Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Lost [and Stolen] and Found

Important things I've lost since coming to France:

1. My Carte 12-25, the train discount card for young people. I bought it as soon as I arrived and promptly lost it later that day. It was fortunate that no one ever checked my ticket on the second train I was on on my way to Brest, because at that point I already didn't have the card and would have been fined for having a discounted ticket without it. I was eventually able to replace it for a fee of eight euros, which seems like extortion, given that the original cost forty-nine euros to begin with and literally all they had to do was look me up in the system and print out a new card, on plain old ticket paper. Whatever.

2. My Maya necklace. I bought it in Belize, and it was a carving of the hieroglyph for my birth "month" in the Maya calendar. Over the following two years I wore it on every trip I took, even just driving back and forth to college. I was wearing it when I got to France, and I vaguely recall putting it "somewhere safe" when I was unpacking, but I have no idea where it is now. I don't remember whether I wore it again after that--by the time I tried to find it for my hiking adventures, it was already missing. I'm still hoping it's hidden away somewhere in my room and I'll find it before I leave.

3. My Swiss army knife. It was my first pocketknife, and my only really good-quality one, and I'd had it for about eight years and carried it everywhere, so I was pretty fond of it. But more importantly, it was given to me by my grandfather, who I was also very fond of and who died when I was nineteen. Can't replace that. As with the necklace, I'm still holding out hope it will turn up somewhere unexpected, but unlike with the necklace, I do know where I last had it--and it was in a hotel room in Rennes.

And finally, most recently, 4: My wallet.

Except I'm about 99.9% sure I did not "lose" my wallet. I maintain that it was stolen from my coat pocket at the Spanish bar this past Saturday night. My pockets are deep, and the wallet fits them perfectly; it couldn't have just fallen out, and anyway, I and my friends looked all over the place when I realized it was gone, and it was actually gone. I also did not misplace it; when it wasn't in the pocket, it was in my hand or on the table in front of me, and I put it away before getting up. In fact, I put it away several times over the course of the evening (we may or may not have been at the same bar for six hours), so someone would have had plenty of opportunity to see that it was in my pocket. And, when I went to retrieve my coat at the end of the night, it had been moved, even though no one else had sat in my chair since I'd been up. (And for the record, I didn't move any farther away than the other side of the table at any point except to go to the bathroom, and even then my friends were still at the table. It was never actually out of our sight. We just missed whatever happened.)

I left my phone number with the barmen in case it turned up. My friends tried to make me feel better, and some of them offered to lend me money. I went home in tears, called to cancel my two bank cards and my credit card, and called my parents.

I didn't lose that much cash--I'd taken out twenty euros before going to the bar and spent about half of it before my wallet disappeared. But the cards were a pain in the ass, and I had no idea how to go about replacing my driver's license from here. I also lost the international SIM card for my phone, which still has credit on it and which the company will not replace for free. But more upsetting than all of that was the stuff I wasn't going to be able to replace at all--along with some no-big-deal stuff like my AAA card and my public library card from home, the wallet had contained my college and high school IDs, my immigration registration card from Ireland, and the rest of the Czech currency left from my trip. No amount of phone calls, no number of expensive minutes on hold, could get any of that stuff back.

I got up on Sunday morning and went to file a police report, and took the street the bar is on so that I could peer as inconspicuously as possible into as many garbage cans as possible, since the guys at the bar had told us that often people steal wallets, swipe the cash, and then dump the rest somewhere right outside. No dice.

Also no dice on the police report. Remember about France shutting down on Sundays? THAT INCLUDES THE LOCAL POLICE STATION. I KID YOU NOT.

Good news! In France, there are no non-emergency crimes on Sundays. Clearly, I and my wallet had achieved something noteworthy.

I walked back home severely annoyed. On the way I walked past my bank branch, where I had been planning to go first thing Monday morning to ask about a new card (I'd been able to cancel it over a hotline, but they told me had to get in touch with my branch to deal with the rest.), and double-checked the hours: CLOSED MONDAYS. Are you kidding me with this?

Bear in mind that at this point, I literally had no money, and no way of accessing money (other than to borrow it from someone). I was counting on getting to the bank as soon as possible to make an old-fashioned withdrawal as well as to deal with getting a new card as quickly as possible.

Monday morning, I set out to re-attempt the police report. I went into the station and approached the woman at the counter and told her I wanted to make a report that my wallet had been stolen. She said, "Have you asked at the town hall?" (There's a sort of central Lost And Found there where stuff like wallets are supposed to end up if someone turns them in.) I said no, and she said I should do that first. So I did, and of course it wasn't here. But by then I only had a couple of hours before I needed to be back for work, and I wasn't sure how long a police report would take. I also figured it was Monday morning, and everything had been closed since Saturday night, so it probably wouldn't hurt to wait another day, ask again at city hall, and then go back to the police if it still wasn't there. So that was that.

