Premature Carjackulation

by Telling Dad on February 22, 2012

Fortunately for me, being 6’7″, unshaven, and disheveled with a goatee while loitering in the Wal-Mart parking lot isn’t at all suspicious. It’s just part of the shopping experience.

Had I been jumping into strangers’ cars outside stores that were a bit more posh, like a Nordstrom’s or a Dollar General, I’m sure I would have been accosted by security and maced into submission.

We’ve all heard about the dangers of texting while you drive but I’d like to nominate myself to become the poster boy for an even greater danger. Texting before you drive.

As I exited Wal-Mart this afternoon I was busy fumbling with my phone and reading emails while walking to our van. Thanks to my superior peripheral vision, I saw our van from the corner of my eye and pressed the door unlocky button on the remote. Still reading the email, I opened the door, climbed into the driver’s seat, and tried unsuccessfully to start the engine.

It was then that I noticed that my gangly legs were far more scrunched than usual. My daughter’s stuffed animals were missing, someone had picked up all the scattered raisins and cheese cracker shards, and there was an unfamiliar coffee mug in the cup holder. I also noticed a necklace of rosary beads dangling from the rearview mirror and a redesigned interior complete with beige cloth seats that replaced the Smudge Gray color I was used to.

It’s difficult for me to express the flood of thoughts that entered my brain when I realized that I had gotten into the wrong car. Staying put actually seemed like a viable option. So did trying to start the car again. But, instead of these two misdemeanorish options, I decided to exit the vehicle and act as innocent and as suave as possible.

When you do something this stupid you can’t help but feel that every set of eyes in that parking lot is square on you. Along with every security camera, YouTuber, and News Team within a 60-mile radius. People get in and out of cars all day long in parking lots without so much as a glance yet I felt like the entire world had gone dark except for the bright white spotlight that was now fixated and tracking my every move.

My escape plan was genius.

I’d just act as though I had simply forgotten something back in Wal-Mart. I’d re-enter the store, wait 3-4 hours, and then exit as though nothing had happened. Thereby giving the millions of viewers nothing to go on. All they’d think is, “Oh well, the guy must have forgotten something back in Wal-Mart.”

Instead, as luck would have it, I wasn’t eight feet from the van before I saw a woman approaching with her cart.

All that echoed in my head was, “Please don’t let this be hers, please don’t let this be hers, please don’t let this–”

“Can I help you?,” the woman asked all nervous-like.

Damn. It was hers.

I had three choices. I could flee, I could mutter something incoherent hoping she’d think I’m insane and then just explain it away at the police station, or I could try looking as innocent as possible and hope to charm her.

Considering this woman had just seen a lanky homeless-looking dude exiting her vehicle, I thought it best to choose the latter. Although fleeing was a close second.

Me: “No, I’m just a moron. Your van looks just like mine and I wasn’t paying attention. I’m parked right across from you, in that silver van.”

Confused Lady: “Oh. Oh my.”

Me: “I’m so sorry. I swear I didn’t break in. I pressed my little doo-hickey thing to unlock the door but it must have already been unlocked.”

Confused Lady: “That’s okay, darlin’. Our vans DO look alike, don’t they.”

Me: “Would you mind terribly if we just switched vans so I don’t look like a complete idiot? We can totally switch back a few miles down the road.”

This made the confused lady laugh so at least I diffused what was already a very embarrassing and awkward situation. To anyone else, I looked like a carjacker. Albeit a really bad one, but a carjacker all the same. And with my son having already visited the police station after doing something stupid, I didn’t need to make it a double.

I suppose I could have just proceeded to my car that was just across the aisle but I still felt like the biggest boob on the planet. So, I stuck with my original plan and proceeded to hang out in front of the Red Box kiosk for two or three minutes. When I though the coast was clear, I put my cell to my ear and pretended to be chatting with Heather as I walked for the car.

Just in case the parking lot was bugged.

“Yeah, I went back. They didn’t have it. I’m just coming home.”

Believe me, I know the whole ordeal could have been a lot worse. Unoccupied cars at Wal-Mart are about as rare as US-made products. I could have very easily wandered into a vehicle with a sleeping old man in the front seat, Ritalin-deprived children in the back seat, or a rabid Pit Bull who was tiring of chewing on headrests.

