Thursday, February 6, 2014

Bandits, Scaffolders and Apple's Part in my Financial Downfall

There is a team of bandits that follows me around the world, intent on robbing me of my possessions at every turn. They are, I am certain, in cahoots with the team of scaffolders, who also follow me everywhere, intent on destroying any peace and quiet I might be hoping to get.
The bandits have robbed me in the cinema, on trains, in shop dressing rooms, on the London Tube, in taxis, in hotels, at conferences, on cruise liners, in my own home while I was in it . . . In fact, it would be easier to list the places where I haven’t fallen victim to their antics.
The bandits are specially keen on following me when I go to Miami. When I went in January 2013, they stole my phone at the airport. When I returned in March, they took my bag, complete with iPad. The day before yesterday, on my arrival back in LA from Miami, they surpassed themselves by robbing me twice on the same day.
The first was upon arrival at the carousel. Thanks to American Airlines in Miami not allowing me to place my slightly overweight bag in the hold (all other airlines, I find, offer a little leeway for First Class), I had to transfer a pile of stuff at the check-in desk to my Carry On bag, and then they told me to check in the two bags into the hold. It was all so rushed – the officiousness of AA check-in staff never helps - I forgot what I had placed in the Carry On bag for safe keeping. But that relates to robbery number two, so let’s not get ahead of ourselves.
So, with my disrupted routine, I left the plane with a large handbag, plus a shoulder bag that contained an iPad (the new replacement from last year), my laptop, several DVDs, computer leads and chargers, plus my new Tommy Hilfiger glasses (to replace the ones stolen in the bag at Miami before). It also contained about 20 pages of personal information – bank details, credit card numbers, codes, subscriptions, every password to every aspect of my life. I always travel with the hard copy but it is usually in the hold bag. I just had a lot of admin to get through while waiting for my flight.
I stood at the carousel with my bags, and somewhere, during the process of getting my luggage, the shoulder bag was swiped. I didn’t realise it until I was in the taxi leaving the airport and when the driver told me he had loaded just the two cases, I asked him to turn around and zoom back. The bag had gone and had not - and has not - been handed in.
Naturally, I started hysterically sobbing, much as I had in Miami last year. I finally made it home and opened my case to discover, yet again, as has happened on almost every internal US flight, a leaflet in both cases from security to say my bags had been opened and inspected. All my jewellery had gone.
Yes, I know not to put valuables in cases, and I never have; but the hassle at check-in made me forget what was in there. I don’t normally take so much jewellery, either, but I had just cleaned it all with the pot of silver cleaner Mum gave me at Christmas, and it all looked so sparkly and new, I thought I would take the lot.

So sparkly and new, obviously, that the baggage handlers thought that they would take the lot, too.
It’s heartbreaking – not just the monetary value, but the sentimental one: loads of pieces that Mum has given me over many years; oh, the irony of her getting me the stuff to clean it all that proved the catalyst for its disappearance.
My house insurance says they stopped allowing me items covered away from home last year after my Miami claim (they reckon they wrote to me; they didn’t). My travel insurance does not cover hand luggage, but I am covered for a smallish amount on the hold baggage. American Airlines’ response was, basically, tough luck: our small print tells you to carry valuables - yes, but if you hadn’t made me change everything. I also stressed to them that if I had had a better flight over and got some sleep, I might not have been so exhausted. The crew had talked loudly throughout the whole red-eye flight, even through the safety instructions (“We’ll try” was their response when I asked them to keep it down so I could hear the info), and very rudely informed me it was what they had to do to stay awake. Really? At disco levels of conversation?
Every time I get robbed, I learn something new and try to do it all differently, but you put your finger over one geyser, only to find that the problem springs up in a different form elsewhere.
I am pretty streetwise and very careful. At Marbella airport, two men pretending to be cops tried to make me take my luggage under the stairs so that they could inspect it. I told them I would open it in full view of everyone – well, that’s a slight exaggeration. In my limited Spanish, I just kept shouting “Aqui!” increasingly loudly while pointing at the floor.
I never carry a purse and keep my money in a zip up compartment in my bag (Got that, bandits, for when I next fly?). I do the same with my phones. I don’t leave things unattended. I never carry large sums of cash. I never draw cash from a machine if someone is close by.
Yet here I am again, robbed not just once, but twice on the same day. How and when I took my eye off the ball, I don’t know. Tiredness, stress (the travelling team of scaffolders arrived at the apartment building I was staying in, too, so no sleep and restricted work), the excitement of seeing old friends and new friend Judge Alex again; who knows what precipitates it (come to think of it, though: Judge Alex has been the common denominator in the Miami thefts; that’s suspicious).
You can only do what you can; the bandits will always find a new way to screw you.
What has got me through, however, has been the amazing outpouring of love and support from friends on Twitter and Facebook – some of them complete strangers, and many with offers of practical help. 
It’s heart-warming to know that in a world of crooks and thieving bastards, the good people in one’s life still outnumber the bad – by a long way.
And, at the end of the day, it’s only stuff.

Nobody died, nobody got pregnant.

I just got a little bit poorer and, with my replacement equipment, Apple a little bit richer.

I suspect it won’t be the last time.

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