If you follow me on social media, you might’ve noticed a few weeks ago that I mentioned I got robbed. It happened in a place I never expected it to happen, in a moment that came out of nowhere, and although I’m okay and didn’t lose anything of real value, it inconvenienced my life for some time.
It happened at Eddor Gorge, near the idyllic village of Cheddar and England’s smallest city Wells. We had spent the morning walking the Cheddar Gorge and with more energy in our boots headed out to the short loop at Eddor Gorge. On the way there our clutch started acting up again like it had since day one and filled the car with the bitter smell of burning rubber. At that point the capricious clutch was our biggest problem.
We parked at the small, unsupervised car park at the beginning of the walk opposite to a row of about a dozen other cars. The walk took us about an hour and ended with a steep ascend back to the car park. By the time I climbed over the stile, I was a panting mess and glad of the sight of tough little Peugeot.
The car was an abomination. The clutch, the battery… The previous day the passenger side door had stopped working, so I went to open the driver’s door to crawl back to my seat. When I saw the glass, my naive mind didn’t jump to the obvious conclusion. I thought that a bird or a stone had hit the window, or maybe it had even broken on its own account – with that car, even that would not have surprised me.
“There’s glass everywhere“, Ben grunted, obviously thinking about the cleaning process ahead. He was already checking his belongings and sighing from relief as he saw that everything was in place.
I went around to look through the broken window and the empty spot on the floor hit me. “My purse is missing”, I said, a vague uneasiness rising in me.
It had everything in it – everything, as I emphasizes with a joking tone later when I had to explain to the university official or the bank teller or the phone sales man why I didn’t even have ID on me. My phone, my passport, both my bank cards, my driver’s licence, my student ID. Even when I was on the phone to cancel the phone plan and cards, my mind was racing, figuring out what I needed to do in order to get back everything I’d lost. With every realisation of another tiny loss my mind grew a bit darker.
Cards could be replaced, but not the purse I’d got from India the year before. I could get a new passport, but it wouldn’t have the cool stamps from Asia that I’d collected over the past year. Getting into my apartment would be a bit tricky with the keys gone, but more than that I grieved the loss of a doge keyring that my best friend had bought me a few years ago. Such mourn, so loss, wow.
With a broken window we couldn’t go on, so the next morning we ended the road trip one day early and headed back to London. A few days later I flew back to Finland with just the photocopy of my passport and a crime reference number scrabbled onto it.
What if we had gone to Weston-Super-Mare instead? After walking the Cheddar Gorge, we were debating between the Eddor Gorge walk and a visit to the pier in Weston-Super-Mare. We chose to do more walking.
What if we had parked in that spot between two cars? But Ben’s a new driver and (just as I) struggles with parking a little, so he pulled into a little grassy patch opposite to the bigger row of cars. We were the only car on that side with a hedge next to the passenger side providing shade for the robber.
What if I had covered my stuff up better? I usually threw a jacket over my purse when I left it in the car, and before I left for the walk, I put a scarf over the bag. I think…
What if I had taken some of it with me? That morning I had put my driver’s licence and one of my bank cards into a little card holder. During the past few weeks, I had been constantly forgetting to take my money with me when I left the car, and I hated having to borrow more off Ben, so I intended to take some of the most important cards with me in a small card holder and put it in my pocket (since my full wallet was too bulky for that). On a few previous days I had also put both my bank cards and ID in Ben’s daypack. However, when we started driving, Ben pushed the satellite navigator to me and asked me to deal with it, and I absent-mindedly put the card holder back in my purse.
What if I had not taken my wallet with me at all? Usually when I travel, I only have bank cards, ID and a student card with me. When I was packing for England, I remember looking at that small travel wallet and thinking, “I want to buy a new wallet, if I have my old one with me I’ll be able to switch all my cards into the new one immediately. Besides, it’s not like I’m gonna lose this one.” Uhh, nice work, past me.
