I recently blogged about a personal mission to reduce my worldly possessions, and I guess I subconsciously asked the universe to help me along. Within two weeks I lost my gym bag containing my best running gear, destroyed my iphone by dropping it, and got my bike stolen from the train station.
I can use my less-than-stellar work phone for now, the gym bag loss was tolerable, but I was furious when my bike went missing.
In a fit of rage and envy, I fought the impulse to throw one of the not-stolen bikes in a long, screaming exhale. This is not the first time I’ve had a bike stolen in this country (or the second…or the third).
Damn you, fietsendieven.
In the midst of my willing/unwilling material ‘cleansing’, I read this story about losing a wallet. While I’ll never see the bike again, sometimes you do get lucky. I recall a moment I was so lucky:
This one time, when I lived in Prague…
Back in 2003 when I teaching English in the Czech Republic, I accepted a few assignments that were paid in cold cash. On one particularly rewarding payday, I was in the mood for celebrating so I met my boyfriend for dinner. As we were dining on Svíčková, a pretty woman walked by and flashed a big, toothy smile. Now mind you, this country is not known for having outrageously friendly inhabitants, so it caught me off guard while allowing her to snatch my purse off the back of my chair (unbeknownst to me, of course). Thirty minutes later, I realized with slow-coming horror that my precious payday was wrecked. My rent money, along with my ID’s, was gone.
I wanted to collapse into a puddle of weeping after a futile search of the restaurant, but I was too upset to do anything other than aimlessly wander the streets.
A ray of hope
As we were walking down Václavské Náměstí, with me nearly in tears and Aleš not knowing how to console me, we spotted THE Smiling Woman!!! She was with another woman, a man and a young girl. I was desperate to reclaim my things, so I crept up and lurked behind until they entered a butcher shop, presumably to buy sausages. I asked Aleš to call my phone, and Smiling Woman’s purse rang with my ring tone.
I calmly took the purse off her shoulder and said:
“I’ll give your purse back to you when you give me mine.”
She lurched to run away, only to realize I was still tightly clutching her purse. I was pleased with myself for trapping her in a state of panicked confusion, but I found only my phone at the bottom when I opened the oversized bag, all alone without any other stolen phones to chat with.
Apparently the family of thieves had just started their thieving shift for the day.
Then we realized the man had my purse and the rest of its contents, assuming from the woman’s wayward glance in his direction as I held her purse hostage. Their deception skills were decidedly poor. Aleš tried to prevent him from escaping the shop, but he managed to flee anyway.
In final desperation, I sprinted after him and jumped on his back, creating a grand finale to the whole fiasco. Lucky for me he wasn’t very large and couldn’t run with a small woman riding piggy back.
The sad/happy end of the story
After the police arrived, they instructed the man’s 5-year old daughter to produce my wallet (my purse had been since tossed). She gave it back at me with wide-eyes, like I was some kind of raging lunatic. Her father asked me for a little money for the bus, as they didn’t have any.
I folded, handing him my spare change from my pocket, just grateful to have my money back. I believe in good karma.
I’m just happy I got my money back that day, as I would have been seriously screwed had I not. And coming back to the moment I got my bike stolen, I’m just thankful that I have enough money to buy a new (used) bike. I can wear those old running shoes for a while longer, I reasoned.
Things come and go in our life. So do people, for that matter. When I think about it, sometimes losing things is a reminder that we can be very happy when we’re free of our material possessions. I forced myself to smile about twenty minutes after my bike got stolen. It worked, and I moved on.
“It is inherent in the nature of artificially created matter and various mechanical devices, Vladimir, that they bring more problems than pleasures. Their benefit to Man is quite illusory.”
– Anastasia in “The Ringing Cedars of Russia”