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March 31, 2010 3:15 PM   Subscribe

Why did some schmuck attempt to open the gas tank of my parked car?

Today, this guy pulled up near my mailbox and driveway got out of his car. I thought he was visiting one of my neighbors. But then he walks up my driveway and starts to open the gas tank of my car. (The external door for the gas cap opens manually from the outside.)

By this time I was already out the door. He hears me coming and, as I'm shouting, "WTF are you doing?," he jumps back in the car. My other neighbor saw him, too, and came out as the guy peeled away.

I found this very strange: What was this nogoodnik after? Torching my car or siphoning gas?

Come to think of it, he didn't seem to have a container with him, so probably not siphoning. Which leaves...?
posted by HE Amb. T. S. L. DuVal to Society & Culture (17 answers total)
 
Some people hide their spare keys under the gas cover. He could have been looking for those?
posted by craven_morhead at 3:17 PM on March 31, 2010


That's weird. Well, my guess is that he *wasn't* trying to torch your car. He was probably some meth head in desperation and hadn't exactly thought through his plan of siphoning your gas out without a container, or perhaps he was making sure he could open your tank before hauling a hose and a jug to the car. It's quite likely, however, that it was just some crazed drug addict doing something irrational - like actually irrational.
posted by Lutoslawski at 3:18 PM on March 31, 2010


He was going to try to siphon the gas. Hard times.
posted by molecicco at 3:18 PM on March 31, 2010


Oh, I didn't read that last sentence. Yeah, like Lutoslawski said, probably checking he could open it before bringing out the can and hose.
posted by molecicco at 3:19 PM on March 31, 2010


Maybe he was trying to put something in your gas tank. There are dozens of well-known pranks, like dropping in marbles, BBs, sugar, and even tampons. I think newer cars have traps to prevent the insertion of objects like these, but it's still possible that's what he was attempting.

Or maybe he has the same make and model of car, and lost his gas cap (people often set them on their car roofs when fueling, then forget and drive off without them). Maybe he thought this was an easy way to get a free replacement.
posted by The Winsome Parker Lewis at 3:30 PM on March 31, 2010


There are dozens of well-known pranks, like dropping in marbles, BBs, sugar, and even tampons.

Yeah. I was going to ask: How old was this guy? and Do you have teenagers?
posted by vacapinta at 3:32 PM on March 31, 2010


His car was a Jeep Grand Cherokee and mine's a Volvo station wagon. He was young, maybe in his twenties. We don't have any teenagers, but there are some in the neighborhood. Perhaps he mistook us for them. (He definitely isn't a teenager from my street.)
posted by HE Amb. T. S. L. DuVal at 3:37 PM on March 31, 2010


It's possible the Jeep was his second car, and his other's a Volvo. Does your check engine light come on if you drive with the gas cap off? Maybe his did, and he was afraid to drive it. Or any number of other possible reasons for him taking car #2 out for a bit of thievery. It's not really possible to know.
posted by The Winsome Parker Lewis at 3:41 PM on March 31, 2010


Some arsehole once put sugar in the gas tank of our car and our flatmate's car. We only found out because they left sugar on the car. It cost us both a couple of hundred dollars to have the cars towed away and the tanks cleaned, which we couldn't afford but was better than if we hadn't noticed straight away. There was no reason for it, the cars were parked out of sight of the road, we lived in a quiet residential neighbourhood where we were the only renters on the small, secluded cul de sac and we were all post grad students, quiet and friendly. Some people are just dicks.

But given how open this guy was about it I think it's more likely that he was going to steal your petrol and was checking he could open the catch before dragging out his stuff, like the others above have said. It's not difficult to get locking caps for most cars, as we did after the sugar incident. Unlike this guy I imagine pranksters coming in pairs or more, working at night (probably when drunk or high), and being younger, stupider and more giggly about the whole thing.
posted by shelleycat at 3:45 PM on March 31, 2010


I'm curious, what time was it? Did that weirdo tried to mess with your car in daylight, in plain view of the whole street?
Go figure...

Anyways, I really have no theory that wasn't said before, I'd think either siphoning the contents out or dropping something that shouldn't belong inside there...
posted by CelebrenIthil at 4:00 PM on March 31, 2010


Damn, shelleycat, I'm sorry to hear that. (and happy this guy wasn't successful in "pranking" me thus) I knew of all of those gas tank pranks, but always assumed that it would have to be someone known to you. What a strange prank to pull otherwise - you never see the effect. (Never mind how strange it is to cause hundred of dollars of damage to someone you do know.) I guess this says more about the mentality of such a prankster than anything else.

Well, I think I will chalk this one up to attempted siphoning and not think about the complete irrationality of it. Like, why would he think the one house with the car in the driveway was vacant; why he would do it in the middle of the day; why not choose a car on the street or, better yet, in a parking lot; et cetera. I wanted to make sure I wasn't oblivious to some new fad for gas tank bombings going on. Since he was driving what could arguably be described as an SUV and I have the Volvo, I'm pretty confident he wasn't with the ELF.

Thanks for your input, folks.
posted by HE Amb. T. S. L. DuVal at 4:00 PM on March 31, 2010 [1 favorite]


I recommend you get a locking gas cap before you go to bed tonight.
posted by neuron at 4:37 PM on March 31, 2010


Like, why would he think the one house with the car in the driveway was vacant; why he would do it in the middle of the day...

Well, you live in a house. It is common for people who live in houses to have jobs. It was the middle of the day, and most people who have jobs either drive their car to work, or take public transit, or take one car but leave their second one home. In short, these two questions are the least mysterious thing about your post.
posted by davejay at 5:19 PM on March 31, 2010


Well, I think I will chalk this one up to attempted siphoning and not think about the complete irrationality of it.

The gas tank in a Jeep Cherokee holds 21 gallons. At 3 dollars/gallon this is 60 bucks.

People have been robbed at gunpoint for a lot less.
posted by three blind mice at 5:20 PM on March 31, 2010


Nthing stealing gas - or gas cap. I've known people who have lost theirs to try and steal a replacement.
posted by smoke at 5:51 PM on March 31, 2010


"he didn't seem to have a container with him, so probably not siphoning. Which leaves...? "

The smart way to steal gas is to leave the hose and container in the back seat floor boards until you are actually ready to siphon and then only bring the hose out.
posted by Mitheral at 7:21 PM on March 31, 2010


People can get away with a lot of petty crime by being completely brazen about it. Shoplifting is an example of this -- some quite successful shoplifters don't bother to stash things about their person but walk out with an item or two while looking they have every right to do what they're doing, and people will often not really notice until they're halfway out the door (and to their car). I can easily imagine a scenario where someone nonchalantly siphons a tank of gas on a quiet street in the middle of the day without anyone making a fuss - it's probably less risky than a game of poker. The guy had the bad luck this time of the car's owner spotting him, but he got away scot free, didn't he? And if you'd been in the back of the house and not heard him he could have done his business and been gone.
posted by frobozz at 8:21 PM on March 31, 2010


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