A soft knock on my door sends me rolling out of bed grumbling at 8:30 on a Thursday morning. I shuffle to the door with a one-track mind—nothing is important enough to wake a college student up at this time of day, so this better be good. Once I reach the door I’m greeted by my House Manager, Ugochi, and by the look on her face I can tell something is wrong. She apologizes for waking me before she breaks the news. Last night, someone stole some license plates off of the cars on our property, including mine. Officers from the Florida State University PD are outside waiting to speak with me.
Any trace of sleepiness instantly evaporates. This has to be some kind of really bad joke, right? Tallahassee has only been my home for a mere two and a half months. I have an exam tomorrow and Thanksgiving in two weeks. This cannot be happening.
The look on Ugochi’s face tells me that oh yes, this is definitely happening. While my roommate Lucy sleeps peacefully, I slip on some flip flops and think that for once, her not having a car is convenient. I silently close the door and make my way down the hallway to the parking lot attached to my house.
Panic ripples through me as I walk down the never-ending hallway. I am about to file a police report for the first time, clad in mismatched pajamas and sans bra. This is an adult’s job. How do you talk to a cop? What if I can’t drive my car until I get a new tag? How am I supposed to make it home? Four words start replaying in my head—I want my mommy!
When I reach our parking lot I take a deep breath before I approach the two police officers and my three housemates. I manage to file the report without having a breakdown. He hands me a card with his name and number and a case number which he tells me to keep in my wallet to show if I get pulled over. Then he leaves and I’m left in a panic once again. The possibility of getting pulled over has terrified me before I could even drive, but now, it’s a guarantee.
I try to remain calm as one of my housemates fills me in on the whole story. The thief tried to take a total of five tags, but only got away with two. They also stole our “No Smoking” sign. As I stare at the empty, lonely space which used to occupy my plate, I realize they kindly left me one screw to use for my new tag. Perfect. Well, I may be down a license plate, but at least I don’t have to go through it alone. Or so I thought.
It’s not long before everyone in the Southern Scholarship Foundation community knows about the mystery of the missing tags. Living in a scholarship house with 20 other girls surrounded by even more scholarship houses can have its perks. The other stolen tag gets found on our property within a few hours. I try to remain optimistic as the thief was obviously not a very good one. By Friday morning, after pacing the perimeter for a third time, what little hope remained was crushed. It was clear the perpetrator got away with my tag—and my tag only.
Without getting pulled over once, I manage to drive around Tallahassee for two weeks tagless. Even though I am a bundle of nerves the whole way, I also manage to make the three-hour trip back home to Pensacola for Thanksgiving without seeing a single cop. Bet you thought skipping your 8 a.m. chem lab all semester long was the most amazing accomplishment ever, right? The first thing I do that Monday morning? Get a new license plate, with my mom by my side. My constant uneasiness finally ended.
Sometimes you think everything is going okay. You settle in to being away from home, start enjoying your classes and then someone pulls the tag out from under you. Literally. Hopefully I will never have to experience this again, but I know if I do, I can rest assured I have adulting covered. You may currently struggle with the idea of cooking for yourself every night, but can you truthfully brag you’ve dealt with your first robbery? Now I just have to figure out how to apply this newfound adulthood to the other aspects of my life.