When I went out yesterday to run errands, I noticed immediately that there was something wrong with my car. The radio antenna was gone, leaving behind the naked screw mount and rubber gasket. Nothing else was missing. The windows were intact. The factory radio with the country music cassette tape stuck inside was still there. All the empty plastic water bottles that would draw a small fortune for a homeless recyclable collector still on the floor behind the front seats. Only the radio antenna was gone.
Without the antenna, my radio reception disappeared when ever I drove under a metal roof or concrete overpass, and become scratchy when driving under a power line. Very annoying. Unlike my Dad’s truck radio that gets two stations (country and talk), my car radio only gets one station (talk a la KGO Radio). Silicon Valley haven’t had a decent country radio station since the venerableKEEN went off the air in 1992 because the land underneath that radio antenna was worth more than the radio station. Picking up a new radio antenna was added to my list of errands.
I went to Fry’s Electronics and Best Buy but they didn’t have any simple screw-on radio antenna, which was surprising considering how much custom audio equipment they sell for cars. When I worked at the Old Spaghetti Factory in downtown San Jose during the mid-1990’s, the assistant kitchen manager showed off his two 18-inch speakers, the power amp and a half-dozen car batteries that filled up the trunk of his 1975 muscle car. That combination alone cost more than what the car was worth. He cranked up at the volume of a Mexican mariachi band. At the time I lived a mile away from the restaurant and I could still hear the music playing when I got home at 1:00AM.
I ended up getting a plain silver antenna at Kragen Auto Parts for $16. My original antenna was similar to that but in black. I wasn’t happy with the color or the price. Antennas weren’t a designer item like everything else for cars these days. I was more concern about the antenna mount being exposed to the elements that would lead to a corrosion problem with the trunk lid if I didn’t get a replacement antenna. I got enough problems with the car without having that.
After attaching the new antenna, I took a close look at the parking stall next to my car. No car has parked there for the last three years. I found cigarette butts on the left and right sides of the stall. For the past few months, I been finding empty beer bottles and take out trash around my car. On a few weekend afternoons, I found a car load of teenage gang bangers hanging out and probably waiting for a friend who lived in Building M. I filled out an incident report at the apartment complex office, and was reassured by the managers that security would keep an out for that empty parking stall at night.
Gang bangers been trying to get into the complex for a while now since nearby apartment complexes been overrun by rival gang bangers. I often see them driving by in their 1970’s era cars—cool gang bangers drive souped up Honda Civics—in front of the complex, flashing their gang signs to people who don’t care about them. The complex management has maintained high standards for people moving in, cleans up the gang graffiti the day after it appears, and run out trouble tenants when they become a nuisance. There’s an informal neighborhood watch since everyone watches what’s going on from their balconies and from inside the buildings.
A few hours later, while making a cell phone call from my balcony, I noticed a car load of teenage gang bangers pulling into the parking stall next to my car. One of them even got out to buy ice cream from a passing vendor. I couldn’t believe my luck. After getting the license plate number and description of the car, I went down to the office. One of the managers called the security company and the other manager ran off the gang bangers with a stern lecture.
Did these gang bangers steal my car antenna? Maybe, maybe not. However, since they had all four doors opened wide with cigarettes in hand, they probably did leave behind the butts in the stall the last time they were here.