If people would just lock their cars, situations like this couldn’t happen. Yet because of her disregard for safety, I had to spend several minutes pretending I was just forgetful. Not stupid. Just…forgetful.

Although, being a man, the line between these two is obviously quite fine.

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{ 47 comments… read them below or add one }

Marianne February 22, 2012 at 11:56 pm

LOL Greg! I’m not sure I could have responded as coherently as you did. I think I might have chosen the option to run away…
I have tried my key in another car at least once before, so you are not alone. I was just lucky that the door was locked.

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Sheila February 23, 2012 at 2:13 pm

LOL, me too. No one had champaign colored car until I bought one and then I saw every other car in the parking lots were the same color, sheesh.

Jessica February 23, 2012 at 12:07 am

Hmm. I’m thinking it would have been a better move to beeline for your matching van. I would probably be a bit shaken/skeptical of your story until I saw you go into your van and then I would feel better. However, if I saw you meander back to the store. I would have taken you for a liar thinking, “wth? why didn’t get into his car? He must have lied to me!” And then had a panic attack all the way home. But that’s just me I guess….

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Miranda February 23, 2012 at 1:52 am

OOOOH for the love of The Jonas Brothers! That’s flippin hilar! I’ve done that and the moment you realize that you actually ARE in the wrong vehic your butt starts tickling! That’s the part that was hard for you to describe. It’s the perfect combination of fear and humiliation all combined into one GIANT butt tickle feeling! . . . or, like Jessica just commented, maybe that’s just me :D

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meg February 23, 2012 at 4:24 am

I haven’t actually gotten in another car yet, but similarly, it’s nearly happened to me, a few times now. One time with my daughter who was probably about 15 at the time, we were both going to get in “my” car, when suddenly, someone was inside the car as we were about to open the doors. Can you say.. STARTLED!? Ugh. I think it took at least 5 minutes to push my heart back down my throat. I mean, first, panic, that someone is in your car, then realizing, oh no.. that’s NOT MY CAR. Fear & embarrassment, what a great combo!

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Kaitlyn February 23, 2012 at 6:01 am

My dad and brother have absentmindedness difficulties. It’s alright. The people who love you learn to accept it. The people who judge you aren’t worth it.

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Beth Larrabee February 23, 2012 at 6:44 am

So funny Greg! This happens to us way more then I care to admit. It seems that in my town everybody drives the same kind of car!

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Bullgrit February 23, 2012 at 6:48 am

Things like this only happen when I haven’t shaved in a couple of days, am wearing old clothes, and walking on just 2 hours of sleep. Yeah, look like a homeless stalker rather than just a clean-cut man making a silly mistake.

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Kathleen February 23, 2012 at 6:49 am

Believe it or not I did that in college. How sad that what cued me in (perhaps like you) was the cleanliness of the vehicle. That’s how I knew, oops.

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WilyGuy February 23, 2012 at 7:23 am

I have never done that with my own car, but I have tried to climb into someone else’s car that looked like my friend’s car (the one that drove).

I think technically since the van was unoccupied it would technically be car thief (van thief?), but the other way makes for a much better title, lol.

WG

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Telling Dad February 23, 2012 at 7:46 am

Actually, the title makes perfect sense. Because no one was yet in the vehicle, my carjacking was premature.

:)

Rebeccah February 23, 2012 at 7:35 am

My mom has a story about doing that as a teenager, only when she jumped into the car, she landed in the owners lap. See? It could have been worse.

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Monica DeLaCruz February 23, 2012 at 8:17 am

ha! hilarious! hubby and i did that once when we were dating. there is really no feeling like the one when you realize the car you are trying to start is NOT YOURS.

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Melissa B February 23, 2012 at 8:29 am

I had this happen to me in high school. I got into a car that was exactly the same make and model of my mom’s car while mom finished paying for stuff inside. Then I heard a voice from the backseat say “Got the wrong car, hun”. I turned to see a very tired looking woman breast feeding her baby. Mortification. At least she was nice about it.

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Michelle February 23, 2012 at 8:34 am

Loving your blog! Last night a friend and I watched an old Monday mingle. It was a blast, we couldn’t stop laughing. You are hilarious and I tell all my friends about you!

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Christine February 23, 2012 at 8:40 am

It is something about WalMart that makes you do stuff like that. I wasn’t paying attention and went into the men’s bathroom in WalMart by mistake and never realized it until I came out of the stall and saw the urinals. Luckily there were no guys in there doing their business…

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Carrie February 23, 2012 at 9:22 am

Oh, that is a baaaad feeling!!

