A man was waiting for a bus when he saw a familiar car roll by. It was his 1980 Chevrolet Caprice, the one stolen 11 days earlier.

Not even a customizing job that put a taxi light on the roof and painted "Crescent Cab Co." on the side could fool Bogdan Szetela."I think that was my car going by," a disbelieving Szetela told a woman at the bus stop last weekend.

"And she said, `What are you going to do about it?"' he recalled Friday. "That kind of ignited my brain cells to work."

Szetela, 27, hailed another cab and gave chase. Several blocks away, he jumped out of the cab and "nonchalantly" got into the back of his own car, his heart pounding.

"I had to control myself," he said. "I started chatting with the guy, asked him where he's from and so forth - he's from Mount Airy - nice weather we're having, isn't it?

"All the while, I'm checking out my car. There's a different stereo and stuff, a meter, a radar detector, the works. Oh, and he had a new steering wheel, a Monte Carlo. I'm saying to myself, `You so-and-so, how could you do this to my car?"' Szetela said.

His plan: find a police officer. He directed the cabbie to South Street, where police frequently patrol, and spied one.

"I lunged from the back seat, put the car in park and grabbed the keys," he said. "I hopped out of car and told the cop, `That's my car!"'

Police weren't convinced - the identification number was switched - until Szetela told them he left blue towels and a chess set in the trunk.

"They popped the trunk, and sure enough," he said. Checkmate.

It took another four days after the Oct. 6 incident to get the car back. Crescent Cab says its drivers operate their own cars; police are investigating but haven't arrested the driver.

"This is a first down here," said Detective Paul McKelvie.

"Sometimes God works in strange ways," said Szetela.