Weekend Assignment #238: What a rip-off!

Mâvarin Karen had an unfortunate experience with plagiarism recently, and that inspired her question for the Weekend Assignment:

Weekend Assignment #238: Tell us of a time you’ve been ripped off – that is, stolen from or cheated in some way. 

I really didn’t intend to do this assignment, but one of the incidents Mike mentioned in his response prompted a recollection I thought I’d share – a short story about a very small-time, petty crime.

First Husband finished his Ph.D. work at Cornell in the fall of 1991, and had a faculty appointment lined up at a small college in Memphis that he had arranged to start in January. We decided to make the move south in November so we’d have a little time to get acclimated.

The Saturday night before we left Ithaca, I went to see a friend of mine perform in a concert downtown, and it was fairly late when it ended. We lived in university housing, and due to the hour, I was unable to get a parking place near our apartment. I parked halfway to the other side of the complex and made my sleepy way home.

The next morning we went out to the car to leave for church (I did do that regularly for a number of years) and discovered that I must have been so sleepy I had forgotten to lock the car doors – and apparently someone had noticed. However, while I had made breaking into the car easy for them, they must have gotten frustrated once they actually got inside, since they were unable to dislodge the car stereo. They were successful in stealing the knobs off it, though. They had also been looking for loose change in the ashtray, which they had tossed onto the car floor in disgust that it was empty. The little drawer to the left of the steering wheel, which was where we actually DID keep coins, was undisturbed.

This definitely qualified as an “annoyance crime” more than anything else – but for the record, finding replacement knobs for a car stereo was a royal pain in 1991; it might be easier in the Internet age. It was actually rather comical how little the bandits had gotten for their efforts. In a reference to my son’s favorite movie at the time (he was seven), I suggested that the break-in was perpetrated by the burglars from Home Alone.

I suspect most people don’t have much fun talking about their experiences with being cheated, robbed, or otherwise ripped off, and if I didn’t have this little anecdote to tell, I wouldn’t either. What about you?

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  1. Can’t say I have any stories about being robbed from except one at work where someone kept taking change from my desk drawer. So I taped a quarter to a piece of paper that said “Stealing is wrong, you shouldn’t do it,” or something along that line. I came in the next day and the quarter was gone, tape and all. Yeah, guess that message didn’t get through.

  2. Back when we were living in Georgia, my husband and I hardly ever locked our car doors at night – they were parked in our driveway, in the suburbs, after all, and we didn’t really think anything of it (this was probably 7 or 8 years ago). So, one morning, he goes out to get into his car and head to work, and he comes back in slamming doors and muttering something about insurance papers. Apparently, someone (we think neighborhood teenagers) decided to break in (well, that’s not really accurate since there was no breaking involved, but it’s not like they were invited) to both of our cars and steal our stuff. We both kept our cell phones and loads of cds in our cars at the time.

    The worst thing was that, though they took my hubby’s cooler, smaller cell phone, mine apparently wasn’t quite good enough to want for FREE. And, they didn’t take all the cds. They actually took the time to look through them and left my George Michael and Garth Brooks cds. I could actually picture them sitting in my car seats flipping through my cd selection in judgment wondering at my quirky taste. My only consolation is that while they thought they were getting Stone Temple Pilots (that is the case they took), they actually made off with Julio Iglesias’ greatest hits.

  3. We were ripped off to the tune of more than $1,000 worth of cash and stuff (ipod, camera) by “friends” of our dog sitter. She threw a party while we were in Tahoe for a weekend in January. Prior to that, the only theft I had experienced was someone rifling through our car and taking the coins. But leaving our CDs (must not be their type of music) and our FasTrak toll pass, which would have brought them a pretty penny on the open market.

  4. When we lived in France, someone took a crowbar to the top of the door of my car and shattered the door window. They broke in and stole some children’s cassette tapes. My husband’s passport and carte de sejour were under the driver’s seat and they completely missed those. We were thankful for that, but getting the car door fixed was a total pain.

  5. Jonny’s Mommy – The thief must not have realized the note was meant for him (her) :-). Brilliant.

    Traci – A lot of people seem to feel that just because they don’t live in the big bad city, they’re safer, which is why I think it can be so much more shocking to be robbed in the ‘burbs. And I can imagine your thieves deciding which CDs were “worth” stealing, too, so I think it’s poetic justice that they got Julio Iglesias :-)!

    Patois – I remember reading about the dog-sitter incident on your blog earlier this year. That sucked. The car break-in sounds like the burglars from Home Alone got you too.

    Kathy (Bermudaonion) – Getting body work done on cars is usually a pain, but you’re right; at least they didn’t get the truly important stuff. ID theft would be a MUCH bigger problem to deal with.

  6. Let me guess, alcohol was involved in you incident. 🙂 Drunk college kids are stupid. I think we all know that. 🙂 It could have been worse though. Glad that is the worst that has happened to you.

  7. Mike – Saturday night in a college town? You may be right about the alcohol.

    I do have some more serious stories on this topic, but I don’t know if I would ever blog about them, so I’m glad I could use this rather silly one.

  8. KFB – That’s my favorite part too. Knobs from a car stereo? Puh-leez. (And it was a good car stereo, too – an Alpine – so they probably really did want it. Oh well!)

  9. You can’t help but feel violated after someone steals from you like that, even if they didn’t get much out of it.

    I remember having my purse stolen once in middle school. About three or four years before that, however, someone broke into my house in the middle of the night and stole my mother’s purse off the dining room table. We’re pretty sure my brother scared whoever it was away when he was up and about sleepwalking. Things could have been a whole lot worse if the person had been violent! I’ve never been quite the same after that experience. I used to line up my toys around my bed in rows so that if someone broke in, they’d trip and I’d immediately wake up.

    On a lighter note, my husband’s car was stolen a few years ago. We’d just gotten back from vacation (we’d taken my car) and decided to go out for a bit to eat (again, taking my car). When we arrived home again, my husband’s car was gone. Someone had taken it for a joy ride, we think. We ended up finding the car one afternoon on a side street as we drove home with the in-laws after brunch out at a local restaurant. The car was a 1985 Toyota Tercel and so you can imagine that it wasn’t much of a catch for a thief.

  10. Wendy (Literary Feline) – I think a home burglary is particularly violating, so as a child I’m sure it was very upsetting, especially since your family was home. I agree – I’m glad the burglars weren’t violent. I think that’s changed a lot.

    How funny that you just stumbled across your husband’s stolen car! Was it still intact? My brother-in-law’s Firebird was stolen back when he was in high school; the police found it, but it had been completely stripped. As you might imagine, for a teenage car guy, this was a very traumatic experience.