Before going abroad, I thought I had probably taken more precautions than I needed to. I photocopied just about every single piece of identification I owned before I left—you never really know déjà vu until you’ve been in a Staples three times in one day—and made a contact list of everyone I could get in touch with in case the worst happened. Did I take too many preparations? I don’t know, but better safe than sorry, I suppose.
How does the saying go? You never understand a person until you walked a mile in their shoes?
Yeah, well try walking a mile in mine the day all my stuff got nabbed right under my nose.
March 2018. My friends Ella, Dani and I had headed over to the Glass Market in Copenhagen, Denmark to grab a quick bite to eat before our next class. We sat at the high tables and ate our lunch in relative peace talking about siblings. Yep, a perfectly peachy afternoon.
I swear, I had only taken my eyes off my backpack for barely five minutes. As I reached down to grab it and head out, I found nothing but the wall our table stood up against. Yep, some random guy swooped in, grabbed my backpack and took off. And this backpack didn’t just contain a bunch of schoolbooks—my laptop, wallet, headphones, spare phone, public transportation pass and passport had all been taken. Practically everything of value I had brought with me to Copenhagen had suddenly vanished, just like that. All that remained? A phone on 20 percent with a Danish SIM Card and 50 Danish Krone (roughly eight US dollars) that I just happened to have in my pocket.
Have you ever experienced the five stages of grief in the course of roughly three hours? Let me tell you; I got some heavy mood whiplash.
First came denial. For the next five minutes, I ran around the Glass Market trying to find the culprit, desperately trying to find anyone with a blue backpack that looked slightly suspicious. Ella and Dani, thankfully, had much clearer heads than I did at the moment and brought over a security guard. He told us things like this happened all the time, but the only thing I could do at this point involved trekking over to the police station a mile away to file a police report.
Ella and Dani accompanied me about halfway to the police station and I fumed the entire way over. I called my faceless thief things that probably I probably shouldn’t repeat and strung together a few elaborate insults that surprised even myself. I texted several of my classmates and told them my predicament on my way over, then mentally prepared myself for a long day.
Bargaining, the third stage, happened at the police station.
I spent about 90 minutes there, first to wait for an open officer, then to wait as he left to assist a woman who fell down some stairs outside and then to explain that no, I couldn’t fill out my passport number because my passport had just gotten stolen. I sat on the couch and prayed to literally anyone and anything that would listen that this wouldn’t take up too much time or that the culprit would feel guilty and simply return my things. He didn’t, of course, but it didn’t hurt to try, right?
By the time I headed over to the U.S. embassy a few miles away, depression hit me like a freight train. You can rack up some extremely steep fines for riding public trains without your pass and I didn’t even have any means to withdraw money, never mind buy a new ticket. When I sat down on the train, I got so scared that someone would fine me for not having my train pass that I started sobbing. I cried from the police station to the embassy and all the way back to my home. The woman who helped me at the embassy had to calm me down for about 10 minutes before I could even start to tell her what happened.
When I returned home, my phone had long since died and I felt only marginally better.
Acceptance only hit when a Danish woman called me through Facebook to tell me that she’d found my backpack. She had located it near the canals about five miles north of where I had lost it—of course, the asshole thief left it in a puddle of water, just because. While my computer, headphones, phone and cash had all been taken, I still managed to at least recover my passport.
You never expect to get robbed. You definitely don’t expect to get robbed in plain daylight and lose literally everything you own that had value. I can’t say that getting robbed had a good ending, but it definitely had a good lesson buried somewhere in all that cursing and tears.
Nowadays, I stay extra vigilant everywhere I go and nestle my purse between my legs when I head out to dinner. I don’t trust anyone in a 10-foot radius of me. Unless they want to throw hands, they can’t get a nickel out of me.