There are few things more frustrating than having your possessions taken from you, especially when they’re valuable.
Like the time when I was an up-and-coming sophomore living in D.C. and had my laptop stolen out of a dorm room on American University’s campus that even had guards posted at all the entrances. That time I lost everything I had from high school. Papers, speeches, some weird psuedo-journal I wrote some notes in every now and then. And of course all the *brilliant* work I did freshman year.
Then there was the time in Pai, Thailand. I’d just spent a week in a hospital with one of my best friends who had been in a serious motorbike accident. He was going to lay up in a hotel for a few days, and I was anxious to get out. I decided to drive the four hours to Pai from Chiang Mai on a motorbike, fulfilling those romantic notions guys sometimes get about motorcycle trips. My ass was killing me by the end of it, but I will say it was a beautiful, serene, and scenic drive through lush tropical mountains. I gave my laptop to another good friend to carry with him on the bus, which made my drive a little comfortable. On the return back, someone went through the bag I’d given to my friend and confiscated the second laptop I’ve ever had stolen. That time, I’d backed up its contents prior to the trip, so the biggest loss was the 400 pictures or so I’d taken so far on the trip and the $600 I paid to replace it. Life goes on.
Which brings me to last week. My friend Dobbs from school was traveling through, and he stayed at my house Monday and Tuesday nights. He took a trip to Ha Long Bay for a night, and I had loaned him my digital camera with him. On Wednesday morning when I woke up, the first thing I noticed was that my laptop wasn’t on the desk.
Weird, I thought. I absolutely remember it being on my desk, because I drifted off to sleep listening to music from it. Shit.
A sinking feeling came over me as I was forced to face the fact: my laptop had been stolen from my room. I checked my bedside stand: my iPod and cell phone weren’t there. And where was my wallet? My Nook (Kindlesque e-reader)?
I roused my roommate Matt from across the hall, mainly to inform him of the situation but also with the faintest of faint glimmers of hope that maybe Matt had drank too many beers the previous night and for some weird reason had my laptop. Obviously, this wasn’t the case.
I headed downstairs. In the kitchen, in front of the fridge was my backpack, nearly empty. No doubt the thief had used the light from the fridge to rummage through it. The thief had brought my bag down and emptied it of valuables, including my Nook. Atleast he left the bag- I’d just gotten it before returning to Vietnam and have grown pretty fond of it.
I dallied into the living room downstairs. Underneath the table was my wallet and Kodiak zi-8 camera (like a Flip). I’d just gone to the ATM, and I always withdraw the maximum in Vietnam to avoid the heavy fees charged by the banks on both sides of the ocean. And darnit, I’d just gone that day and was now missing about $300 (5,000,000 dong). The camera had a scratch on the lens, so I understood why they left that.
Well, I thought. I really like that wallet, glad I don’t have to replace that. And my credit cards, atleast he left those. Okay, I’m downgrading this back down to just one “shit”.
At that moment Matt comes ambling down the stairs. “What about your motorbike, man?”
Back to double shit status. Make that triple shit. I guess I should go look.
Sure enough, I step outside to find my motorbike missing. [Content removed due to foul language.]
So my bike was missing, along with my beloved blue helmet and the lock to the gate.
Atleast it was a safety-conscious thief, taking my helmet and all. Bastard.
The people at my work were very helpful. A nice lady named Hong drove me around to a handful of different police stations before we found one that was the “right” one. It was a pain in the ass, and I really wasn’t in the mood to waste time on a lost cause. But Hong insisted, and despite my bad attitude we successfully filed a report with the police.
I must say, I got a little bit sick of being chastised by various folks: “Why didn’t you lock the door to your room?”. Uhh, because I didn’t expect anyone to sneak into your room while I was sleeping. Anyways, I’d rather take that small risk of happening than live my life so paranoid that I lock the bedroom door in my house that already has two locks to get through before my room. I got burned this time, but let’s just chalk this one up to really bad luck.
EPILOGUE: A Few Days Later
It turns out I was atleast somewhat lucky.
My Nook was actually on my desk at work under a stack of papers (which I found four days later), so thankfully that was one less thing that was stolen.
Also, I had a backup of my laptop from a day earlier, so was OK in that department as well. Seriously though: go buy an external hard drive (you can get one for less than $100) and back up your files. Mine does it automatically, which is the only reason that I didn’t lose the last month’s worth of work.
Ultimately, the theft set me back about $2,000. $600 for the motorbike, $800 for the laptop, $50 for the phone, $300 cash, $300 for the iPod. $1.50 for a new, albeit less safe, helmet.
A $2000 loss really hurts right now, especially in the midst of a move to a new country and a time when I’m looking to fund some personal projects. But I’ll be OK: just a “flesh wound.”
At the same time, I can’t help but put my loss in the context of where I am. In Vietnam, the average income is a little over $1000 per year, and in Hanoi its only double that at $2000. In a sense, I’m lucky to even have $2000 worth of stuff to be stolen, much less not to be devastated by its loss. So there’s that to consider.
Still pisses me off though.