The closest I’ve come to anything like this is just simply walking up to the drivers door to get in, then realizing it ain’t mine.

And I get jittery and nervous. And start bumbling around frantic because if THIS isn’t my car…where IS my car?!?

By now, I have confirmed in my panicked mind it’s been stolen.

Or 2 parking spots over. Which was the case.

Not funny though. At all.

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Trish February 23, 2012 at 9:58 am

My husband did this with a co-worker’s car because it looked very similar to his, only his key actually unlocked the guy’s car and he didn’t realize it wasn’t his until the key wouldn’t start the car. Similar thing happened with his mom, she was able to unlock the car and start it, all with her key, and drove it for about a minute before, like you, seeing that there was a rosary on the mirror and it was not, in fact, her car. Only a certain number of key combos can be made so your key can open and/or start another vehicle somewhere, haha. Luckily I haven’t had anything like that happen, and hope I never do, I don’t think I could handle the anxiety from it near as well as you did :-)

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Laurie February 23, 2012 at 10:16 am

HA! That was funny (and a little sad)!
Somehow I blame Wal-Mart for this. That store is a vacuum for unnatural things to occur. I haven’t stepped foot in one in about nine years.

Carjackers do more damage to a locked car than one that is unlocked. Do you know how much a broken driver side window costs? I’d rather keep my door unlocked, let them pilfer my cd collection or unimpressive cd player and be on their way.

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Kristin February 23, 2012 at 10:27 am

This happened to me in a grocery store parking lot, I pressed the trunk unlock button to my silver Hyundai, loaded ALL my groceries in the trunk (I was a bit surprised by how clean my trunk was! I patted myself on the back for keeping it so clean, even though I couldn’t remember when exactly I’d cleared out all the coats, ice scrapers and canvas grocery bags strewn about). Then, only when the door unlock button didn’t work, did I look inside the car and realize it wasn’t mine! I had to quickly remove (rob) this stranger’s trunk of all my groceries…I’ve never moved so fast.

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Telling Dad February 23, 2012 at 10:29 am

Bwahahahaha! I think I would have left the groceries. That’s crazy embarrassing, lol.

Christine February 23, 2012 at 11:01 am

Oh Walmart. The home of such magical happenings. Or maybe that is Disney… I forget. The fanny-pack wearing is confusing.

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Shan @ Last Shreds Of Sanity February 23, 2012 at 11:22 am

You need your own reality show: Adventures in Stupidity or I’m Male.

LMAO

By the way, when you said you’d clicked unlock doo-hickey, I was confused. I thought they all had different frequencies so how could you open someone else’s van? But if she left it unlocked, then she was kind of INVITING some stupid man to jump in and try to drive away in it.

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Bubbe February 23, 2012 at 11:50 am

This is why we drive really old vehicles! There are fewer out there that look like ours. Also, our pickup is black with a white tail gate (don’t ask) so I can pick it out in a parking lot even if I’m walk-reading. :)

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Audra February 23, 2012 at 12:49 pm

I parked my car in the third row of a parking lot, went into the store and as I walked out while texting someone I stopped at my cars twin, which happened to be parked in the very first row right in front of the glass store front. I kept clicking my FOB, but nothing was happening! Frustrated and assuming the battery was dead, I stuck my key in the door but it wouldn’t turn. As I pulled out my cell phone to call someone because something was SERIOULSY wrong with my car, realization struck when the car “beep”ed. I looked up and realized that the owner of the car, still inside the store, had been watching me the whole time. I hung my head, waved, and backed away slowly……

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CarrieK February 23, 2012 at 12:53 pm

It is the vans’ fault entirely. They just look so alike AND by nature of needing to drive a minivan, the owners are more likely to be distracted. I have not actually made it to the inside of another person’s car, but I have stood outside said vehicle repeatedly pushing the “unlock” on my fob and cursing is as it MUST be the batteries. The last thought is that I have actually parked myself outside the wrong car. My know it all kids usually notice first (and then wait a little bit before telling me).

