I went to a Juan Valdez in a northern business district this afternoon to meet one of my bosses to get paid. I arrived early, so I bought a cup of coffee, took out my computer, and did some work until he arrived. When he did, we sat together with another teacher at one of the tables in their outdoor section (enclosed from the street). I had my computer out on the table, closed and in its case.
Mistake number 1: I decided to move my computer off the table, and put it in my backpack.
Mistake number 2: I kept my backpack on the ground next to me, touching my chair but off to my side, not in my line of vision or between my legs.
Mistake number 3: I didn´t close my backpack.
Of course, I didn´t recognize any of these as mistakes at the time.
Ten or fifteen minutes later, out of a general habit to regularly make sure my things are safe, I reached down to check my backpack. Before even looking at it, I knew something was wrong, since, just feeling it, I could tell it was far too light. I spun to look at it and pulled it open. There was no computer inside.
I jumped up, looked around, saw no computer. Obviously, there was nowhere else it could be. Obviously, that was that.
So went my computer. There´s the story of the robbery, as much as I knew or know. Then began the aftermath.
With Tyler and Vanessa, who had been at the table with me the whole time since before I put the computer in my backpack, I grabbed the attention of a security guard. Excitedly we explained what had happened. As we talked to him, we had to piece together ourselves what could have happened.
The astonishing thing is that no one, we thought, had come near our table that whole time. Or at least, not close enough.
In the fifteen minutes we had been there, three people had sort of approached us: an older, frail man asking for money; an employee of the coffee shop who quickly asked him to leave; and the security guard we were now talking to. Those were the only people who had been anywhere near us. And with the three of us circled around the table, we had a better-than-360-degree view of our surroundings. There should have been no way anyone could have reached down to my backpack, getting so close to us, without Tyler and Vanessa seeing. They had seen nothing.
(Later I realized that a pair of businessmen had been sitting at the table behind me. I guess they also count as suspects in this story, though their table was several feet away and they would have been very unstereotypical robbers.)
Anyway, I´m going to skip the next few hours, jumping ahead to now, because the details of which security guards I told what aren´t important.
Most recently, I tried to go to a police station to file a report, but I couldn´t find an open station in the two places I tried. Supposedly, tomorrow after 9 a.m. there will be one open in my neighborhood (the ones I need to go to are mobile), so I´m going to go tomorrow morning. The police report has zero chance of leading to a recovered computer. But I think I have the computer insured, so I´d need to file the report to possibly recoup the cost. (It is insured, right, Dad? Let´s talk tomorrow, when I figure out how to reach you without my computer.)
I don´t want to lose the monetary value of the computer, but that´s not what really screwed with me today. It was a cheap netbook I bought two and a half months ago because of exactly this risk. So, really, whatever. I hope it´s insured. If it´s not, well, I´ll just have to work more to make back the cost of the computer.
But, fuck, I´m pissed to have lost my files. Thankfully I didn´t have anything old on the computer, since every file I had before coming to Colombia–documents, photos, music, etc.–is still on my Mac back in New York.
But I had all the practical records of my life here–my finances, a list of people I had met, things I had done and wanted to do, my immediate to-do list, and other records–on that computer, and only on that computer. I had kept meticulous track of everything I had bought, through the coffee I had just paid for. And I had personal files, such as half-written posts and emails I´d finish and share with people when the time was right.
Of course, I also had all my teaching files. I had resources I´d been given by my employers, like electronic books and English exercises and evaluations. I had revisions of work my students had done. Most importantly, I had lessons I had planned and was in the middle of planning. Luckily some of those are saved in my email, since I had sent them to students. But most are gone. And, therefore, so is most of my work of the last few weeks.
Here are the two things that blew my mind today, that really fucked with me:
1. This was entirely my fault. The real loss, as I said, was the files. I hadn´t backed those up in over a month. I didn´t need to lose them today. But I did, because I was an idiot. As for the computer itself, well, see mistakes 1-3 above. Shit.
You live and you fucking learn.
2. I´m still amazed the computer was stolen. It feels like it literally disappeared. Had it been any closer to me, I would have been convinced it did disappear, truly evaporated into another realm. But someone took it, amazingly, from a couple feet away from me, without three people seeing. That´s impressive, incredible in the true sense of the word. Part of me, clearly, is awed by the feat.
The loss of the files and the amazing disappearance of the computer put me in a minor shock for several hours.
Now I´m calmer. I´m ready to meet one of my American friends and Isabel for dinner in half an hour. I´m ready to go home after that, rest, relax, read, feel secure and peaceful again in my room. I´m ready to sleep, wake up tomorrow, and begin re-creating what I´ve lost. It´s not that much, I realize. It´s a few weeks of work, and nothing too sentimental (except some things I had written about my early days with Isabel, which I´ll hopefully be able to re-record from memory, along with everything else). It´s a setback. I think I wrote something about those yesterday.
It´s really just the wind out of my sails. A day of productivity and fun lost. Maybe a few hundred dollars. A few weeks of work–the intellectual product of which is still in my head, of course, where no one can take it. That´s good. I´m newly excited about learning more, both English and Spanish. English equals money here, and I need to make back a chunk of money. Spanish equals comfort and power, the ability to explain to the security guard that your computer was just stolen, yes, it was right there the whole time, no, only one person came anywhere near the table, here´s the brand and model number–where´s the police station?