Wednesday, January 28, 2009

On Being Robbed

Jon and I were in my basement working. We had music playing at a muted volume. We were discussing business and life intermittently between answering emails and performing other various tasks on our computers. I heard some hard footsteps upstairs about the time my wife was supposed to come home. They were just hard enough in landing that at first I though she was running late and came inside only long enough to grab something and run out, but they persisted long enough that made me think perhaps she had forgotten a thing and trudged back inside to grab it and then rush back out to the car. These figures were fairly sub-conscious. The cacophony overhead grew to have just barely enough of an odd quality to it, and lasted just barely long enough to pique my interest. I subtly wondered whether my wife was upset and chose to stomp a couple of times - perhaps she had called after me and I didn't hear it and so she stomped down after me or perhaps something was upsetting her and she was stomping to express her frustration. All this too, was subconscious. Even further back and deeper down in my head a flash of wonder crossed my mind, 'am I being robbed?'. I slightly increased the tempo of my current sentence to Jon and then said aloud proceedingly, "what is that?".

I ascended the stairs and then, couched between normal heartbeats, my chest sustained one strong thump, but I quelled the stronger beating before it had the chance to beat hard like that twice. I started to discern alarming but indecipherable racket and from the top stair and I ran through the kitchen. The stronger heartbeat came back but I wasn't thinking about it because I felt the weirdest, creepy sense of a foreign, elusive presence in the living room. At the same time, my wife was entering through the front door. Right when she reached for the door knob, the door swung open and a man with a scraggly white beard shoved her out of the way and said, "get out of my way!", and ran out. By this time I had travelled through the kitchen just in time to see my wife just inside the living room and she said in a raised, urgent, and panicky voice "what was that?". I crossed her to look out the front door and I saw the man in our yard and I chased after him. My thoughts hadn't cured yet, so I wasn't thinking whole, clear thoughts, but I had a feeling that something wasn't right, and as (because?) he ran away from me it just vaguely but urgently seemed like I should chase him. This was at first almost entirely out of curiosity. A tweaked curiosity and an urgency.

He jumped the fence. I jumped the fence. I had a very specific feeling of vulnerability that is difficult to articulate. I had the immediate sense that he had taken something valuable (duh?). I had a vague realization that my home had been violated, that my town wasn't safe, that my beautiful pregnant wife wasn't safe (had she been hurt?). I kept chasing. He had a grey hood. A black jacket? He was more silhouette than person. Several heartbeats after the fence-jump, still new feelings emerged. I felt this bizarre, surreal, disconnection from reality. I felt adrenaline surge through my body and I became absolutely furious with the man I was chasing. I have never, ever, felt more powerful, I have never felt more predisposed to intentionally and violently engage someone. Three or four more slow, heartbeats down the road, and then select feelings congealed into what is retrospectively chilling - this strange, calm, sense of preparedness to fight, and to fight ruthlessly. I shouted as if to force him down to the ground, "hey!". It came from my bowels. It brought out five or six houses worth of neighbors. I shouted again three or four more times "hey!". It felt powerful to yell so strongly, but my words were impotent to force his face into the ice-crusted street. He was disobeying me, which pissed me off. Without anything remotely resembling a well-reasoned series of thoughts, without ever having seen his face or knowing what he did inside before he ran out the door, without knowing his life story or his intent with my home, I was fully prepared to take this man down and just absolutely beat him. Not just prepared, I was driven toward that end.

And I was gaining on him.

I chased him down the street a decent ways. But I didn't have any shoes on, and couldn't sustain the pace. I think there was also some survival switch in me that clicked on with a very quick thought about him possibly having a knife in his coat that he could easily access if forced into physical conflict. I slowed. Once I slowed, my subconscious calculated very quickly that it was unprofitable to continue the chase. My feet hurt. I had a second thought about kicking it into high gear again, giving chase again, but with the intent to follow instead of the expectation to take down. Again without well-reasoned or clear thought I shouted after him "what did you take? I don't care - I just want to know what you took!". I slowed to a stop and shouted, less violently, but sufficiently angrily, definitely frustrated, a bit scared, "oh my gosh". Some neighbors approached me to ask what happened and I immediately felt suspicious of each of them. I was instantly transformed into a paranoid conspiracy theorist. A couple just told me their names and where they lived and encouraged me to contact them if I needed anything. They all looked like thieves. The one who lives across the street from me asked if I was chasing a buddy, and I said that I didn't think so, that I thought I had just been robbed, that I was furious, that I couldn't believe it. I shouted back to my wife and Jon to call the police.

