It’s been a crazy four days, folks. Totally. Crazy. I’m sitting here today, beginning the reflection process and finding the lessons I was meant to learn.
Allow me to provide the back-story.
Because I’ve been traveling like a mad-woman lately, my husband decided to book a three-day weekend get-away up in beautiful Estes Park, Colorado, for our little family of three (yes, I’m including our dog here). And we were ecstatic. Our whole goal was to get away from ‘people’ and so we packed our car (to the brim) for three days in a cabin. We were planning to hike and then come back to the cabin each day to tuck in, listen to music, read, cook, and enjoy adult beverages while the world continued to spin on without us.
On Friday we packed everything up and took to the hills. On the drive, I searched for dog-friendly hikes we could take while we waited for check-in time at the cabin. I found one. Lion’s Gulch. Six miles outside of Estes Park, dog-friendly, mid-difficulty, and a parking lot. Perfect.
Because I had no pockets (argh… first lesson learned), I tucked my phone and wallet into my bag and my bag into the car and we grabbed Lucy and my camera (thank God) and took off. And it was awesome. The day was glorious—55 degrees and sunny—and Lucy was overjoyed to be climbing and sniffing and getting worn out on our little family hike. We stopped a bit short, when the trail got icy and more treacherous, and decided to turn-around in order to head into town and take the loop around the lake to kill the last hour or two before we could check in.
As I opened the back door to let Lucy jump in, I noticed there was glass all over the back-seat. My first instinct was that Lucy had broken something on the drive up. Eric figured it out first and realized the glass was from the broken window. And then panic struck. And all of our worst fears were solidified. My bag was gone (which held my computer, iPad, phone, and wallet), Eric’s bag was gone (which held his iPad mini), my suitcase was gone, the list goes on and on… And then I stopped breathing.
I remember leaning over, putting my head between my knees, and focusing on getting my breath back. I’m pretty sure Eric was yelling and kicking the ground and Lucy was wondering what in the hell was going on. Once we calmed for a bit, we got our wits about us and knew we had to call the police. Of course there’s no cell phone coverage at the trail head, so we got all of the glass out of the car and headed to Estes Park. I immediately began canceling my bank cards while Eric went inside only to learn that the trail we were at is in a different jurisdiction and we’d have to call that department. Which we did.
The police arrived and kindly worked with us to fill out a police report and we headed back to Denver. We were told to find serial numbers of our electronics if we could but to not get our hopes up… these kind of cases don’t really get solved. They’ve had some problems at that trail head before. Not very inspiring.
Once home I located my birth certificate, SS card, and expired passport (thank God). And then we began the tedious work of listing the contents of everything we lost (with dollar amounts… total loss? Nearly $6,000.), contacting insurance, rescheduling my next workshop in California, fixing the car window, replacing the stuff that we couldn’t live without, and figuring out how I was going to get on a plane by the following Wednesday for a meeting in Seattle.
Total nightmare. Yes, it’s just stuff (and I’ll get to that), but it was A LOT of stuff. Including my journal. My personal journal. Ouch.
Once we started to catch our breath again, I went from hurt to rage and turned myself into Nancy Drew. Through iCloud on my Apple products, I was able to see the recent tabs on my iPad. And guess what? There was a Facebook page tabbed. I quickly took a screen shot of it and looked in my ‘Find my iPhone app’ again to find that my iPad was being used—at that very moment—in Estes Park. I frantically called the police and shared my discoveries and sat on my hands to prevent myself from driving up there and taking care of things myself. Unbelievable. Could they be so stupid?
The deputy informed me that she (of the Facebook page) wasn’t at the location anymore (the public library, probably to get online) and they weren’t sure they’d be able to find her as her address didn’t seem to be correct. Because I continued my own personal investigation, I informed the deputy that I knew where she worked and who her husband was. This was good information and so the search continued.
Shortly after that time, I got a phone call from the deputy who was in HER house and was having me describe our belongings because everything appeared to be there. O.M.G.
After obtaining a search warrant, they found nearly everything else. My computer was still missing but they had Eric’s bag, my bag, my wallet, my phone, my suitcase, the two iPads… a lot of stuff. The search for the computer (and camera bag, telephoto lens, and iPod) was still on, however.
Apparently, we may have uncovered a bigger crime ring. There are several felonies pending on these people and more people to locate and question and because of that, they have to hold our belongings as evidence. Dammit. I get it, but dammit.
