A week ago today, someone broke into my car and stole my wallet and cellphone. I was parked on Recreation Drive and had left the car to go running with my dog along the lakefront. It’s the first time in over twenty-years of living in this city that I’ve been the victim of a sort of “serious” crime. (We had our Oberweis milk stolen a couple of times off the front porch at the old house and once some dude showed up at the door trying to scam money out of me. But that’s been it.) The weirdest part of all this is that I’m not even that mad. I’m not that sad. I’m the first person to react with anger when something bad happens; just sit next to me when I’m behind the wheel of a car. But my reaction to my stolen wallet and phone? I feel lucky.
Last Wednesday was warm and sunny with a little wind out of the west. Gorgeous blue sky. I ran long. Grateful that my injured foot was finally getting better. Grateful my dog was healthy and had stopped her routine of barfing on the carpet. It was one of those runs where I felt I could go forever. Pure joy. When I got back to my car, I started to stretch. Wait. Did I leave that back window open? Awww shit.
The thief stole my wallet (I know, dumb of me to keep the whole thing in there) and iPhone. He left my house keys (grateful!) and my down coat (grateful!) covered in glass on the back seat. He apparently tried to slim-jim the front door. Badly. He damaged the window frame. Ditto for the frame on the window he eventually smashed. $1200 worth of damage. Asshole. If you’re going to be a petty thief, you should try to be better at it. I flagged down a passing car. I could tell the woman really didn’t want to stop, but I guess I looked mostly harmless. I asked her to call 911. “311 you mean?” “Yeah.” The call took quite a while. She waited patiently. But the cops weren’t going to come out, of course not. This was a nothing-burger. A petty crime. I could file a police report by phone. Did I want to do it now? No, I’d taken enough of her time. I’d do it at home. “Thank you for stopping.” “No problem.” Me? Grateful. Encouraged at the willingness of a complete stranger to stop and help.
I raced home and within one-hour-and-fifteen-minutes had cancelled the five credit cards in my wallet and shut down the cellphone. The damage? He’d used my American Express Card to make two charges totaling $137 at two different gas stations, for which I would not have to pay. Grateful.
My husband returned from a business trip that day and was home by one o’clock. A rare thing, for which I was grateful. We were at the bank by one-thirty, shutting down the joint checking account (I had a blank check in my wallet, too. You know, for emergencies.) By three, he had a new iPhone 5 (his old iPhone was eligible for upgrade, mine was not) and I had his old phone. I borrowed my husband’s CTA card, put it in my old wallet next to a brand new debit card from the bank, and left for Paris. (Neener, neener, car burgler. Ever been to Paris?) And my husband took the car to the shop.
My wallet and phone were stolen around 9:30 a.m. By 3p.m.--a few more direct-deposit, bill-pay details notwithstanding--my life was back to normal. Take that, bad guy.
There are few problems in life that can’t be solved by throwing money at them. (And I’m not talking about illness and deaths, just annoying day-in-the-life problems, like plumbing and appliances and cars, so don’t ream me in the comments, k?) Maybe that’s what asshole car thief was trying to do—throw money at his problems. His meth habit. His unpaid bills. Or maybe he (or she!!) is just a butthead. But I feel nothing but pity for him. And I feel nothing but gratitude to the Universe that our finances are such that while he did a lot of damage and I would have rather spent that money he took from us on something else, anything else, maybe even something nice or frivolous—like a new rug for the living room to replace the dog-vomit stained one, or a new light in the entryway to replace the one that keeps exploding light bulbs—the damage he did wasn’t devastating. Outside of being a royal pain in the ass, he didn’t hurt me. I wouldn’t let him. I am lucky. And for that, I am grateful.
Never in a million years did I think a stolen wallet and phone would teach me gratitude, but it did. He reminded me to be grateful for everything I have. And I am.
P.S. In the very weirdest of coincidences, the woman I flagged down is my husband's physical therapist, whom I've never met. He was telling her the story at therapy and they made the discovery. I will never again doubt the magnificence of this crazy Universe and the threads that connect each and every one of us.
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