Modern problems require modern solutions ... sometimes

This column published as "New Ways of Thinking" in September 2019 issue

David Matthews / September 04, 2019
David Matthews
In the olden days of the 20th century, the only way to recover a stolen car was to call the police and cross your fingers.

These days, common technology can empower anyone to become an amateur detective.   

That’s certainly true of Danielle Reno, whose 2011 Toyota 4Runner was stolen in July from a Kansas City, Missouri, gas station.

Since her cell phone and credit cards had been stolen along with the vehicle, Reno was able to track the 4Runner’s whereabouts through GPS and online banking records. 

The first breakthrough in her investigation came when she visited a gas station where her stolen credit card had been used. Attendants allowed her to view their surveillance video, revealing the thief to be, as Reno stated, a “thick, late 30s- to 40-year-old busty woman.” 

The following day her card was used at another gas station to purchase cigarettes, gas, and beer. While the manager wouldn’t show Reno any surveillance footage, an attendant said she overheard the suspect and two friends making plans for dinner at Applebee’s. 

Reno and her sister drove to three separate Applebee’s locations but didn’t see the suspect from the video. Disheartened, they returned to the first Applebee’s location for dinner. 

Just after they placed their order, the suspect and her friends walked in. Recognizing the woman from the surveillance video, Reno jumped into action, finding her 4Runner in the parking lot and stealing it back with her spare key. 

Reno’s sister stayed behind to keep an eye on the suspects. With her help, police arrested the woman picking up dessert at the discount liquor and smoke shop. 

The suspect, Lindsey Custer, claimed that the car had been given to her by someone else, but couldn’t explain why she was holding Reno’s wallet, keys, and high-heel shoes in her hands at the time of her arrest.

 

FIVE-STAR RIDE

One Saturday afternoon this summer, Utah resident Tim Crowley was enjoying some drinks with friends at a neighbor’s house when he noticed a tiny baby bird fall from a tree. It seemed to have tumbled out of its nest and was far too small to survive on its own.

Even in their inebriated state, Crowley and his buddies realized that their new feathered friend needed assistance. Crowley texted a photo of the bird to the Wildlife Rehabilitation Center of Northern Utah, which urged Crowley to bring the bird in.   

But how does a group of intoxicated guys transport a baby bird? One of them jokingly suggested that they call an Uber. They laughed at first, but then thought, why not? 

Uber driver Christy Guynn was surprised when Crowley explained that the baby bird would be the sole passenger, but she was happy to help.

Guynn carefully drove to the rehab center and dropped the bird off to the staff, who weren’t used to seeing patients arrive by such modern means. 

The nestling, a lesser goldfinch that the guys nicknamed “Petey,” turned out to be less than two weeks old and would certainly have perished without intervention.

Petey responded well to care and was released back into the wild, this time with no ride-hailing service required. 

 

BAD FAITH

Sometimes even technology is no match for good old-fashioned brain power. 

A recent car accident on a road leading to Denver International Airport proved that point to dozens of Colorado drivers, who unwittingly experienced a taste of country life thanks to the Google Maps app.

The car crash led Google Maps to suggest an alternative route to drivers headed to the airport, and nearly 100 of them piloted their cars with confidence along Google’s suggested path. 

Putting blind faith in the technology leads to a successful outcome most of the time, but in this case it led them somewhere else entirely.  

Google’s detour route sent drivers down a dirt road that was slick and muddy after several days of rain. 

Undeterred by common sense, the drivers pressed on until they all wound up stuck in the middle of a muddy field.

In the end, Google’s suggested 23-minute detour wound up taking 3.5 hours to navigate. 

“There were a bunch of other cars going down [the dirt road] too,” Connie Monsees told CBS News, “so I said, ‘I guess it’s OK.’ It was not OK.”

About the Author

Matthews has been chronicling the unexpectedly humorous side of transportation news since 2000. The stories are all true.

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