Recently I spent an hour in a paddy wagon in Portland. I know I should not be calling a police car that picks up miscreants by that name since it dates to a time when Irish immigrants were disparaged. But I don’t know what modern name is for such a vehicle. What I do know is that I had an uncomfortable jostle around Oregon’s most famous city in a vehicle with bars on the windows and no cushions on the hard plastic seats. I was not put in handcuffs and had not been charged with a crime. I was only out looking for my missing rental car.

My Sunday plans with an Oregon cousin had included a visit to Portland’s Japanese garden, a pleasant brunch and an afternoon in the city’s famous bookstore, Powell’s. In mid-morning we found a good parking spot and strolled off for a scrumptious breakfast of poached eggs and lox. Portland is a renowned foodie city with restaurants and food stands to satisfy all tastes. Every morning there are lines around the block where Voodoo Doughnuts are sold. They have the reputation of being bewitched into tastiness. They come in chocolate, vanilla, raspberry and many other flavors, always made to order. I had one that morning before the poached eggs and lox breakfast.

After my octogenarian cousin Robin and I had our monumental breakfast, we walked it off for several hours by prowling around Powell’s Bookstore. It occupies three sprawling floors and is said to have more books than any other bookstore in the world. Family legend has it that my cousin and I are descendants of Robert Gray, who discovered Oregon’s Columbia River in the 18th century. Seeking verification of that tale, Robin and I leafed through countless volumes about the history of the river. By the time we were through, the sun was going down outside. So we went off to find the rental car. And couldn’t find it.

We walked down street after street. We saw dozens of cream-colored cars, but not the right one. It was getting dark and cold. After an hour, Robin said wearily that the car had to have been stolen and we must call the police. I was sure it hadn’t been stolen.

“Why didn’t you take a picture of where it had been parked on your iPhone,” a wise young passerby asked. Neither of us dared tell her that we were octogenarians and didn’t have iPhones. I thought we had parked beside a window that said Culinary or something. My cousin said that window had been somewhere else.

Happily, he had not left his cell phone in the car and he put in a call to the Portland police. The officer he reached was patient, but told him to keep looking. Rental cars were rarely stolen, the policeman said. We looked for another hour. It grew colder. My cousin’s coat was in the rental car. He called the police again. I couldn’t hear the sigh from the other end of the line, but I could imagine it. He was busy, the policeman said, but he would meet us at Powell’s when he could.

My cousin borrowed my coat and went on another car hunt, leaving me to browse a little longer in Powell’s and wait for the police. Robin came back before the police did. He thought we would have to get a taxi to take us to the Portland airport so we could rent another car to take the hourlong trip to Salem, the state capital, where he lived.

Finally the policeman appeared. My cousin jumped into the front seat with him. I tried to open the back door to get inside. “I don’t think you want to ride there,” the officer said. “That’s where we put some pretty tough characters. Why don’t you wait here?”

“I don’t mind,” I said, and clambered in.

For the next hour, we drove the streets of Portland. We passed Voodoo Doughnuts, among other places. Although they were closed by then, I assumed someone must be stirring up doughnut batter. I whispered my hope that they would uncast the spell they must have cast without my knowing in the morning. (I had murmured after biting into my Chocolate Delight raised Voodoo doughnut with chocolate frosting dipped in mocha powder and topped with peanuts and caramel that I really liked simple New England cake doughnuts better.)

Finally, the patient police officer said we seemed to have exhausted all possibilities. He still didn’t think the car had been stolen, but he had to get back to the station. My cousin asked if he would make one last swing around the streets.

“She says,” he told the officer, referring to me, “that there was a window that said Culinary outside where we parked the car.”

“Well,” the officer said, “my daughter in law took a cooking course at the Sur la Table Culinary School near Powell’s. Let’s take a look there.” Across the street we found the cream-colored rental car.

My cousin thanked the policeman profusely. The officer came around to release me from my confines. As I clambered off the hard plastic seat and got out, he handed me a spray can of disinfectant.

“Use plenty on your hands, and rub it in well,” he advised. “You don’t know what bad guy may have been back there.”

I added my thanks to Robin’s. But I also silently thanked the Voodoo Doughnut dippers for lifting their spell. And I wondered what the policeman, back at the station, was telling his fellow officers about his night out on the town with two cockamamie tourists.