I asked if I could pretty-please have my wallet back and they agreed so yesterday I drove to Ft. Collins to retrieve my ID, etc. As I was leaving the police station, the deputy called me to let me know that they found my computer. THEY FOUND MY COMPUTER! I sat in my car and cried for a minute (it’s not about the computer, you guys, it’s about the contents ON the computer… I hadn’t backed up in about two weeks (I know, I know) and lost at least four major presentations… plus I wasn’t comfortable with someone having access to my dissertation, work files, etc., etc). Again, it’s going into evidence. The criminals don’t have it but I don’t have it yet either.
I’ve asked for permission to drive back up and copy the contents of the computer to my hard drive and it sounds like this will be able to happen on Friday. They also want my fingerprints for ‘elimination prints’ and hopefully will have more information as to when we’ll get some of our belongings back… and what we really got back and what’s still missing (clothes, shoes, journal, etc.).
Crazy, huh? The good guys win this time. It’s all so surreal.
And sooooo, back to the lessons learned part… here’s goes:
1. When tragedy strikes, the best words one can say are, “I am so sorry. That is terrible. Can I buy you a drink?" It’s not the time for advice or ‘You know what you should have done’ suggestions, or finger-pointing. It’s time for hugs and empathy and kindness. And drinks. We have the greatest friends in the entire world, I swear. All weekend long we heard, "I am so sorry. That is terrible. Can I buy you a drink?" and were were so thankful for this.
2. Even if you think you’re being sneaky and hiding things in your car (or trunk), someone may be watching you do just that. Hide things BEFORE you arrive at your destination. I wonder if they didn’t watch us put things in the back of the car knowing there was no cell coverage up there and that most likely, we’d be gone for at least an hour. Cause they even got the Garmin out of the glove compartment that I put there after we had parked at the trail head. Creepy. I truly believe they watched us the entire time.
3. Set up all security, passwords, iCloud, Find my iPhone apps, etc., etc., on every device you have, if remotely possible. Even if it costs money. And use them. It worked. It. Worked. I found the criminals. I found them because of technology.
4. People are generally kind. From the police officers to the cell phone salesman to the Apple saleswoman to the evidence technician to the suitcase salesman to the credit card operators, everyone was kind and compassionate and thoughtful in their commentary to us this weekend. The Apple saleswoman even hugged us. And I hugged her back. Hard.
5. Even if all of your make-up is returned to you, don’t use it. The evidence technician told me that ‘she’ had put my make-up in with hers and was clearly using it. No, I do not want to put that on my face now. Thank you very much.
6. Yeah, yeah, yeah, we had too much stuff in the car, I didn’t really NEED my computer that weekend, blah, blah, blah… I don’t even want to get into those details. The truth is, we’d do things differently next time but it is what it is. At the end of the day, it’s all OUR stuff and even if we had left everything on the dashboard and the front seat with blinkers on it, it wasn’t theirs to take. Period.
7. I love my husband. While I stopped breathing and never stopped crying he stayed with me and kept us in forward motion. He went into his ‘we’re-in-control’ mode and took over in ways that I wasn’t capable of. He kissed my nose and hugged me hard and understood when I burst into tears at random times for three days in a row. He replaced everything I needed first, waiting to replace his own things later. While we missed our weekend away, we got another weekend to learn about the power of ‘us’ over any material possession and at the end of the day, if we have the two of us and Lucy, we don’t need anything else. I really believe that.
8. You can’t live scared. As I went into my scolding myself phase, my parents kindly reminded me that if we hadn’t had all of that ‘stuff’ in the car, it would have been in our house and someone could have broken in here and taken it all while we were gone. It’s just the truth. You have to be smart and thoughtful, but you also have to live your life. I never, not in a million years, would have imagined this would have happened at a trail head in the mountains. We live in Capital Hill you guys. You just can’t assume anything.
9. I know this, you know this, but I’ll write it anyway… back up your computer every. damn. day. I was relentless about this while working on my dissertation but I’d gotten a bit ‘lazier’ about this in recent months. It was about two weeks since my last back-up and so while I have MOST of my ‘stuff,’ I don’t have ALL of my stuff. Yet. And that just sucks.Back. Up. Now.
10. There IS justice in the world. Thank God for slick technology, not so savvy criminals, and a responsive police department. The good guys won this time. Awe-some.