Monday, 20 January 2014


I've been robbed a few times. It's kind of unsettling.  The first time I was a university student.Someone gained access to our apartment building and broke into every single apartment, leaving every drawer in the suite open. We were university students.  We had no cash or anything worth stealing.

Hong Kong 1987
The second time my husband had his wallet stolen from the counter of the Hong Kong Post Office.  It was an inside job. He set his wallet down to put a stamp on a postcard, went to pick it up and it was gone.  There was no one else at the counter. But he got nowhere in getting it back.

The third time was a Walkman stolen out of our room at 3 am in Dali, China. A guy reached through the window from the balcony, grabbed the old Walkman and ran off with hubby in hot pursuit.  He reported it to the hotel and by noon the next day the police escorted him to a house, told him to look through the window, and lo and behold there was the robber listening to the Walkman. Crazy.

Next, we had a bunch of CDs stolen from our car in Tumbler Ridge.  Part of a rash of vehicle break-ins.  My brother thought he knew the culprit and went to scare him into returning them.  Nothing doing.

The next was another wallet grab at the Guinness Factory in Dublin, Ireland's #1 Tourist Attraction. My husband knew the thing was gone within 30 seconds, went back to the counter, got told it was probably nabbed by the person behind him in line.  No attempt to watch the CC TV tape or do anything.  They basically shrugged it off like it happened every day. Maybe it did.  Maybe by one of their employees right there at the counter- they were that nonchalant.Maybe our Irish doctor is right when he says "the Irish are all t'ieves."

Mexican Police.
The worst theft of all was by the Mexican police. We were driving in Mexico City, a bit lost, when we got flagged over. "Great," we thought, "The police will direct us to the right road."  Wrong.  "Your licence has a 7 in it. You need to pay us $100 right now." Bastards.  I know the guidebook says Mexican police scams are commonplace and you should insist on being taken to police headquarters and given a proper form with a description of your violations on it, but when two guys with guns and badges demand $100, your tendency is to give it to them. 

The returned camera in its evidence bag.
A couple of weeks ago I was in Havana. It seemed totally safe...until a guy lunged at me in broad daylight, snapped the camera from off my wrist and ran off chased by my daughter in her little skirt and flip-flops screaming "Give it back, you motherfucker!" She didn't catch him. We didn't report it to the police, thinking it would be a pointless waste of one of our seven days of vacation. Imagine my surprise the next day when I was at a homestay in another town and got a call saying the police had the camera- they had tracked me down to my previous casa using the photos on the camera. Could I identify the thief so they could send the "bad boy" to jail? I'd only seen his face for a second but I did want the camera back.  After filing a report, translated by my Havana homestay host (and if you are even in Havana, stay with Rigo at Sierra Barroso's Colonial House!) and two trips to the police station, I had the camera back! 

Now what is the lesson in all this? Apart from the fact that I may be a bit careless with my stuff? Hmmm.  I've had items stolen on three continents, in democracies and non-democratic states. And where did I get the stolen items back? CHINA and CUBA.  

When the people were looting Baghdad, Donald Rumsfeld said, " people are free to make mistakes and commit crimes and do bad things."  And from my experience, free to get away with it too.  I'm no hard-ass law and order person, but you know what?  I like getting my stuff back.