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Wednesday, April 8, 2009

Lucky, Lucky Me

Ever notice when you suffer a tragedy, people always try to force you to see the good side of the misfortune? Someone close to you dies, and your friends say, “At least he’s no longer in pain.” Yes, it’s true; napalm can be very uncomfortable. Other clich├ęs include:
  • He’s in a better place now.
  • I’m so glad he didn’t suffer for long.
  • He had a long and wonderful life.
And then people always give you their thoughts and prayers. Sometimes they give them to you for good (“Our thoughts and prayers are always with you.”) Other times their thoughts and prayers are with you “during your time of sorrow.” After your sorrow’s gone, they want those thoughts and prayers back. Overdue charges may apply. Frankly when someone close to me dies, I don’t really want thoughts and prayers. I’ve seen a lot of death in my life, probably a lot more than most people my age. I was a hospice volunteer. I know the stages of grief and work through it. I’ll be fine. Really. So keep your thoughts and prayers and make me a nice German chocolate cake. I’d much rather hear, “Our cake and ice cream is with you until you finish it, but please return the Tupperware.” It’s even better for Other Bill if I get to keep the Tupperware. He has a bit of a burping plastic fetish.

When you get burglarized, the trite phrases everyone uses are:
  • It could have been a lot worse.
  • At least they didn’t _________ (Fill in the blank with something like: kill your dog, microwave your cat, stain your carpeting, take your Franklin Mint collections, etc.)
  • You were lucky.
“You were lucky” is my favorite, and I’m making that my mantra. On March 27 someone smashed the glass out of our back French door, entered the house, opened up a bunch of drawers (probably looking for jewelry, said the responding officer. Our wedding rings cost $8 each on eBay. That should give you a clue as to the important role precious metals and rocks play in our lives.) Along the way, the crooks got the new laptop, my iPod, an early 90’s era laptop, a digital camera, and a few pounds of change.

The worst, of course, was the good laptop. You worry about identity theft, emptied out bank accounts, and the pictures of you in that leather peek-a-boo teddy and stilettos being sent to your boss.

But really, I’m lucky. That laptop was ten months old and only had a dual core processor, so it was a relic. It was time to upgrade, anyway.

I keep telling myself we were lucky. I’m trying to convince myself of it.

My luckiness has failed to take away my anger at the dog. I can just picture her, sitting in her Belgian tapestry chair with her Arlene-Frances-What’s-My-Line night blinder-mask, nursing her hangover from the night before. A soothing icepack on her head, a calming Eve cigarette dangling from her lips while Yanni serenades her overconsumption consequences away. “Take anything you want, boys” she mumbles to the intruders while sipping a hair-of-the-human appletini, “just don’t touch the Iams, the icemaker, or the liquor cabinet, unless you want your blood drawn.”

Yes, I’m lucky. They didn’t kill or hurt the dog. Although once I realized she was unharmed, I wanted to. She should have at least fought them and procured a DNA sample.

I responded to this intrusion in a very girl-victim type way. The violation of it all. They went through my underwear drawer. They touched sex toys. For the first few days after the burglary, I couldn’t concentrate on anything. I’d be in the middle of work and remember something that might have been compromised, and then make a call, change a password, or cancel an account, and then completely forget about what I was doing before the panic set in. My jaw was permanently clenched, and there was a knot in my stomach. I realized that this would be a great excuse to see my doctor for some tranquilizers. He happily prescribed me 30 Ativan. I didn’t even have to show him the police report. I should get robbed more often. I’m so lucky to be able to feel as carefree as I do now.

A burglary is an eye-opening experience. You’ve been ripped off, and your smashed-opened house is compromised. So what do you do? You call a glass company to rip you off some more. We paid $900 for the set of French doors . The glass company charged us $700 to replace the glass in one of the doors. And that is WITH the law enforcement discount. Damn, I’m so lucky to work for a police department. Otherwise it would have cost $750.

Luckily, everything I’ve written for the past two years has been saved on a 16 gig thumb drive. I even had an external hard drive to back up the laptop with. So lucky me, the thieves left the backup drive. Unfortunately, just buying a backup drive doesn’t automatically give you a backup of your data. You have to actually plug it in and back it up. Ten days later, when I finally found the power cord and plugged it in to my new computer, I saw that the last backup I did was in 2006. And even then it didn’t include Other Bill’s iTunes. I didn’t want to wait that long to clone that many bytes.

Note to thieves: the computer I plugged the backup drive into is a heavy desktop model secured by a Glock lock and a kryptonite bicycle lock, secured through the hole I drilled in my 500-pound desk, and I buried most of the computer in a bucket of cement. You will need a refrigerator dolly, a forklift and dynamite to get it out of the house.

It’s taken days to get things back in order, and I’m still not done. I restored Other Bill’s Internet bookmarks last night so that he doesn’t have to hunt so hard to find his favorite porn sites. Did I say porn? I meant recipe. Now I just have to figure out how to put his iPod music into iTunes on the new computer without erasing the iPod. I’m very iPod-phobic. So I’ll down an Ativan before tackling that little job.

I’m lucky. My iPod was something I won in a drawing at work, and I never used it. I don’t like having things stuck in my ears. I appreciate silence. And I wouldn’t have backed up the music on it, either. The digital camera they stole was malfunctioning, so I am going back to my analog film camera. Nothing takes pictures better than my Minolta SRT100 camera that my aunt co-bought with me in 1972. Even better, no one wants to steal it. Lucky me!

As lucky as I am, I don’t feel that lucky. That’s because I want revenge. I totally agree with the Middle East practice of cutting off the hands of thieves. I would like to use a dull hatchet on the ones who invaded my home. Or perhaps I could fire up an electric carving knife to help drown out the thieves’ screams. If I need a chisel to cut through the bone, I am prepared for that.

Instead I have opted for a Karmic substitution to torture.

We scanned Craigslist for used laptops, and went to look at one in a really bad neighborhood. The guy had advertised an HP laptop that looked just like our stolen one. Bubba (not his real name) was clearly dealing in stolen property. When we went into his apartment (which was armed with a burglar alarm), he had us take a seat at the one table in the unit. He then went into another room, which was dark, and he shut the door behind him when he entered it. In a minute he came out with not one, but two HP laptops (neither was ours; I checked the model numbers while his back was turned). He wanted $500 each for them, which was an excellent deal. He couldn’t tell me anything about them: how long he had owned them, how much he paid for them, why he was getting rid of them. Zilch, nada, nothing. I wasn’t about to buy someone’s stolen computer which had been scrubbed clean with a fresh, probably illegal version of Vista. I told him it was too much money and that I really didn’t need that much computer or the built-in web cam.

“I have more,” he said, “What are you looking for?” he asked me.

I thanked him, shook his hand, and we left to go find some hand sanitizer.

And today I made a call to Crime Stoppers and deposited his name, address, apartment number and phone number, and most of the above paragraph explaining my experience at his burglar-alarmed apartment.

Maybe I’ll get lucky and receive a reward. It’ll probably come to nothing, but I sure felt better afterwards. Or maybe it was just the Ativan.

1 comment:

  1. I've been broken into a couple of times, and both times have hit me hard--not in the sense of whatever was stolen, but in terms of the violation you feel at strange people forcefully breaking into your home, which up until that time was the place you could call purely yours. The place with your sense of being, as it were. You get over it, of course, but it never quite feels as inviolate again.

    *waves* I found you through Jim, thought I'd say hi. :)