Friday, March 30, 2007

To the man who stole my favorite things

Dear 30 year old thug who jacked my suitcase on the train last night,

I woke up still feeling very sad and sick about the loss of my things. Sad, because those things had tremendous personal value to me. Sick, I guess because that's what it feels like to be a victim of crime, sort of violated, and because other people saw him steal the bag and didn't stop him.

Kiyash drove me to the train stop where yougot off and we found some of my things stuff in a trash can and other things scattered on the sidewalk like trash. Not all of my things, not even most of my things, although I was relieved to get back a few of my things. But you took a lot of things that mattered.

You stole the stack of business cards I collected at Etech this week, many from people I met playing Werewolf and would really like to know and talk to again. Maybe the people I met at Etech will read this and email me instead (jane at the name of this blog dot com) so they don't think I am blowing them off.

The suitcase was full of clothing I picked for a week's trip that I was really excited about. Favorite things. Favorite shoes, favorite jewelry, favorite dresses, favorite makeup. My favorite things.... I guess it's not such a hardship to lose favorite things. As Kiyash said, "you're safe, that's the most important thing. "It totally is the most important thing. I guess I am feeling mostly sorry for myself in that third-person way, the way you would feel sad for a close friend. I can see myself third-person style picking out all my favorite things to pack, not knowing that I would be using them all for the last time. Like feeling sad for a character in a short story. "Self-vicarious-empathy", perhaps.

I have no idea what you are going to do with my my black patent leather heels, favorite black shift dress, my MAC cosmetics, a stack of World Without Oil postcards, Institute for the Future business cards, and a bag of Etech swag.

I guess I will keep my out eye in Richmond for a cross-dressing thug tech geek promoting alternate reality games.

I do wonder who you are and what your life is like that you have to resort to stealing bags off trains. I realize I am very lucky that I am not living that life. You hurt me by stealing my things. But I couldn't possible take it personally, really. Yes, it's a pain that I have to spend my day going around replacing everyday things like cell phone chargers and contact lenses. But it's fine, because I also have a dog and a husband and work I love and enough money that I dont' have to steal things.

I gave a talk at Etech this week about the science of happiness, and the different classes of happiness, and how alternate reality games have been helping people experience the world differently by learning those classes. The very strange thing about having my favorite things stolen last night is that I feel ARGs have taught me to see what happened in a different way. Not as a personal interaction between me and the thief, but rather as an exchange in a bigger system involving massively multiple people who COULD have been affected. I appreciate that the man who stole my bag was going to steal someone's bag, and perhaps the other people's bags in the system (the train) were more important to them and their week than mine was. I was returning from a trip; it would be much worse to have a bag stolen at the start of a trip, in a strange city, with no belongings whatsoever. And maybe other people's bags had more important or irreplaceable stuff than mine. Maybe I'm in a better position than the other people with bags are to deal with this, to replace lost items (I'm not completely broke) or to get emotional support after being robbed (I have a great husband who was waiting to meet me at my station.)

So by letting my bag serve as the Stolen Bag, I was saving someone else the grief of losing things. So at least a little part of me is okay about it. I appreciate the opportunity to be the one to take the hit here. I am framing this experience as an opportunity to prevent other people from having suffered, and accepting that maybe I was the best person on that train to have their luggage stolen. This is totally a way of thinking that relates to MMOs for me.

P.S. Also missing: the small diamond on my antique art nouveau engagement ring. I still have the setting, which dates to 1896. It looks very strange with the diamond popped out, a big empty setting. I am glad I will have the chance to refill it someday. I am sad about that, but Kiyash said not to be too sad. And I agree. Losing material things, even sentimental ones, just isn't that big a deal in the big picture.


hmrpita said...

I am so sorry!

Unknown said...

What an awful experience to go through but such a wonderful outlook on it.

I wonder what magnificent treasures were saved?

Jane said...

Thanks pita and brooke. :) what was saved -- I managed to recover a stack of research for my etech talk (heh, too bad, he probably could have standed to read a little bit about benevolence and good will in public spaces!!), my favorite black heels (the only ones I can run in), although the straps were not recovered, so I'm going to have to buy some satin ribbon or something to thread through in place of the straps. I got a good pair of black jeans back and most importantly a pair of earrings kiyash gave me on my birthday last year that were stashed with my earplugs and I guess the jerk didn't notice them when he threw a few bath products on the ground. Awesome. So yeah, a silver lining. I just spent $300 replacing some of the everyday stuff that was stolen though, and I'm just getting started, so I guess this is going to be an expensive experience.

Anonymous said...

Aw Jane,

I'm so sorry, I know how this kind of thing makes you feel sick in the pit of your stomach. :(

I had a suitcase stolen once as well, but I had to laugh in the end, as it was only full of really smelly dirty laundry at that point. :)

Chin up. It's hard to figure people's motivations, sometimes.

Anonymous said...

Yes, it's a drag to be violated in that disengaged but intimate sort of way. And yes, you've got your health, happiness and support system -- much to be grateful for.

I had a beautiful antique ring that "disappeared" when I was living at my cousin's house during my divorce. It was my engagement ring and the best thing about my marriage. Oh well, that was years ago, I still miss it occasionally but life goes on and stuff is just stuff.

Joe said...

Jane, that's just awful. Sorry to hear about it, and glad you didn't get hurt.

P.S. Thanks for your involvement in Werewolf.

Oh. It's Kristen Again. *sigh* said...

Ohhhh my stomach hurts for you. so sorry.

Anonymous said...

Perhaps this is an insenstive story to tell, but I thought I'd share a funny (true) story about a stolen bag that happened to a friend of mine.