This morning I had class at eight, and after that I went straight to the bank, where someone confirmed that the card had been canceled and no one had tried to use it, had me sign some papers, and let me withdraw some money for the next few days until my new card arrives, hopefully at the end of this week but certainly by next week. (Assuming the bank employees don't go on strike the way they did last fall while I was waiting for my first card.) Then, this afternoon, I went back downtown and back to city hall.

Only this time, when the woman at the front desk put my name into the computer, she said, "Oh, yeah, the police sent that to us earlier. It had a student ID in it along with the bank cards?"

Someone actually found my wallet! And turned it in! A miracle!

The cash was gone*, of course, including the Czech kroner, which I'm still bummed about.** But everything else is there. I haven't lost my assorted IDs or my SIM card (or my Starbucks card!), and I don't have to deal with getting another driver's license, thank God. I mean, I'm still screwed in that I've already canceled the bank and credit cards and will have to wait for new ones anyway, but I'm relieved to have everything else back. I had completely given up hope after I didn't miraculous stumble upon it outside the bar on Sunday morning. And the driver's license was going to be the biggest pain, I think--plus, I like having that around, because if I am going to lose an ID, I'd rather it be my license than my passport.

Stuff like this has, weirdly, happened to me a lot over the years. Never my whole wallet, but lots of lost IDs and occasionally other important documents. I had kind of been assuming that having my whole wallet stolen was some kind of karmic payback for all the other times I've narrowly escaped losing various things.

Anyway, I guess everything is sorted out now, other than how and when I'm going to get my American cards, since they could only be mailed within the U.S. I'm not really sure what lesson I am supposed to have learned from all this, though. Miguel suggested that I stop carrying around important documents I don't need, but as I said above, I like having some kind of ID in case I need it, and I don't want to carry my passport around. I will stop carrying around all of the sentimental-value stuff that's not necessary anywhere, though. And I'll find a new home for the extra SIM card, though I'm a little afraid I'll then just forget it next time I travel. But as for the night the wallet was taken, I'm not really sure what I could have done differently, other than carry my money (and maybe ID) in my pants pocket with my phone and leave the wallet at home. Not leaving my coat even nominally unattended I guess is another option, but as I said, we were all right there the whole time. And everyone's coats and bags were just lying around; it could have happened to anyone. But no one else had anything taken that I know of, and I think someone would have noticed if someone was lurking around randomly going through everyone's pockets. I'm sure it had to be someone who'd seen that there was a wallet in my coat. At that point I'd have had to keep wearing the coat, or carry the wallet around with me all night, to keep them from being able to get it. If I hadn't had my wallet in my coat, I'd have been carrying a purse, and that could have been taken just as easily. I suppose it also would have been easier to keep with me, but again, everything was always in someone's sight, and other people had left their bags lying on or around the table, too. I didn't do anything that's not commonplace here, nor anything nearly as risky as things I've done in the past. I guess that doesn't mean I couldn't have been more vigilant, but still. People just suck. I could have guarded my stuff like a mastiff all night and then gotten mugged on my way home. Shit happens.

And it seems to keep happening to me. I'm almost afraid of what this weekend is going to bring, after the last three have gotten progressively worse, from annoying (spilling coffee on my computer and screwing up the keyboard) to downright sucky (cutting my hand--belated post forthcoming) to well, this. And one of the worst things about this was that it was otherwise an AWESOME weekend, one of the best I've had in Brest right up until one o'clock on Saturday night/Sunday morning when some jackass ruined it for about ten euros and change.

The upside: That it was, otherwise, a fantastic weekend, with going out on Friday followed by epic brunch on Saturday followed by tapas and shooters and generally fun and merriment at the Spanish bar Saturday night, and then coffee on Sunday afternoon and at least the start of the Super Bowl that night. (I only made it through the first quarter, since I'd been up all night the night before dealing with theft stuff, but at least a few others held out to the end, around 4 a.m. our time.) And also, that my friends are completely wonderful. I was so surrounded by love and kindness I didn't even mind that I cried in front of about twenty people, and that, my friends, is a special thing indeed.

* But not the coppers, which I find mildly amusing. They actually took the time to pull out all the coins that were worth more than 1 or 2 cents and left the small ones behind.
** I hope whoever took it had their day totally ruined when they tried to exchange it and discovered its face value was about five times its worth in euros.

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