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Henrietta February 23, 2012 at 1:49 pm

Haha!! Don’t feel bad, it can happen to the best of us! I was talking away to my hubby and not paying attention when we were walking back to our explorer one day, I grabbed the handle and opened the door to get in (thinking he was still walking to get around the car to the other side) when I happened to look up and see that it was in fact not our vehicle and there was a bewildered looking older gentleman staring at me from the driver’s seat. I apologized while my face was probably turning bright red from embarrassment and tried not to smack the huge grin off my hubby’s face as I made a mad dash to the right vehicle. Don’t talk and walk!

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valmg @ Mom Knows It All February 23, 2012 at 2:50 pm

I did accidentally try to open the door of an suv that looked like mine once but it was locked. For a moment I thought something was wrong with my remote, then I realized. I think you handled it beautfully.

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Melinda February 23, 2012 at 2:53 pm

LOL! That was great! I have an SUV that is so common I’ve attempted to unlock cars that weren’t mine several times. Just 2 days ago I walked up in the school parking lot with another parent trying to get in my car. It’s hard to have a car that seems to average 5 per parking lot. So true about the cars in the Walmart parking lot always having someone or some animal in them. HA HA!

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Dorothy February 23, 2012 at 7:32 pm

LMAO loved your story and everyone else’s!!! I am not the only ditz! LOL!
I have one to add…
In my job I drive a company car all day. I was three hours away one day, had dropped off a client, gone to lunch and when I came out I stood in front of my gold car, ready to get in. As I stood there looking inside with the door open, I was confused. Why is all this stuff in my car? Then, hey, how did my personal car get here?! I’m 3 hours from home! Huh?? I literally stood there for a few seconds totally befuddled before it hit me – omg you dumbaxx, you’re driving the company car!!…. After furtively looking around, I shut the door really quietly and slunk away as fast as possible towards my white company car, hoping no one saw me!!

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Valerie February 23, 2012 at 9:23 pm

This TOTALLY happened to me once! I just sat there looking confused at how clean everything was. Then I proceeded to think that someone broke into my car and cleaned and vacuumed it. I was feeling pretty lucky, since thieves usually just take the car. Then I thought that maybe they were prepping the car. And that they would probably be back later to take it. Then I noticed that the seats were a different color. And THAT’S when I finally realized that I should maybe stop bleaching my hair… (I didn’t tho. I’m vain like that).

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quirkyandlaughing February 23, 2012 at 10:48 pm

LOL! I love this line – “I put my cell to my ear and pretended to be chatting with Heather as I walked for the car.” I do that all the time. :)

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David February 24, 2012 at 9:30 am

Haha. What’s funnier than the awkward situation is the feeling, having done something wrong, that EVERYONE KNOWS. To quote Adam Sandler, “They’re all laughing at you!”

It’s universal, and I know I’ve done things like your return to WalMart, out of paranoia.

Also, Fake-phone-talking is a well respected technique. Don’t act like this is the first time you’ve used it.

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Sheila February 24, 2012 at 9:33 am

Now THAT is funny….

Chris February 24, 2012 at 11:37 am

you are funny!

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Mary February 24, 2012 at 11:54 am

That is sooo funny. I know how embarrassing that is. I once walked up to my SUV unlocked the door with my key, started the engine, and began backing out of the space. When I turned to back out, I noticed a car seat in the back. My daughter was 15 years old and many years out of a car seat. I could not understand why someone would have put a car seat in MY SUV. Well, upon further inspection, it was not my SUV. My identical SUV was parked right next to the one I was in. I could not believe my key worked in someone else’s car. I could not get out of that SUV fast enough.

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Joanna February 24, 2012 at 12:28 pm

Well, you’ve yet to beat this urban legend supposedly reported in a Sarasota Florida newspaper….

“An elderly Florida lady did her shopping and, upon returning to her car, found four males in the act of leaving with her vehicle. She dropped her shopping bags and drew her handgun, proceeding to scream at them at the top of her voice, “I have a gun and I know how to use it! Get out of the car!” The four men didn’t wait for a second invitation, but got out and ran like mad, whereupon the lady, somewhat shaken, proceeded to load her shopping bags into the back of the car and get into the driver’s seat. She was so shaken that she could not get her key into the ignition. She tried and tried and then it dawned on her why.

A few minutes later she found her own car parked four or five spaces farther down. She loaded her bags into her car and drove to the police station.

The sergeant to whom she told the story nearly tore himself in two with laughter and pointed to the other end of the counter, where four pale white males were reporting a car jacking by a mad elderly woman described as white, less than 5′ tall, glasses, and curly white hair carrying a large handgun. No charges were filed.”

