Robbed in the Fashion Capital

Picture credit: Google Images

Picture credit: Google Images

Milan, Italy

Last night I was robbed. It wasn’t in a dark alley, or at a concert, or in a sketch neighborhood. In fact, it was in a lively and safe part of town that I often frequent; sitting in a communal space outside of my favorite wine bar in the city, enjoying a glass of wine with my friend.

Now before you start to say “well you were drunk, weren’t you? So it’s on you,” or “maybe you should be more careful” or “well it’s Italy, it’s bound to happen sometime- it’s like a right of passage there,” (although that one could be true)- hear me out.

I am the fun friend, yes. I am the social one, I love to talk to and meet new people, find our commonalities and differences in a foreign country surrounded by locals and other expats. It’s interesting, and it’s one of the reasons I love living abroad so much. But I am also the cautious friend. I am always aware of my surroundings, I am the one taking the lead with directions, taking that drink out of my friends hand and instructing her to get another, since she left it on a table in a club for a few seconds. I am driven by awareness, realism (no it’s not pessimism to you all you optimists out there) and yes, a bit of paranoia or OCD. But this still happened to me. Why? Because the man who stole the wallet out of my zipped up purse (that had been resting between my legs under the table), had been trained to do so. 

I’m sure I noticed merely a few minutes after he’d left, some (muted) red flags had already gone off in my head when he sat down next to me at the table, sans glass of wine or meat and cheese platter. But for some reason, this night, I chose to dismiss them, telling myself to not be paranoid or judgmental. My bag was still there, still touching my knees, what was my problem? Looking back, I realized he was a male gypsy, (you see them way less than their female counterparts, whose clothes give them away, but the men dress more similarly to what the locals wear here). I finally listened to the (very quiet alarm bells), looking under the table and noticed the bag had been moved, maybe two inches at most- but still enough that the OCD in me noticed. Pulling it out, panic already entering my blood stream, I noticed it was unzipped half way, when it had been completely zipped before. My wallet was gone. It was only a matter of two minutes from that point that I rushed into the wine bar, making absolutely sure I had not left it there, and then was already back outside, canceling all my cards on my phone (thank god it had been in my jacket pocket)- calling and texting my sister and best friend in the States to have them cancel the last one that I had to do over the phone.

The rest of my night consisted of me and my friend dragging her 50 pound sewing machine (she had just purchased that evening- she's a designer), whom we’d adorned the name “Pete,” into the metro and across town to file a police report at 12 in the morning. (Pete wasn’t looking so cute now to us anymore). It took almost an hour to do paperwork, recount every detail of the event and everything that was in my wallet to the police. I was grateful that they were so sympathetic and gentle about the situation, showing genuine disconcert at the event. (I have experienced that this culture can, at times, not be so patient or nice in these situations). Sitting there recounting every single card in my wallet (and mind you I have two of everything- all my European documents and American), I couldn’t help but have to pull out pen and paper to make a list of all the places I was going to need to contact to report these stolen and get issued new ones. I pray I do not have some form of identity left. I was also incredibly grateful that I speak Italian, thinking of being a foreigner, expat, student or even tourist here, trying to find the police station in the middle of the night and fill out reports in a language not my own, (in a country where English is not hugely, fluently spoken), would have been a nightmare.

I told the officer how distressing it was to me, as I am always incredibly careful. He told me that it was not the first time this would happen nor the last, to which I responded: “Well it was the first time for me, and I really hope it is the last.” And then- “But I am sure you have witnessed much worse things and I am safe which is the most important thing.” He agreed. “It just makes me sad that there are people out there that do things like this,” to which he nodded solemnly. It was obvious he had seen much worse.

"Who knows, maybe you’ll find yourself lugging a 50 pound sewing machine across town on a Saturday night, at 12 in the morning, only to finish off the night filling out a police report for an hour and end up in a kebab shop discussing how worse things could happen, how much some people really suck and how karma is a bitch." 

As messed up as it is, it makes me thankful that I do not have to/try to make a living through stealing from other people. It makes me thankful for what I have and it makes me aware of and grateful for the true friends and family I have; because as cliche as it is, you really do find out who they are in events like these. Who knows, maybe you’ll find yourself lugging a 50 pound sewing machine across town on a Saturday night, at 12 in the morning, only to finish off the night filling out a police report for an hour, and end up in a kebab shop discussing how worse things could happen, how much some people really suck and how karma is a bitch. (Lookin’ here at you karma girl, back me up on this come ‘round full circle’ thing). It was almost a year ago that I remember doing a similar thing with this same friend, when her iPhone was stolen, (apparently right in front of our faces) at an outdoor cafe by a gypsy. I’m telling you, they are stealth as shit. It only takes a few minutes later for you to realize what was once there is gone, and by then they too are long gone. 

This whole event really made me think about everything. I’m glad that in the last few weeks I’ve been in an extreme state of detoxing my life and space, getting rid of things I don’t need or use. In the last year or two as well, separating attachment from material things. I am much better prepared for this that I would’ve been before, impressed and surprised at how calm I was able to stay throughout it all. At the end of the day, yes it’s just money, just a wallet, just cards and papers and trinkets. It’s not those I care about, but rather the thought of feeling incredibly dirty that some stranger had his hands all over my stuff that contained such important information. I worry about identity theft and get sad thinking about the beautiful wallet that my sister bought me, sitting in a trash can somewhere (yes, my friend and I scavenged through multiple trash cans in the area) or sold to some stranger. But only for the memory that it carried. I have to have faith that nothing further will happen and this will become a matter of just waiting for my new cards, something that living abroad makes a million times more difficult to obtain. Things like this happen to even the best and most cautious of us, I think we need to remember this more. 

Being robbed is something that is never fun, I am choosing to see it as fresh start- new ID cards and credit cards. Things will have to rebalance, after having something taken from me I will be given something back or new from the universe. That is the way I have come to find karma and life to work. Who knows, maybe wiping all those clean will bring me some good fortune.