Stephanie Burgis
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Well, I'd planned to write a journal entry about the hit British comedy film we saw last night at the theater: Shaun of the Dead, which was hilarious and also surprisingly freaky at the end. (It's been described as "a romantic comedy with zombies".) Unfortunately, something really awful happened this morning, so I'm going to write about that instead.

This morning Patrick and I went to Starbucks, as usual, to write before he went to work. When he left, at nine, I decided to stay a while longer--it was pouring with rain outside, and my writing (for the first time in over a week) was going well. We kissed, he left, and I was alone in the top floor of Starbucks, which suited me fine. My back was to the door. I drank coffee and wrote more of the dialogue between Prince Nikolaus Esterhazy and the alchemist who (he thinks) is working for him. Suddenly I had a really strange feeling that I wasn't alone--and a really strong urge to turn around. I did. I saw a guy hanging out by the edge of the wall, thought, "Oh, so that was it", started to turn back to my notebook--and then thought, Wait. Because it actually struck me as kind of odd that he was standing by the wall, doing nothing, and not carrying a cup of coffee or showing any signs of going to a table. He looked up, saw me looking at him, and tore out of the room and down the stairs.

That's really odd, I thought--and had a sudden, niggling feeling that I should check my backpack. Paranoid. I shook my head. But I did it anyway.

My wallet was gone.

I stared at my backpack. I shook it out. I started to tremble.

"Please," I whispered. "Please, please, please, no...."

I couldn't believe it. I couldn't believe that I'd been so stupid. How could I have left my backpack unzipped, with my wallet sitting inside it? I've lived in cities for years. I know better!

I went tearing out of the room and down the stairs, after the guy. This can't be happening! I leapt out the front door of Starbucks, into the rain. There was a guy--I thought he was the same guy, with the same checked blue cap--standing with his back against the Starbucks wall, staring into space. I said,

"Did you just take my wallet?"

"Wallet?" He blinked at me. "What's a wallet?"

"Purse," I said impatiently. I always forget that wallet is an Americanism, not a British word.

He laughed. "No. I didn't take your purse," he said. "You can search me if you like, but I didn't take it."

--And I suddenly thought, with a cold flash of sobriety, What am I doing? And what did I expect to happen? Did I really think that, even if it was the right guy, he would say, Why yes, I'm so sorry, here it is. I guess you caught me out???? What the hell was I thinking???

"Sorry," I muttered. "I'm so sorry." And I went back into Starbucks, shivering all over, and stood in line to get to talk to a waitress, to tell her that my wallet had been stolen. At which point I realized that my backpack was still upstairs, so while she went to get her supervisor, I ran back upstairs and got my (thankfully) still-intact backpack and jacket and writing notebook. And then the supervisor took me to the back room to fill out the incident report, and I started to cry.

She was very, very nice. All the Starbucks staff were. They made me a mocha to drink while I calmed down, and the supervisor talked me through the incident and called the police for me and filled out an incident report form while I made my statement on the phone. They have CCTV cameras, so they're going to send the police the video tape and hope that they get a good image of the guy doing it. (Not that I honestly expect it will do all that much good.) Then they let me use the phone to call one of my friends for a ride back home, because otherwise, I would have been completely stranded.

I stopped at Barclay's, my British bank, to stop that debit card right away, and I called my US credit union as soon as I got home to stop my American debit card. Apart from those two debit cards, I lost my Michigan driver's license, my student ID card, and all my library/video/shop-advantage cards, along with a piddling amount of small cash. But it felt a whole lot worse.

It was so freaky to know that he had come straight up behind me and grabbed it while I was sitting there. It's horrible to know that someone now has tons of different IDs for me, which could be used as proof of my identity for another person. (Identity theft is a really scary concept.) But the worst part is how stupid I feel about the whole thing. I can't believe I left my backpack unzipped and sitting open on the floor with my wallet inside. The Starbucks supervisor (when I apologized to her for crying as we talked) said she was just relieved I wasn't screaming at her, which some people apparently do when that kind of thing happens. I wasn't even tempted. Obviously, there's nothing they can do about casual theft like that--I mean, I'm much happier to write in a cafe without armed guards! But God, I'm mad at myself.

I'm leaving for Vienna on Monday, and I won't have a debit card to bring with me to pay for my hotel, food, subway tickets, etc. I'll figure out something else--something, I hope, which won't involve me having to carry too much cash. Something will work out.

When I got home, I called Patrick, which helped, and then I spent a long time cuddling Nika, which helped too. She put her paws on my right arm and licked my neck and cheeks while I rubbed her warm, fuzzy tummy with my left hand. Puppy love is so comforting. And it helped to get some of my priorities straightened out. I need Patrick and Nika. I don't need the contents of my wallet--they're replaceable. It would kill me to lose my family, but to lose my wallet is just an inconvenience. still feels horrible.

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