Have you lost any possessions that you really cared about? What were they?

Another “Story Worth” essay

Have you lost any possessions that you really cared about? What were they?

The short answer is “no”, but that would make a very short and not very interesting essay. Maybe the reason I cannot think of anything whose loss has greatly distressed me is because in today’s world you can replace most possessions. The irony is that things don’t much matter when you have lots of things.

Maybe some losses that were hard at the time, but funny now.

Pick pockets of Spain

I got pick pocketed in Spain back in 2002. I was upset at the time, but on reflection I admire the thieves’ skill. Chrissy and I were walking in Barcelona, when this old guy came up and told me there was dirt on my coat. He set about “helping” me brush it off. Soon another guy also came to help. I suspected these guys were dishonest, but I did not want to be rude. Crooks depend on that you don’t want to be rude. So, I kept my hand on my wallet and waited for them to go away. They did. I felt for my wallet and it was still there. I thought that maybe I was wrong about them. They were a couple of odd, but friendly guys. After all, I still had all my stuff and my coat did have a dirt stain on the back.

I was wrong. A while later we wanted to buy some pastries. I reached for my wallet. The wallet was still in my pocket, even the cash was still there, but the credit cards were gone. These guys were so skillful that they took my wallet – while I was aware of them – took out the credit cards and put the wallet back. It was a smart trick. Had they taken the wallet, I would have chased them, or at least immediately reported the cards stolen. At first, I thought that I maybe misplaced the cards, but when we called Visa, we learned that the cards had already been used to buy thousands of dollars’ worth of jewelry.

Visa & Master Card were good about it. We suffered no losses, but it was hard, since we no longer could use the cards. Chrissy had her cards, but they were the same ones that I had and were compromised. Fortunately, we always build in some redundancy and we had a third unrelated card in the hotel safe. The lesson I learned was that you never should carry two credit cards with you. One suffices, although in our defense in those “old” days in Europe, some shops took Visa and others Master Card. Many did not take both.

Reporting the incident to the police was a challenge. They did not have English speakers and we do not speak Spanish. Our old Portuguese worked more or less, mostly less, but all we really needed was the police report for the credit card companies and we got one. There was no chance of catching the crooks. I later learned that Barcelona was well-known for the skill of local pick pockets. In all my travels, this is the only time it has ever happened to me. I really suffered no loss, but it was a lot of paperwork to get it resolved. For months after, we got bills from tunnels and toll roads. Visa told us that this was one of the scams. They had a confederate working at the toll booth and they just ran the card over and over. We did not have to pay, but we did have to inform Visa each month. Master Card did not have that problem.

We were victims of crime on three other occasions: in Brazil, in Poland and right here in Washington.

Burglars in Brazil

Thieves broke into our house in Porto Alegre when we were traveling. They were stupid thieves. They broke down one door going in, and another one going out. I think they thought it was another room. Anyway, they stole only a couple bottles of Bourbon, some costume jewelry and my leather coat. A lot of trouble for not much gain. Our neighbors were also robbed in this petty way. They did not even know a robbery had taken place until our friend could not find a favorite suit. What he did find was a pair of old shorts with one of his belts attached. Evidently the thieves tried on the clothes until they found what they wanted and walked out better attired than when they walked in.

Car thieves in Poland (Russian mafia?)

We had a car stolen in Poland. Chrissy was driving in Warsaw, in an area w/o much parking, when she found a great spot. She was not gone long, but when she came back, the spot was open again, but our car was gone. The police figured that it was the Russian mafia, but they blamed the Russians for most things. They said that it was a sort of made to order robbery. The crooks would keep a parking place open until their colleague saw the type of car they wanted. I don’t know about that.

Stupid crooks in Washington

In Washington, a thief broke into our car and took a couple tapes and a glow stick, not much of a haul. The tapes were not of general interest. We were studying Norwegian at the time and one of the tapes was a Norwegian language lesson. The other tape was “Secrets of Power Negotiating,” so we searched for a Norwegian speaking negotiator in SW Washington, but never found him. Replacing the broken window was the big expense. Many of the cars in the lots were attacked. We figure that it was kids or druggies looking for a fast grab.


Anyway, besides these, maybe my most inconvenient loss was when I left my dress shoes on the train from Krakow to Warsaw. I had to go to meetings with my running shoes and nice suit. It turned out a good thing, an ice breaker.

No narrative of loss

I guess I don’t have a narrative of loss to share. I cannot think of many things I would feel really terrible about if I lost them, although I prefer not. I would be very sad if my house burned down and devastated if I “lost” my forest land, but I don’t think that was the sort of possession they meant. Possessions can be replaced or maybe you didn’t need them in the first place. Loss is not a problem but an expense.

My pictures are from our trip to Barcelona, a wonderful place to visit, pick pockets notwithstanding. The picture of Alex and Espen is outside our house in Warsaw. There was a mean dog there. They were afraid of him, but had to look.