Thursday, 3:30 am. Lifetime Athletic parking lot, Westwood, Massachusetts. 60 miles from work, three weeks into the urban vanning experience:

Several knocks on the back window followed by a bright beam of light shooting across the ceiling wakes me up. I thought it was aliens ready to bring me up to the mother ship. The curtains I just installed made it impossible to see in, except for one problem. I was using a towel draped across the front seats to section it off, but a unique angle from the front would allow someone to see in…barely. That’s when the flashlight hit my face.

“Hi. Why don’t you come on out.”

I put some clothes on really quick and slid open the side door.

Officer: “What’s going on here?”

Me: “I’m a member of this gym. I worked out, then went to Wegman’s to work on the computer and decided to stay here. I’ll drive to work in the morning.”

Officer: “These are all private lots around here. Where do you work?”

Me: “I work for a seafood company up in Gloucester. But I’m from Chicago.”

Officer: “You work in Gloucester and you come all the way down here just to go to the gym? Isn’t there one closer?”

Me: “I’m a member of this gym in Chicago. Unfortunately, this is the closest location for me here. Do I need to leave?”

Officer: “Oh no, you’re fine. Just don’t do it again.”

The officer was actually very nice and I was surprised he didn’t tell me to leave. Once he was gone, I felt like maybe this whole van thing wasn’t going to work out. That feeling of failure lasted about 10 minutes, until I reversed my thinking and realized I need to use this experience to get better.

How did I mess up?

First, I broke the number one rule of being stealthy. I was basically the only car in the whole parking lot. A big mistake. Urban Vanning is all about blending in.

Second, the towel over the seats had to go. I bought a curtain rod and black curtains to go behind the front seats. That made a huge difference! Not only is it much darker inside, now there is absolutely no way anybody could see in.

Learn from your mistakes. Don’t let other people tell you what’s right or wrong, what you can do, or what you can’t.