I wrote this in 2009, shortly after my home was robbed. I have received some really nice emails from people who said they could relate, so I am posting it again on this site.
I left my home that Tuesday in Los Angeles the owner of two laptop computers, two external hard drives, a PlayStation 3, several PlayStation video games and controllers, and a trumpet. When I returned home, I no longer owned any of those things. I also no longer was in possession of my Social Security card, my passport, the title to my car, my personal checks, all of my digital photos and songs and my sanity. All I was left with, basically, were my clothes (I think this is because I mainly shop at sporting goods stores), my TV (too big to carry) and my scanner, whose sole function was to remind me I once owned computers.
If you have had your home robbed, you know what I went through. If you have not, here’s what to expect. These are the five emotions I passed through after I lost all of my most valued possessions.
My roommate Mike called me while I was at work to tell me the house had been robbed. I immediately pictured the gaping holes where my television, PS3 and laptops used to be, as well as the overturned furniture, gang tags spray-painted on my walls and the massive dump the perpetrator had taken on my bed. You don’t envision a crime of convenience happening in your home. You envision Manson-style bedlam. A crime of convenience seems preventable. Manson-style bedlam is unstoppable. This was a crime of convenience. The house where I lived had an alarm. The alarm was on while no one was home. There was one window in the house not hooked up to the alarm. The burglar used it to gain entrance, but tripped a motion sensor. He probably spent less than two minutes inside the house. He grabbed most of my valuables and one or two things from my roommate. With all the thieving, it was hardly enough time to work up a decent bed crap.
I was not allowed to enter my room when I got home because the police said they were going to return with bloodhounds. Yes, I thought, bloodhounds. They’ll catch the scent, chase this asshole through the woods and force him to leap to his almost-death from a dam spillway. It wasn’t justice, but at least the bastard would have to sweat. Then my roommate got a call. It was raining too hard for bloodhounds to track the scent. It rains three days a year in Los Angeles. Perfect. This is when I started getting angry. My thoughts as I entered my room. Laptops – gone. PS3 – gone! Where the fuck are my pillowcases? They used my pillowcases to carry my stuff out. Fuckers. Fireproof box with my IDs, hard drives and other valuables – fucking gone. What the FUCK? Where’s my trumpet? “They took the trumpet” I yelled to my friends in the living room, as if I thought this would cause them to ball their fists and punch the wall and go, “Not the trumpet, Joe, anything but the trumpet.” But I loved that trumpet. My parents bought it for me when I was a kid, and I still play. The trumpet, along with the photographs on my computer, will never be replaced. I calmly walked out of my room, through the living room, past my friends, entered the back porch, closed the door behind me and unleashed a primal yell. In the movie version of this moment, birds will scatter from a forest canopy and a monkey will scurry for cover beneath an aloof rhinoceros.
That night and the next day I canceled my credit cards, canceled my ATM card, downloaded applications for a new Social Security card and passport, changed my e-mail passwords, made a list of all of my missing stuff for the police and the insurance company, looked up how much all of that stuff cost, drove to two banks, closed and opened two accounts, e-mailed my family to tell them what happened, put my Netflix on hold, called Sony to see if my PS3 could be tracked when the next user goes online (no) and went to Bed, Bath & Beyond to buy new pillowcases. The Bed, Bath & Beyond trip aggravated me the most. This very nice woman greeted me when I entered the store and said, “Hi. How are you doing?” I responded, “fine,” but I did so in a tone I had never used before. It was a tone I have only heard angry women use with me. The woman says fine, but her tone is, “You’re too much of a jag to argue with at this point. So – fine.” I am sorry, nice BB&B lady. You are not a jag.
After beating myself up for not having a secret hatch in the floor or my room where I could keep my valuables, my thoughts turned to detective work. I know I would make an excellent detective, (like Jimmy McNulty from The Wire) and this conceit was confirmed when, upon arriving at the house 30 minutes after the cops left, I discovered the open window the robber used to gain entrance – something the cops missed. I took a flashlight outside and found the window screen in a recycling bin and shoe scuff marks on the wall. The following day I took a walk around the neighborhood at the same time the house was robbed. I talked to my neighbors and chatted with two delivery guys and the mailwoman. The mailwoman said she had just seen a suspicious car. I had seen it, too. Just then the car turned a corner in front of us. She got the plate number and my roommate Mike called it in to the police. Twenty minutes later Mike got a call back. The mailwoman and I had made the undercover cop who was assigned to patrol our area. Between that brilliant piece of undercover work and the responding officers who failed to notice an open window on a cold and rainy day, I had no faith in the LAPD’s ability to solve this case and was convinced that it would be Mike and I who broke this case wide open and took down the burglar and Avon Barksdale, Stringer Bell and Marlo Stanfield in the process.
I have come to accept the fact that I don’t actually own anything. I just have some stuff that is mine until some asshole decides he wants it. This is why babushka dolls were so popular in Soviet Russia. Who wants that shit?
UPDATE: We talked about the incident extensively on The Second Column podcast episode 101.
UPDATE: They caught the guy who robbed our house. He was 21 years old. Unfortunately, police were unable to locate any of my belongings, which they believe were pawned. As far as I know, the asshole is in jail right now. Here is how he was caught. The guy robbed another house nearby. That house had a camera security system, which did not stop the robber, but did catch a look at his face. So the cops knew what he looked like. During a routine traffic stop, patrolmen pulled over the guy who robbed our house, but they did not realize that he was our robber until later. So they called the guy and one of the officers said, “Hey, my partner lost his wedding ring and we think he lost it while we were poking around your car. Can we come and take a look?” The moron told the police where he was. The cops came, snatched him up, questioned him and got a confession. The fucking end.
Burglar photo by Eastlaketimes