Now THAT would be embarrassing! ;)

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Shan @ Last Shreds Of Sanity February 24, 2012 at 12:38 pm

If that’s true, that is the best story of mistaken car I’ve ever heard. :D

Diane Lynch February 24, 2012 at 12:37 pm

Ha, same thing happened to me, but I was the victim, not the perp. I came out of CVS and a teenage boy was in my car trying to start it. It was summer and the window was open. I said, “Excuse me, but you’re in my car. Are you trying to steal it?” The kid jumped a mile and almost died of embarrassment. He had driven his mom’s car to CVS and it was a Toyota Corolla, same color, about two cars away. I still feel bad that I scared that poor boy out of at least a year’s growth. It was pretty unnerving at the time, though.

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Pamela D Hart February 24, 2012 at 2:41 pm

“I could have very easily wandered into a vehicle with a sleeping old man in the front seat,…”

THAT car would’ve been MY dad. He sleeps in the car all.the.time when my mom is shopping and leaves it unlocked with the darn keys in the ignition. You’d think he’d be smarter at almost 70, but NO not him. I sometimes think he wants someone to “hijack” it just so he could strike up a conversation. He LOVES to talk to people. That’s why he sits on the benches inside the mall.

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Wombat Central February 24, 2012 at 4:37 pm

Holy hilarity. At least there wasn’t a huge dog in the back seat waiting for a snack to drop by. OMG. I can’t stop laughing.

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ThaiDyedMissy February 24, 2012 at 8:30 pm

I can sort of relate! Many, many, many years ago (as in the late 80s) my mom and I did this. We had a silver Nissan Sentra. Mom’s key unlocked the door to “our car” but it wouldn’t crank the car. As mom was trying to figure out why the car wasn’t starting, I was looking around the vehicle realizing that the stuff in the car wasn’t ours (very much like you described). Unlike your experience, the owner didn’t catch us. We were able to scurry in complete embarrassment to our car, a couple of rows over. Ahh, memories.

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Valerie February 24, 2012 at 9:49 pm

Hilarious post! And you are very much not alone….I once tried to break into a car I thought was mine in the parking lot of my gym. I won’t tell you how long I tried to get in before it dawned on me that it WASN’T MY CAR!!! You would think the clicky thing not working would have been a big enough clue but ohhhh no. I just had to try the key manually and pull and tug on the door handle going “why won’t it OPEN?!?” for what felt like eternity before I figured it out and sheepishly walked the 10 feet to the left where my car sat waiting for me. I think even my car was shaking its head and pretending not to know me.

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Democratic Parenting February 24, 2012 at 10:03 pm

It’s just so easy to get distracted by our phones! I have done something similar, only I didn’t have to face the owner of the other vehicle.

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awesomesauciness February 27, 2012 at 11:02 am

And with my son having already visited the police station after doing something stupid

Karma’s a bitch, ain’t she?

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Jan February 29, 2012 at 11:47 am

This – okay, something a lot LIKE this – happened to me but the other person was less forgiving.

A long time ago, I was visiting my parents and took my mother’s car to do some shopping. I came out of the store and unlocked the door (manually — no doohickey back in the day), and STARTED THE CAR. As I was putting on the seatbelt, I noticed something and thought, “I don’t remember wearing a fedora when I left the house, so what’s up with the hat on the passenger seat? Huh.”

Followed by, “What happened to all the mirrors? None of them are right. Huh.”

THAT was followed by, “Whoever IS that angry-looking man boiling out of the store, headed my way, waving his fist in the air and yelling at me? Some people!”

Then the penny dropped. I wasn’t in my mother’s ’68 Cutlass Supreme (Mom went through a bad-ass phase). I was sitting in Dude’s ’68 Cutlass Supreme. Our two cars were parked with one innocent-bystander spacer-gif car between us. Heh. Heh heh. Oh dear.

I got out of his car, shouting abject apologies and pointing to the REAL my-car while hastily making tracks in that direction. He calmed down enough for me to stop fearing for my life. I left before I could find out whether he’d see the humor in the situation because what if he didn’t, right?

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Ginny March 2, 2012 at 12:33 pm

I did this at a Dunkin Donuts the other week. In my credit, it was my friends car and black SUVs all kind of look the same.

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