It was a James Bond kind of car. The kind of car you notice, even if, like me, you can’t tell a Lexus from a BMW and never have understood the fascination of the ’59 Chevy.
This racy two-seater convertible, though, I couldn’t help but notice as I pulled into the space beside it in the Safeway parking lot and got out. My own baby SUV, normally a petite and dainty lady compared to its usual associates of full-sized sedans, pickups, and SUVs, suddenly seemed tall and clumsy, as if it might trip over its own tires.
With its top down, the sports car—red, of course—scarcely came up past my knees. Its seats were real leather. Its dashboard was real wood. It reeked of expensive, understated elegance. Thanks to the discreet Union Jack on one fender and the word “Triumph” across the back, I recognized it instantly as a British Triumph.
I was surprised to see it in the Safeway parking lot. Not because there aren’t people in Rapid City who could afford such a car. Not because sports cars are all that unusual here, even if this is four-wheel drive country. It just seemed odd to me that anyone would go to the grocery store in a car that had no room in it for the groceries.
When I came out of the store 20 minutes later with my own groceries, the Triumph was still parked beside my Honda. As I unlocked my car to unload my grocery cart, I saw a middle-aged man walking purposefully toward the convertible. He was one of the store managers, still in his apron.
Could the convertible be his car? It was possible, certainly—mild-mannered produce department manager by day, playboy by night. I hoped, though, he would at least take off the apron before he drove off. Somehow, I just couldn’t appreciate the glamour of seeing him driving down the highway with the top down, his apron strings fluttering in the breeze.
Then I noticed a second man behind him. As they approached the Triumph, it became clear that this man had gone in to get the store manager because he had noticed something wrong with the car.
As I put my groceries into my back seat—funny, I had never noticed just how roomy it was—the manger was writing down the Triumph’s license plate. Then he pulled out the keys that the convertible’s driver had left hanging from the trunk. “Thanks for telling me about this,” he said. “We’ll make an announcement on the intercom.”
Anyone happening by who had an uncontrollable longing to own a sports car could have taken the keys, driven away, and been halfway to Nebraska before the owner came out of the store. I’m sure, in many places, that’s exactly what someone would have done.
Apparently, I live in a town full of honest citizens. Or maybe no one with larcenous intent had noticed the keys. Maybe there aren’t a lot of car thieves prowling the parking lot at Safeway late on a Sunday afternoon.
Or maybe the real answer is more practical than ethical. Maybe no one coming out of the grocery store was interested in taking a car that had no place to put the groceries.