a Taj MuttHall Dog Diary: Mixed Blessings

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Mixed Blessings


On Sunday, we had a lovely Mother's Day dinner at my parents' house. I took my camera bag just in case I wanted to take some photos. I picked up my video camera to take it, too, for my sister in Nevada, but decided at the last minute that there was about a zero chance that I'd want to take the time to video something, upload it to the computer, etc., so it stayed on the table by my door.

Today, for the first time in a year, I decided to go work in my company's office about 45 minutes from here instead of at home. To get me into a work-social setting and to help me focus on getting more hours in, because I am very sadly short on available money.

I've been working on this version of this 500-page manual for well over a year. In the process, I have printed 3 versions, but I have also been scribbling change notes and questions--and applying these wonderful colored tags to dozens and dozens of pages. Well, maybe hundreds of pages among the 3 copies. I've been working lately on trying to get all of those changes folded in because I'm tired of staring at 3 copies of the 500-page manual (single-sided) on my desk. Make that 4 copies, because the PREVIOUS version had some handwritten notes about things that were never resolved.

Gads, OK, to go up to Mt. View to work, I had to haul all those with me. Plus my daytimer with all my schedule notes and where I track for my timecard and all that, my nice black leather daytimer that's been with me since 1989, with my name on a blass plaque on the cover.

What on earth to carry all that with? Much too much paper to fit into my document bag. BUT--ta-da!-- I have cleverly saved lots of sturdy bags in the garage, and there were two double-walled Apple Store bags with drawstrings--VERY sturdy for all those papers that I had to haul.

What to wear? Not one of my many $15 flea-market fleeces like I'd wear to agility. To look "dressed up," I donned my very pricey brown "Grand Canyon condors" embroidered fleece, my one souvenir indulgence from my hike last year into the canyon.

I packed up my laptop, too, figuring that it would be easier to transfer files to and from that rather than having to upload to some web site and then download again, but after hauling those heavy bags of paper out to the car, I decided that I really didn't want to haul that heavy computer bag, too, so left it sitting in the chair in my office.

And I hauled all that paper up to mountain view and into the office. When I got there, realized my camera bag was still in the car. But I have this nice lined coat with a black lining; tucked the camera backpack up against the passenger seat and tossed the black-side up coat over it. Looking through the tinted windows, you'd never know it was there.

At lunchtime, I took my wallet out of my purse (left the purse under the jacket, too). Bought my lunch. Tucked the wallet way back under my driver's seat because it was so much easier than digging out my purse, cramming it in there, and rehiding the purse.

Lunch was good, work was good, but those danged hot flashes--stripped off the Grand Canyon fleece.

Just so happens that I have a regular meditation session at 4:00 on Tuesdays down here near where I live. Normally I would just bip over there from home 10 minutes before, stay for that, and come straight home. Here's the dilemma: Leave all my papers at the office, which would prevent me from doing any work at home this evening, or take them home with me, since I've made good progress and am feeling enthused and competent and really need the extra hours of work?

OK, take them with me. I picked up my fleece, put the papers AND my daytimer back into the Apple Store plastic bags, tossed them casually onto the passenger seat in my van, and headed south.

Because I was so far away and going into rush hour, I left there an hour early. But, glory be, traffic was good, so I arrived 25 minutes before the class was to start. Feeling cheerful and like I had accomplished things today, I decided to take a brisk 15-minute walk around the block.

I am practicing being grateful for the following things:
* I didn't take my laptop.
* I didn't have my video camera in the car.
* I tucked my wallet under the driver's seat.
* My cell phone and point-and-shoot digital camera were buried between the seats instead of sitting on the passenger seat as they often do.

Because, 20 minutes later, when I returned from my walk, this is what I found:

Here's what I think happened. The car parked next to me when I first got there was gone. I think that they happened to glance in, saw Apple Store bags sitting right there on the passenger seat, smashed the window, took everything they could reach, tossed it into their car without looking at it, and took off. The alarm didn't go off, because they never bothered to open the door. So they weren't able to search for other stuff. My cell phone and small camera were still there. My wallet was still there. My garage door opener was still there. None of my dog stuff was removed from the back.

They took my nice leather purse (well--OK, it's very old and worn. But sturdy and just the right size and configuration and color and I have no spare change to buy an equivalent).

They took my digital SLR, 3 lenses, doubler, assorted filters, remote control, the flash attachment I'd always wanted, the nice purple backpack that I looked for for a long time to have just the right configuration of pockets (and color). I certainly don't have the money to replace that. So much for my budding career as a photographer.

They took my long, lined teal and black jacket that's my mainstay for anything out of doors--agility, hiking. Don't have anything else equivalent.

They took my Grand Canyon fleece.

And they took months and months worth of work, notes scribbled on thousands of pages in those two white plastic bags, that my brain categorized as "boring papers that no one would be interested in" but someone looking through the window categorized as "probably cool computer stuff from the Apple Store." It doesn't matter how much money I have or what insurance I have. I cannot replace that. I am heartbroken. I have spoken to my company about what to do about the client. Can't really charge them to do the work over again. Can't really afford to pay me to do the work over again without billing the client. Heartbroken is perhaps a mild descriptor for how I feel.

And yet.

It could be so much worse. For example, if they had taken my wallet with my ID and credit cards and ATM card and plenty of cash. For example, if they had taken my garage door opener and known my address. So VERY much worse.

And they didn't damage anything in the car except the window.

And all the other stuff that they didn't take because through sheer luck I didn't HAVE in the car.

Those little decisions worked both for me and against me today.

And yet--I am trying so hard to breathe deeply. Find the muscles tied in knots and relax them. Find somewhere the strength to figure out what to do and do it.

