If there’s only one thing worse than losing your pants, it’s having your pants stolen. And if there’s only one thing worse than having your pants stolen, it’s having your pants stolen with your wallet and cellphone in said pants. Which of course is the reason your pants were stolen in the first place.
Unfortunately, I speak from experience.
At the risk of developing some sort of theme typical of writers who actually know what they are doing, the past few columns have explored experiencing a Big Find and Things Lost — and it has now culminated in the perhaps the most maddening (and criminal) of all: Stolen Stuff.
Many of us have experienced having something stolen, which is always a royal pain or worse.
One of my royal-pain-or-worse episodes was not long ago. I went swimming one evening over at the local facility and when I was done, I entered the locker room to a scary sight you never ever want to see. No, I’m not talking about naked old men changing clothes, which does certainly qualify — this time I’m talking about seeing your locker door swinging open.
Thing is, my combination lock was still firmly locked in place on the locker handle, but the door has been pried and popped open at the latch, while still locked. Maddening.
And my pants were gone. Criminal.
The robber had taken my jeans containing my wallet and cellphone, and thoughtfully left everything else in my locker. It was an obvious case of either someone who knew what he was doing, or someone who really needed some pants in a hurry. A ‘denim dash,’ if you will.
So here I am in a soaked bathing suit and a shirt and jacket, showing only my bare legs with socks and shoes at the end of them, stomping angrily through the public building to the office to report a robbery. Looking like I had no pants on, which I didn’t.
“The guy probably assumed your wallet was in your pants pocket,” the security guard said as he handed me a form to fill out. “So the fastest thing for him to do was pop the door and grab your pants instead of digging through your stuff.”
The security guy had a list of Things to Do When Your Pants (and other stuff) Gets Stolen, and first on the list was to phone and report my credit card stolen.
That was a really good idea, because, guess what? The records showed that a $600 chainsaw had been purchased with my credit card at a local hardware store less than half an hour after I had closed and locked my locker door. While I was blissfully splashing away in the pool, the perp had already robbed me, roared across town, and purchased a chainsaw with my credit card.
So I’m dripping away in a wet bathing suit in a recreation facility office, while someone is busy shopping for power tools on my behalf without my knowledge. “He knew which exactly which hardware store to go to,” the Security guys says. “They don’t check for ID there, and there’s no security cameras at that store.”
“Great,” I say. “But a chainsaw?”
“Easy to carry, easy to sell.” He says, as if this is nothing new to him. Which, unfortunately, it isn’t.
“But my cellphone,” I whine. “It was a really cool smartphone that I won at a film festival in Toronto,” I whine even more.
“Well you can kiss that goodbye,” he says as we work down the list. “You’re just lucky you had kept your car keys in your jacket instead of your pants.”
“The guy would just walk out into the parking lot while you’re in there swimming, and he’d keep clicking that remote on your keychain until he sees a car with the headlights flashing. He hops in, and it’s ‘see ya later.’ Goodbye car.”
“Right,” I mumble. “Something to carry his new chainsaw in.”
So after completing a stack of paperwork, I had spent longer in the office than I had actually spent swimming. The credit card company insurance (thankfully) reimbursed the ersatz chainsaw purchase and cancelled my card, and I now faced the task of renewing or re-applying for a dozen or more other important cards, like my driver’s licence and my library card.
Did I mention this happened during a cold winter night?
It’s quite an ‘interesting’ experience making your way across the dark parking lot in a wet bathing suit and bare legs, getting into a freezing car and driving home. And it’s even more interesting when you get back home, bursting in the door in a frigid cloud of snow and ice to see the look on the face of your Better Half. Staring at your bare legs which by now look like big blue popsicles.
They never did catch the guy, or find the chainsaw for that matter, and worst of all my long-gone wallet was a one-of-a-kind gift from my son. He bought it for me in Australia when he travelled there with the Red Deer Royals Marching Showband. And I still miss that wallet way more than my pants, or anything else that was stolen that day.
But there is a bit of a happy ending.
A little lady in her 80s found my smartphone on the ground in the parking lot of the hardware store and took it to a phone store where the teenager there accessed my number in about five seconds and phoned me.
I offered the lady a reward but she graciously declined, saying it was the right thing to do.
It got me thinking about the two extremes of the sliding scale of human nature. At one end you have people who find expensive phones and go out of their way to return them, and at the other you have people who steal your stuff and fraudulently fence chainsaws.
And somewhere in the middle you have traumatized people wandering around parking lots in the deepfreeze of winter. Not wearing any pants.
If you have a story about Stolen Stuff, please email it to me at email@example.com.
Harley Hay is a local freelance writer, author, filmmaker and musician. His column appears on Saturdays in the Advocate.