I have had to cancel my credit cards and report the theft of my driver's license more times than I care to count. The last time was when in August 2004 when I left my purse in the Jimmy Johns on Chicago Avenue (I blame pregnancy brain. Also, the general yuckiness of Jimmy Johns' sandwiches, as I am sure that I was distracted by how unhappy my meal had made me.) The time before that was when the keys to the car fell off the keyring in the Village Thrift store on Lawrence. Before that was when someone nabbed my wallet from my backpack (which was on my back) on a crowded Red Line train. And before that was when someone stole my wallet from my coat which was hanging in the backroom of the cafe at which I worked. That would be four times over the course of twelve years (there were a few experiences previous to my graduation from college, but I won't get into those at this time). On average that is once every three years. While it doesn't necessarily sound like much, each time it occurs, it causes me more distress than the previous time.

Clearly, I am a victim of petty theft. In terms of the sorts of crimes to which one may fall prey, I should consider myself lucky. It seems clear to me that my own carelessness brought about every incident, that if I had been more responsible or alert, the theft would not have taken place. I say this and try to take back control, try to convince myself that I could have prevented the theft from occurring. I say this to try to make myself feel better. But when it happens, I am inconsolable.

Of course, I know that I have unresolved issues stemming from the two worst thefts of my entire life. The first didn't happen to me, exactly, it happened to my Dad when I was eight years old. We were driving home from visiting my grandparents in New Jersey and we stopped for the night in Cleveland. When we went on road trips, my dad would go to bars or diners (after we went to sleep) to meet the local people. Well, he went to a diner, came out, and was held up by two men who stole the car full of our stuff. The next morning, when he told me what happened, I remember I didn't believe him and then I got really angry with him. I couldn't quite believe that he couldn't have prevented the theft from occurring and, being so young, I couldn't imagine how enormous and terrible the experience of having someone point a gun on you must have been. I think I was an adult before I even realized how close my father was to death that night (a few weeks later, the same guys pulled the same thing at the same diner and, if I recall correctly, they shot a security guard.) I know I was still a child, but I feel shame for my insensitivity at the time.

Then there was India, when our bag was stolen. The bag which had a camera, some jewelry, our plane tickets home, and MY JOURNAL inside of it was stolen from a bus in Udaipur as we waited to leave for Jaipur. We realized the bag was gone just before we left the station and I spent the next ten hours crying (and the bus stations provided my story for the most horrifying bathrooms I have ever seen or had to use, but I digress.) Everyone on the bus felt sympathy, and they all assumed I was bemoaning the loss of the jewelry or the plane tickets, but of course, it was the loss of my journal which caused my anguish. I still feel the loss. What kills me, what makes me want to grab every single thief and kick their teeth in with steel toed boots, is the fact that the people who stole it probably thought they were getting this great prize, the bag of an American, and when they opened it they would have been so disappointed. Everything was probably thrown out immediately. They would have fared much better if they had just held my bag for ransom. So they ended up stealing something which has no value for them and immeasurable value for me, something they don't even want, but which I cannot replace.

So now, every time something is stolen, I flash back to my issues regarding my shame at my own behavior and the personal value of what is stolen. I break down and sob, "what is wrong with people that they think it is alright to take something which isn't theirs?" For days.

Years ago, the ballet school where I tool classes had a poster on the wall with a list of life philosophies. One of the thoughts said something along the lines of "There are no mistakes, only lessons. You will continue to be confronted with the same lesson until you learn from it."

I believe this to be true. We do constantly make the same mistakes until we figure out what is wrong with us and stop making them (only to move on to other mistakes, ones which we had not yet made because we were too busy with the earlier ones).

I have started to wonder if the same can be said about being a victim of crime. That we will continue to be a victim of a particular sort of crime until we figure out what makes us such an appealing victim to predators, at which point we cease to be targets for one group and become targets for another. Ideally, one would hope to get to a point where one was no longer a victim of crime, but I think this is some utopian worldview. There will always be someone out there who wants to steal, someone who wants to take what is not theirs, someone who wants to hurt others either to redress some wrong (real or imagined) or for sport. Clearly, life in Chicago has made me suspicious with regards to the inherent goodness of all human beings. I have no idea why people think theft is acceptable, but I don't kid myself that social programs or education or bridging the gap between rich and poor will solve anything. Some people are thieves, plain and simple, and really, the only thing anyone can do is hold a mirror up and say, "See how you are!"

Which is precisely what this guy in New York has done with these people who stole his friends Sidekick. This website (with the pictures these people took of themselves, obviously they didn't know that the Sidekick would send the pictures to his friend) is one gigantic mirror with which he hopes to shame these thieves into doing the right thing. I don't have a lot of faith in it working, I have far more faith in the police arresting their butts and I expect the thieves to feel that they are the ones who have been victimized, that it is unfair of someone to not just accept their victimization lying down. Still, I applaud this guy's efforts.

As for me, I am trying to be less careless. But in the unlikely event the people who took my journal are reading this, you can always do the right thing and return it to me. I wouldn't mind getting that year of my life back and you can't possibly find all my mindless ramblings interesting. And think of the benefit that such an act will do for your Karma.


Anonymous said…
That NY thing is CRAZY. talk about a train wreck.
After I got mugged, i stopped carrying credit cards, and I carry my phone seperately from my wallet, which is what allowed me to cancel everything before the dude got any money. I think that has helped, but I'm totally suspicious of anyone who walks too close to me.

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