Coffee on Saturday morning with friends. I’ve wrapped the strap around the body of the purse and tucked it in between the leg of my chair and the leg of the table. Every so often, every four or five minutes, I glance down to make sure that it’s still there.Walking down a busy downtown street on Saturday afternoon I do something similar: every few minutes my hand mechanically moves down to check the zippers on the purse and make sure it’s still closed.
I have these habits, automatic by now, because a series of incidents in college. Between October 2006 and May 2007 I was pickpocketed three times. Once in Brussels, once in Madrid and once in Barcelona. Three times I had the tingly shot of fear and adrenaline, the sinking realization and the frantic (although hopeless) trip to the police station to file the report. I haven’t been pick-pocketed since May 2007. In the intervening years I would think about that when May came around and congratulate myself on another year in which I had managed not to be stolen from.
As of May, 2011 I was “steal-free” for 4 whole years.
As of this morning, I have to reset the counter.
I usually park my car in one of two places: in a lot behind my apartment building or on the street in front of it. Either way, it’s my unconscious habit to check on my car, and make sure it’s still there. First thing in the morning, before bed, random times when I pass by the window. The little check, which I barely notice that I’m doing, reassures me.
When I checked this morning my car wasn’t there. My body reacted before my mind. Just like those times before, I was flooded with adrenaline, my stomach clenched and my hands became shaky. I began a series of laps back and forth from the window: look up the police non-emergency number, go look out the window at the spot where my car should be, press the start button on the coffee maker, look over my shoulder out the window to where my car should be, get dressed, go back to the window. My mind kept offering up the idea that there was some alternative explanation, although there wasn’t. It was only when the cop was out on the street, standing in the spot where I had parked the night before and saying, “So this is the last place you saw it?”, my external actions and my internal consciousness came into accord as I answered “Yes. That’s where it was stolen from,” and really felt that reality to be true.
So, it’s not the end of the world. This being Portland, I’ll ride my bike and and I’ll take the MAX. I also get to walk more, which I love. What’s more, that car was a gift to me from a a friend, I got it for free. If now someone else has got it for free, I won’t complain. (I’m not happy, but I won’t complain.) The Lord gives and the Lord takes away. But, man, I really do hate being stolen from.
I’m going to be positive about this and look to the future. You are all invited: January 9, 2013, to my “1 Year Without Being Stolen From” party — let’s see if I can make it that far!