I went back inside and we locked the door and looked over the house. He had ransacked our bedroom, going through my wife's closet a bit, but mostly through my dresser drawers, after pulling them out. My wife later realized he had taken my pillowcase to stash his loot in. From my underwear drawer he stole my grandpa's pocketwatch, my grandpa's harmonica, my grandpa's antique-looking train pencil-sharpener. He took my brand new pro-line Buck knife that my wife's parents gave me for Christmas, that I have only even taken out of its sheath like thrice. He took a sack of Soviet coins and pins. There may have been some English money (not much). Aside from the knife, the items were mostly just sentimental and probably not very valuable. Though I have no idea what the pocket watch or soviet coins are really worth. I would gladly buy them back from the man if I could - at least my grandpa's things.

At any rate from the bedroom he went into my wife's office/our future nursery and grabbed her PowerBook G4 12" and her Canon Rebel! We don't think he got away with much else, but who knows what else he took? Our house reeked of alcohol. He had been in our bedroom! He had shoved my beautiful pregnant wife! She has a cold! She is working hard in school and at work! He was inside our house. Inside our house. Our home. He touched my clothes with his grubby, alcoholic hands. He took my grandpa's pocketwatch! My wife's camera! We got everyone to go in on that camera for Christmas a year ago. Everyone - all of my wife's family and all of my family. He was in our future nursery! My baby could have been in there! I have left my wife home at night without locking the door, and this could have been one of those nights! I have gone out of town and left her here for days at a time! Who knows what could have happened. He could have easily had a knife that he stabbed at my wife on his way out of the door. I mean, there are so many ways this could have been so much worse.

How did he get in? Well the front door was unlocked (why would I lock it?). The curtains were pulled open. The lights were off. He probably thought that there wasn't anybody home, probably knocked and heard no reply, tried the doorknob, was thrilled it wasn't locked, came in, helped himself, saw my wife's car pull up, rushed out, heard a man chasing him, ran fast, got away.

And honestly, we feel pity for him. We prayed for him. On top of the fact that we don't care about material possessions (very much), our insurance will probably cover it. So we're fine. I mean, we had trouble sleeping and I have been paranoid about not leaving my wife at home, and we feel vulnerable, but we'll get over it. We're getting over it.

And though I condemn his actions themselves, I simultaneously feel sympathy for him. I oscillate between wishing I had had my shoes on - for surely I would have caught him, and being glad I didn't. I probably would have beat him to an immoral severity. I am glad I didn't get the chance. Either way, now I am prepared for him or anyone like him. I half want him to come back and get what I have for him! But I really just don't want to be bothered ever again. If you know me at all, you know that I am rarely enraged. I am rarely angry. I am kick-back. I am kick-ass; I don't typically kick ass. But this situation was different.

My wife and I discussed all kinds of policy issues for our family. I am somewhat more principled than I was previously. I will stop a man, using a sufficient amount of force if necessary, to secure our persons. But the force should be kept to only the degree of severity that is necessary to stop injury to our persons. At any rate, we're more prepared now (in several ways).

I'm just thankful my wife wasn't hurt.


  1. Intense! You had me on the edge of my seat.
    You two must feel violated. I am so glad that your family wasn't physically injured! There are so many "what if's"! It is a good thing you had the serial #'s. I hope your insurance will replace the Canon. Both of our cars were robbed and the feelings we had are perfectly described here. Luckily our Canon Rebel that was stolen was returned.

  2. I am really glad you wrote this. You wrote in such a way that it was really easy to see what exactly you were going through during the whole process and it was really easy to relate to you through that, which I think is really important in close friendships. I was really concerned about you and Lindsey when I heard you were robbed and I'm really really thankful that neither of you nor Jon were injured because I don't really know what I would do if something happened to any of you. Except that I think I might feel as you felt, a sense that you wanted to hurt that person to an almost immoral severity simply out of protectiveness for the ones you love. I am really glad he didn't take too many things. I am sad about Lindsey's camera and your grandfather's things. I vow upon my life to restore your soviet coin and pin collection if it is the last thing I do.

    But mostly I'm just really thankful for you guys.

  3. Thanks guys. April I didn't know you guys had your cars stolen!?

  4. So I usually lurk and don't comment, but...

    My house was broken into about 3 weeks ago (while I was away... lousy way to come home after a vacation!) and I've been going through a lot of the same emotions. I'm glad you're safe and am praying for peace for both of you... and rest at night. The fear/paranoia sucks.

  5. i bet you would have stopped beating him up pretty soon after it you overcame him.

  6. "I felt this bizarre, surreal, disconnection from reality. I felt adrenaline surge through my body and I became absolutely furious with the man I was chasing. I have never, ever, felt more powerful, I have never felt more predisposed to intentionally and violently engage someone. Three or four more slow, heartbeats down the road, and then select feelings congealed into what is retrospectively chilling - this strange, calm, sense of preparedness to fight, and to fight ruthlessly."
    Dude, I just have to say for Lindsey's benefit, because I think she likes the Twilight books: you kinda sound like Edward Cullen in this paragraph.
    Also: I'm so sorry you guys got robbed. I like that you prayed for the guy. I hope the crummy feelings surrounding the incident go away soon.

  7. I just read Amanda's comment. Amazing.


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