to be halfway to LA stripped to the chassis before the Santa Cruz Police even responded to my call. I knew that the guy in the corner had not left the Starbucks since he snagged my keys. My on the spot next step was to quickly go check and see if my car was still parked around the corner. I calmly walked out the door and once I cleared the eyeshot of the Starbucks I kicked it into high gear and rounded the corner in about 5 seconds. I was greatly relieved that at least my Subaru was still parked in front of the ATM. I was comforted for the second and now could start to problem solve step 2 in this epic FUBU #3 story. When I walked back into the Starbucks the guy in the corner was busy texting his ass off on his phone. He looked up and saw me coming in the door and I watched him go right back to his phone with some urgency. I knew exactly what he was doing, so I immediately exited the Starbucks and sprinted to my car. I am sure the guy was texting somebody about the female traveler and a Subaru key that he had just stolen. I ran out of the Starbuck’s rapidly and immediately observed a creep on the corner who I was now positive had my keys in his pocket.
Before leaving Arkansas I made a very detailed checklist of things I might need on this journey, and one of those items was a spare car key. I packed the spare car key just incase I dumped my kayak in some big waves and lost the other key. Never did I imagine that I would need my extra key for this situation, as who would have imagined a mentally ill homeless dude would swipe it off my atlas at Starbucks. I walked up to my Subaru and just shook my head in disbelief at what had just transpired. Nonetheless, I knew that I had another key in the car and everything would work out fine. I was sitting on the curb thinking of all my options at 6:45am when
I felt another sick and almost gut wrenching feeling. I suddenly remembered that my dad’s Wal-Mart 1 million mile safe driving medallion was on the key chain. That safe driving medallion was one of my most prized possessions from my dad’s keepsakes. My dad always kept it on the keys for his old Chevy pickup years. My dad told me once that it took him 23 years to earn the 1 million mile safe driving award with Wal-Mart. I threw my backpack and purse on the hood of my Subaru in disgust and had a moment of pure anger with the creep in the Starbucks. This asshole had just taken something from me that was irreplaceable and very sentimental. I have prided myself as a very safe driver all these years due to my dad’s skilled instruction behind the wheel as a youngster. My dad would always say, “The other guy is not looking, always look twice at intersections, and stay out of truck drivers blind spots. Don’t forget to leave yourself 3 seconds of braking distance at all times, and 5 seconds on wet roads.” I have driven my entire life with these messages of preventative driving that I learned from my dad. I know the safe driving skills I learned from my dad have helped keep me safe across the miles in my vehicle, and 30 years of riding motorcycles. As I stood there on the sidewalk and contemplated my next option on how to get my extra key out of the Subaru a white van pulled into the slot ahead of me on the street. I watched two Latino men dressed in maintenance uniforms with a buggy of equipment. I said to the men, “Hey do you guys know of a local locksmith in the area?” One of the guys said, “No, I am not from this area. Did you lock your keys in the car?” I said, “No man, some asshole stole my keys from my table at Starbucks when I was in the bathroom.” The guy looked at his partner and said, “Santa Cruz is a F____Ked up area and filled with crime, drugs, and weirdo’s. We are from up the road in San Jose and here working a job at the theater around the corner.” I said, “Hey thanks guys I will get online and figure something out.” I pulled out my phone and looked up best options for getting into my car. About 2 minutes later one of the guys came over to me and said, “Hey I have triple AAA and I will call them for you and they can come unlock your car.” I was completely shocked at what he had just offered, as I was planning on at least a 2 hundred-dollar emergency locksmith visit. He introduced himself as Jesus and said, “Hey I have to go around the corner and start this job, but I will call them for you. Here is my number and text me if you need anything. Don’t leave your car!” I thought to myself, “Wow Deb that guy certainly did not have to come over and help me this morning, however after I had mentioned that the key was attached to my dad’s 1 million mile safe driving medallion I felt like he was pissed off too.” I took a few deep breaths and stood by the Outback for about 20 minutes watching the guy across the street light up his meth pipe right on the corner. This guy was defiantly was involved with the jerk in the Starbucks who swiped my keys and I am sure that is who he was frantically texting. I did not take my eye off of him the entire time I stood guard by my car. There was a lot of foot traffic by this time and the ATM was busy with customers, so I was not worried that this meth head freak would approach my car with so many others around. He continued to pace back and forth, as he was completely tweaked out. I know that meth addicts are very unpredictably and will do anything for their next fix. Jesus and his partner Thomas came over to tell me that the triple AAA guy would be here in about 20 minutes. I said to Jesus, “See the guy across the street, I am positive he is involved with the jerk in Starbucks with stealing my car key. He is total meth head and has been watching me for the past 20 minutes.” Jesus said, “Let’s get your car unlocked and get you the hell out of this crazy ass town.” Jesus and his partner Thomas never went back in the building to their job and stayed by their van till the Triple AAA wrecker truck arrived. I felt safe that they were looking out for me and had stepped into help a stranger is distress. Once the Triple AAA wrecker guy pulled up, Jesus showed him his AAA card and the guy asked me, “This your car? Do you have an alarm?” I said, “Yes I am the owner and I have a spare key in car. Yes the alarm is set.” The wrecker guy pulled out 3 tools from a bag in his truck, an orange flex stick, a piece of hard plastic that he jammed in the rubber around my door jam, and a soft cloth that he used so the flex stick would not scratch the paint. I swear he had my door open in less than 5 seconds! Holy shit he popped the door open and the loud ear-piercing alarm started blaring. I noticed that people just kept walking by like nothing abnormal was even going on. However, I did notice that the meth head freak across the street had disappeared, as his next meth fix was not going to pan out with my car. I knew without delay where the extra key was in my orange paddling dry storage box in the back seat.
With the alarm blaring I grabbed the dry box dropped it on the sidewalk and found the key in about 10 seconds. I shoved the key into the ignition and started the poor Outback to shut off the freaking alarm that was completely obnoxious. Just like that the entire nightmare situation was over and I still had extra time on the meter. I gave Jesus and Thomas a huge hug and thanked them a million times for their generous kindness and help. I asked them both if I could write about them in my travel blog, as they were my modern day heroes who had stepped up and helped a stranger in distress. Both of these men were humbled to have been able to help me. I gave them one of my Post Cards from the Edge business cards and told them I would love to mention their business too. I will be sending their boss a personal letter of thanks for their kind and generous service to a stranger on the wrong side of the tracks this morning.
The moral to my story today, always pack a spare key, take it to the bathroom with you, and always trust your gut instincts. There are many crazy drug addicted and mentally ill people in this world living on the streets who are suffering in their own existence. We have so much work to do in this lifetime to provide better services for the mentally ill, our homeless vets, and the out of control drug problem tearing lives apart everyday. On the other hand we have millions of amazing citizens who will step in and do the right thing at a moments notice helping protect others. T
Thank you Jesus and Thomas my Wonder Men of Santa Cruz. My second important lesson is always having a friend take a picture of something that you may never see again. My sweet friend Tim in Crescent City, CA took a picture of my dad’s Wal-Mart Safe Driving Medallion yesterday after I told him the story and significance of why I carry it with me when I drive.
I texted Tim this morning and asked him to please send me the pictures as I had lost the medallion. Who would have thought all these things would be so connected in my journey?
May the Journey Begin within You