I spent 2 hours dumpster diving afterwards, hoping that maybe they'd pulled into a nearby shopping center or business to see what they got and dumped the papers. Of course--there are zillions of nearby shopping centers, with dozens upon dozens of dumpsters and trash cans in the parking lots. I also went up and down the freeway an exit and checked there. I'm sure I missed lots of places, but I sure did look in a lot of others, hoping I'd find something.

Maybe--maybe--someone will find the bags, with my daytimer in one of them, with my phone number (and address), and will think, "gee, I wonder if this person wants this stuff back?" and will give me a call.

I'm thinking I'll put a notice on craigslist.

I don't know what else to do.


  1. that totally sucks. how awful!

  2. That is terrible! So sorry, esp. about all that work down the drain. I had a car broken into in Nashville once and someone I was with had her whole thesis there in the car. It got stolen. The police said homeless people probably burned it to keep warm.

    At least your dogs weren't in the car. Imagine if someone stole your car with your dogs in it! That would be even worse.

  3. Oh, man! You're giving me flashbacks to the pre-Christmas break-in of my car. I really-really feel your pain!

    I called the police at the time and they didn't even want to take a report, but they did. No, nothing ever came of it.

    I did get a replacement computer (it was my main computer), but I'll never be able to completely replace the data (not backed up) in the computer or in the binders that were taken.

    All I can offer is that life -- eventually -- goes on.

    How about I treat you to a consoling trip to B&R?

  4. That is a major, super bummer of a story. Orpah would say to forgive them, but I say maybe one of their creepy friends sees your phone # or craigslist and tries to get a reward and you get it back and then Clint Eastwood would be there and put them all in a giant net in the back of his truck and take them to jail.

  5. Ah man, this is terrible! I'm especially sad about the work and the camera. I know how much you love photography. Hopefully those were insured? Doesn't your homeowners insurance cover stuff that is stolen out of your car?

    Here's hoping someone sees something and you get your stuff back!!!

  6. Thanks everyone.

    TSD: Thanks for making me find a smile out of all this. Clint Eastwood is my FAVORITE! Star of two of my all-time favorite movies (Unforgiven and High Plains Drifter). Yeah, he'd be the one to handle those guys!

    Dawn: Yes, I have insurance, but high deductibles so I doubt that I'll get anything at all. (I've already confirmed that with auto; waiting for the homeowners adjuster to get back to me.)

    Steph: Yeah, I was thinking about your loss yesterday amidst the chaos. B&R sounds good sometime, but I think I'll be away from the house most of this week, so--sometime.

  7. Oh, so sorry, what a crappy day. Here's hoping you at least get your paperwork back. Such a shame about your camera and lenses though, I know how expensive that stuff is to replace.

    When I lived in Chicago I never ever left anything in my way crappy car and still had it broken into numerous times. Yesterday I hauled my camera and lenses into the chiropractor's office because I didn't want to leave them in the car, old neuroses die hard, and felt like a paranoid idiot because it's hardly a crime ridden area but now I'm thinking maybe it wasn't such a bad idea.

  8. Oh no!!! I'm just glad you and the 'kids' are OK. Dang!!!!

  9. I often haul stuff in with me; particularly into hotels at night, I carry everything in with me.

    But this was broad daylight in a smallish parking area with fairly frequent comings & goings, and there's even a security guard there most of the time. Don't know where he was at that moment, though. And I wouldn't have wanted to carry all that stuff for a mile walk--I'd have figured it would be fine for 15-20 minutes if it had even occurred to me to worry about it.

  10. Sh*t. Really sorry this happened.

  11. Oh, I wasn't implying that you should have even thought twice about carrying all that stuff in. I'm a recovering neurotic. I do leave stuff in my cars these days too but sometimes I can't do it and have to haul the stuff in with me.

    It's amazing how quickly someone can break into a car and also how unlikely it is that they'll ever be seen or caught. In Chicago my car was broken into multiple times right in front of my apartment building in view of loads of people in other apartment buildings as well as my own and noone was ever caught or seen well enough to be identified.

  12. Talked to someone yesterday who said that pretty much every place who can afford it now has a security guard because break-ins like that are so rampant, probably because of people desperate for drug money and because there are so many cool electronic things that people leave in their cars these days.

  13. Oh, Ellen! I'm so sorry! I have been remiss about reading your blog lately so I'm just catching up.

    That's one of the problems with vans, isn't it? There isn't a trunk you can keep valuables in (and also keep them out of sight).

    I imagine you just felt sick when you saw what had happened and I hope you eventually went home and had a good cry into your dogs' fur.

  14. Oh, I meant to add that my van was broken into in exactly the same way once and they did get my wallet and immediately went and bought stuff with it. Even worse, they got my journal which had about a year's worth of my life in it that I can never get back either.

    I really hope that someone at least finds your work and you're able to get it back.

  15. Yeah, I've been thinking about what I could do in my van so that I'd have a hidden area for things. I always have 2 or 3 containers permanently there behind the dog crates with all the car & dog stuff that would be in a trunk if I had a trunk. No one has ever broken in to take it. But who knows...

    My daytimer is my calendar which is also sort of a journal--how I spent my time for my timecards and status reports, when I last got a haircut, why I have a $10 long distance call from 2 months ago, all the details of my life for when I put together my annual holiday letter (which I haven't for 2 years now, but...). But at least not a personal journal--that's what this is for! ;-) But not my deepest, innermost secrets which mostly don't go into writing anywhere.

    Here's the twist--the client yanked all the contracts on this project yesterday. Had nothing to do with this, which they didn't even know about.

  16. "Here's the twist--the client yanked all the contracts on this project yesterday. Had nothing to do with this, which they didn't even know about."

    You mean, all that work would have been for nothing???

  17. It's still possible that someone else will pick up the contract. Now or later.