I called my boss to get his advice and he said it sounded like a clamp had come off and that I should just take it to a repair shop and get it fixed. Didn't sound like too big a deal. My mom and step-father said the same thing. I called my wonderful insurance company who arranged and paid for a tow to a nearby station about five miles away.
When the tow truck arrived, the tow man looked under the car once it was up on the truck. Once elevated, it was clear to see that a clamp hadn't fallen off. Someone had taken a saw to my exhaust system and cut out the catalytic converter.
I had held it together pretty well all morning, but when I saw my car bring put up on the truck and carted away, I got a little teary. I just can't understand how anyone, no matter how desperate, could literally harm someone else's property, inconvenience them financially and logistically. As it turns out, with this particular kind of violation, I am not alone.
I called my friend, Steve, once I returned from the auto repair shop, and he said to me that he saw some article about this recently. After a quick search on Google, I found a New York Times article which ran in March that discusses the increase in this type of theft. CATs are a hot item because they contain so many precious metals that can be stripped out and sold. A thief can get about $200 per CAT from a chop shop and it takes about two minutes to take one from a car like mine. No doubt that same thief hit several other cars in my neighborhood on the same night. To replace it costs anywhere from $450 - $1000 and that's just the part, not the labor. Thankfully, my car insurance covers vandalism so I'm getting off with a $500 deductible and they'll pay the rest, including a good portion of a rental car I'll need to get back and forth to work. Certainly not what I want to spend my money on, but I'm grateful for any help I can get in this situation.
For me, this is just one more reason to urge me to make the switch to a public transportation life.