My friend lives in NYC, and some friends of hers asked her to dog sit their large black lab for a week. During that week, the very old dog died. She couldn't get in touch with the family, so she decided she had to take it to the vet to have the body taken care of. So she put the dog into the largest container she could find in the place, a suitcase.

She took the suitcase down to the subway, dragging it slowly, because it was a heavy dog, and she is a small woman. When she was trying to catch a train, a cute guy came up to her and asked her if she needed help. He helped her get the suitcase onto the train.

They talked for a while, and eventually, he asked her what was in the suitcase. Embarrassed, she claimed she was moving and she had computer equipment in there that she didn't trust the movers to move.

When she got to her stop, the guy got off too. He offerred to help her carry it to wherever she was going. She said she could handle it herself. But instead of leaving, the guy punched her in the stomach and ran off with the suitcase, thinking he had just scored himself a computer. Sad that the dog couldn't be taken care of appropriately, but almost worth it to imagine his face when he eventually opened the suitcase.

Anyways, there's really no moral to this story, mostly because its ACTUALLY TRUE. I just thought it might give you a smile. :)

WriTerGuy said...

Very sorry to hear this happened to you, but glad to read your larger take on it. Too often I see things as happening in a vacuum, unrelated to anything else. So this gave me perspective.

Speaking of ARGs and interconnectedness, I thought I should pass on condolences from some Russian guys. They've created a World Without Oil game blog, and they are also very sorry that you got "robbered."

Anonymous said...

That sucks, Jane! Sounds like you're trying to be zen about it, which is great. When my family was robbed in our home at gunpoint several years ago (no one was seriously injured, dad was a little roughed up, but everyone was fine in the end, thank God), we were definitely most thankful for our safety, but also I just remember feeling angry that anybody has the "right" to do this kind of thing.

:( *hugs through cyberspacE*

Suw said...

Aw, that sucks.

I had my mobile phone - a Nokia E61 that I'd had a whole 19 days - before Christmas, taken straight out of my pocket during a 5 minute window of opportunity between me putting it there and then thinking "I must put that somewhere safe". The emotional reaction to having something stolen like that was really mixed - anger and resentment yet also relief that they nicked it out of my pocket and didn't mug me. Not to mention the guilt of feeling anything at all over something that is ultimately replaceable.

It would be nicer if there weren't people in this world who stole things, but at least it was just 'stuff', it wasn't anything more precious.

dislekcia said...

That has to be the best way to look at an unfortunate event ever. "I got the opportunity to prevent someone else suffering."

Kudos, that's an awesome way of looking at the world. In some respects it's given me words to describe a feeling about crime and our obligations towards other people.

It's a shame nobody stopped the man, but that's the kind of thing you're building towards, isn't it? A world where more people would help. Same here :)

Jaki Levy said...

regarding happinness...

not sure if you've run into this NYTimes article:

there is also a site on happiness:

Jeremy C. said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
konamouse said...

So bummed about what happened. And that other folks sat by watching, and didn't say or do anything? Terrible world we live in these days - fear of getting involved. Sigh.
So glad your earrings were recovered. It's losing sentimental things that hurt the most.
But, as been said before, health & safety are the most important. You have a great husband to protect and take care of you.
Much hugs!

Unknown said...

I read your story and I was truly comforted to know that you can look on the bright side of such a dark experience. I was recently robbed at gunpoint last Friday and the guy stole my purse, my friend's purse and then stole her car that we were sitting in. All of this happened in front of my house. It was very scary to go through. I replayed how many other ways the day could've gone and I realized that our world is so wicked that we will eventually all experience something truly dark in our lives. I, like you, am thankful to breathe air another day, to walk away from this unasssaulted and unbroken. I truly hope that we recover our things but if not the most important thing is that we recover spiritually, mentally and emotionally and not allow hatred for others to seep into out hearts and hinder us from showing love and kindness to others. In the end I truly believe that we will all be held accountable for the choices we make and although predators make off with our belongings, they haven't truly gotten away with anything because there is one who sees all that we do and nothing escapes him.
Anyway, I just wanted to let you know that it was comforting to read that others share my experience in certain ways and can get over it is such a beautiful way.

Owen said...

I had my suitcase stolen from a train luggage rack yesterday. Found your blog whilst looking for advice on stolen items. Sorry about your incident, but I too feel I'm probably having a better life than the person who stole it.

I'll hopefully be able to claim on my travel insurance, it's upsetting that I lost my Christmas presents, the biscuits my sister bought from Italy, the scarf my friend knitted, when I know all they were after was the laptop I was using, it wasn't even a good one.

The thing that really upsets me is knowing that next time I get on a train I won't relax, I'll stare at my luggage throughout the journey and jump out of my seat at all the stops in case it happens again, at least for a while.

At least I had my bag with phone, money and other stuff including a lottery ticket, strangely I won £10. I guess life's full of up's and down's

Hope you and all the nice people who have written have a good new year.

Anonymous said...

Oh you poor thing. My bag was stolen off a train last saturday so I know how upset & violated you must feel. It too had many irreplaceable objects of sentimental value such as earings, favourite bikini, makeup, birthday dress. Hmmmm.
But I've got my thoughts into perspective now & just feel rather sorry for the thief. To have to stoop so low...
Good luck

Anonymous said...

Tell you what. If you don't mind "decorating" your suitcase or bag or whatever it is, try putting a piece of paper in it telling whoever who reads it that he or she sucks for stealing your bag or something. So even when the bag is stolen, you can have a little laugh ;)