I may be one of the few employees of the federal government to have committed grand theft auto. Not that I fully understand what "grand theft auto" entails, but I figure it has something to do with taking a car that doesn't belong to you. Or perhaps you have to grandly take it, not just weakly take it. Like, you have to walk in with a sparkly gold cape and theme music -- wearing your underwear on the outside of your pants like all superheroes do -- whisk the guy's keys out of his limp hand while he stares at you slack-jawed because he's never actually seen someone wearing their scivvies on the outside, and then drive away with the bass thumping, knocking over a metal garbage can as you go. I don't know for sure; I'm just kind of guessing here because my knowledge of criminal law is still kind of spotty.

I committed the crime as I and a couple of friends drove home from college for a long Thanksgiving weekend. A splendid young lady named Kelsey had offered to drive Thomas and I to Oregon in her black Pontiac Grand Prix, because neither of us had a ride and she had no plans to go back home for the short holiday.

We pulled into a gas station in Boise, Idaho. I headed inside to use the little boy's room while Thomas and Kelsey filled the car. When I exited the restroom, I trotted out to the car. It was still sitting at the pump, clearly full. The gas tank was shut, the gas nozzle was resting in its holster. I glanced to the east and saw Thomas and Kelsey entering the Burger King next door.

That's weird, I mused. Why would they walk all that way in the bitter cold and leave the car here? I checked the car -- the keys were in the ignition. Wow, what good friends! They filled the car, paid, then left the car for me so I wouldn't have to walk in the cold! So I climbed in, started her up, and puttered over to BK.

Joining Thomas and Kelsey at the counter, I thanked them for leaving the car for me so I didn't have to fight the cold. "Um, we drove the car," Thomas informed me. Confusion. "No you didn't," I countered finally. "You left it at the pump, so I drove it here." Kelsey wrinkled her brow. "No... I think you're mistaken. I can vouch that Thomas and I drove the car here."

Worry mingled with confusion. I scurried outside. The blood froze in my veins. There, parked next to each other right in front of me, were two identical black Grand Prixes, same year, same interior, same everything -- Kelsey's... and the one I'd driven over. I frantically circled both cars. Sure enough, Kelsey's had my CDs and Kelsey's backpack in the back seat. The other car had a nappy pink blanket in the back and some self-help tapes in the passenger seat. I hadn't even noticed them when I'd totally stolen somebody's Grand Prix from the gas station!!

Panicking, I jumped back in the car, tore out of the Burger King parking lot, and screeched to a halt back at the gas pump right in front of a guy standing there, scratching his head, looking around worriedly. I literally leap out of the car dumbly repeating "I'm so sorry I'm so sorry I'm so sorry I'm so sorry I'm so sorry" over and over and over again. I tried to explain everything in half a second, but it only came out something like "Sorry bathroom pee sorry car black her Whopper sorry two same black paid keys yours sorry hungry Whopper I you... here are your keys."

The guy didn't say much, though he muttered something at how it's bad to leave your keys in the ignition at the gas station while you pay inside. Then he just numbly accepted his keys and drove away. I never had a S.W.A.T. team knock down my door or anything, so the guy must've just figured I was just one of those glue sniffers who had just downgraded from rubber cement to Elmer's and was having a rough morning.