What if I had remembered to pack my daypack? I forgot my foldable daypack at home, which wasn’t that bad since my camera fit snugly into the pockets of my windproof. Although, had I had my own daypack with me, I would have most likely put my whole purse in it when I left for a walk…
There are endless woulda-coulda-shoulda’s, but none of them help. The robbery was a sum of minor mistakes, moments of absent-mindedness and a grand serving of bad luck, and without the latter the two former would not have mattered. And even if I had done everything right, I could have still got robbed. If I blamed myself or Ben for the atrocious actions of a few lousy highway bandits, it would only cause more useless worry. It is important to acknowledge that getting robbed wasn’t really my fault and move on from there. Still though, guess what?
It sucks to get robbed.
Obviously, it feels bad to get robbed. I had already been mentally prepared that it would happen at some point in my life – I had even joked with my mum that if someone in Brazil robbed me at gunpoint and took my phone, that would be good riddance to that piece of poo phone that didn’t even run Pokemon Go. I had said that as long as I have my camera and my laptop, I will be all right. And I do – but getting robbed still disturbed me.
You always imagine what you’d do in these kind of situations. I had imagined what it would be like to catch a pickpocket red handed – I consider myself decently capable of avoiding getting pickpocketed. But when you get to the scene after the deed has been done… After a call to the police and a sweep of the nearby roads in case the perpetrators had tossed the bag out, there is nothing you can do. And that feeling of helplessness is the worst part of getting robbed, and it disturbs you, and it wakes you up at night and makes you face all those what ifs that you could rationalise away in daylight. But:
It could have been worse.
I’m glad that they broke the passenger window and took my purse instead of breaking the back window (which would have been more expensive to replace anyway) and taking our backpacks.
I’m glad that they took my things and by a stroke of luck left Ben’s wallet and his family’s satellite navigator alone. It is a pain to get everything back, but at least I know that Ben didn’t lose anything.
I’m glad that it happened at the end of our road trip so that we only had to miss out on one place (Bath) and it didn’t manage to ruin the whole trip.
I’m glad that by chance I had scanned every single page of my passport onto my computer on the day I left for the trip, which saved me a visit to the embassy and the money that an emergency passport would have taken.
I’m glad that it was a crime against our property and not a crime against ourselves. Most people, after we told them the story, ended their condolences with “Well, the main thing is that you two are all right.” And if there’s a silver lining, it is just that. Damage to property can be fixed and lost cards can be replaced, but people heal more slowly.
Life’s starting to return to normal.
Now, a month later, I finally have two new bank cards and access to my internet banking that I got with my new driver’s licence. My new passport is waiting impatiently to get on its way to the Brazilian embassy, and I have claimed and been refunded insurance. I still haven’t got a new purse (because I’m not very good at buying them) nor new keyrings (because nothing can replace my beautiful doge keyring), but I’m slowly getting used to using my new phone – a Huawei instead of a Samsung – and finally enjoying dog filters on Snapchat. Most everything that needs to be replaced has been replaced. I am a few hundred euros poorer but back on track.
From the get-go I have focused on the hows and whens to get important documents back. Maybe because I originally grabbed the problem by its horns with such determination and had such strong conviction that everything was going to be all right, the whole ordeal got forgotten quite soon. Even the robbers in my mind became faceless, shapeless entities, almost cartoon-like caricatures with black masks and striped shirts instead of the real people they were. I didn’t let it bother me. And in part that is what bothers me. I am a calm person, but shouldn’t I be in a bit more distress? Will I be able to learn from this if I never considered it to be such a big deal? And of course there’s the creeping restlessness in the back of my head: what if it happens again?
But these are not the things that bear thinking about. If I did, I would go mad. All I can do is go on, maybe a bit more careful and wise but nonetheless with faith that everything, in the end, will be all right.
Ps. To the robbers – may every piece of text you ever read in your life be written in Comic Sans and may all your toilet rolls run out of paper just when you get a fierce attack of Delhi Belly! Screw you guys.
As always, thanks for reading! This post turned out to be probably a lot longer than it should have been but sometimes you’ve just gotta vent, man. Have you ever been robbed?