iPhone theft and staying vigilant

I considered writing about this the other day. Then I decided not to. What’s the big deal, right? It happens all the time, and the outcome is much worse for many people. Then I thought more about it again. The truth is, what happened a few days ago keeps running through my head, and perhaps it’s best to just let it out.

I was robbed the other day, publicly and in broad daylight. As I do every work day, I left my apartment around 7:30 am and walked to the corner of Potrero and 24th to cross the street and head towards BART. I had my headphones in and was listening to music on my iPhone, holding the phone at my side as I walked. As I walked by the bus stop on the corner, I noticed that there was an above-average number of people waiting for either the 9, 9L, 33 or 48 to come by.

I started to cross the street. Then I felt a sharp tug on my right arm and on the string of my headphones, and I immediately turned around. A young guy (perhaps 18? 20? Or younger? I’m terrible at guessing ages) was crouched behind me and had managed to force me to drop my phone so he could grab it.

He fumbled it a little. I grabbed onto his arms to stop him from taking it. He yelled at me to let go and shoved me off. I yelled at him to give me back my phone. My own voice sounded foreign. Maybe I managed to grab him again, and he shoved me off again? The exact details are fuzzy now.

We’d moved into the street at this point, in front of the bus stop with all the people waiting. Many cars were waiting at the stoplight. He started to run across the street, through traffic. Someone honked at him. A guy waiting at the bus stop made a half-hearted attempt to run and yell at the guy, then stopped.

I chased him across the street. He was too far ahead of me at this point, and sprinted down Potrero, past 23rd. It’s done. I’m defeated, humiliated, shocked and shaking.

A car pulled over and the driver stepped out to ask me what happened. Another guy met me at the corner and asked if I needed to use his phone to call someone. I didn’t really need anyone’s help at this point, however, since I live across the street. I returned home, cancelled my AT&T service, changed some passwords, and cried on my boyfriend’s shoulder.

Why was I so upset? It’s not about the phone. It was certainly a nice phone (an iPhone 4), and a good portion of my daily life revolved around using it (listening to music, utilizing the GPS, surfing the internet, etc.). But material items are easily¬†replaceable, and this phone is easily replaceable. I’m in the fortunate position where I can afford to buy a new phone (although I’ll end up buying the cheaper model, which is also fine – I only had the new model due to some random happenstance anyway). I spent two days without a phone after it was stolen, and aside from not getting my music fix while riding BART to get to work, I didn’t especially miss it.

It’s the act of being robbed, I think, that’s sticking with me. I can still feel the guy tugging hard and fast on my arm, the feel of his sweatshirt as I grabbed at him to try to stop him, the feel of 50+ people idly watching as this all went down.

And it’s also a feeling of disbelief. I thought of myself as someone who maintains a good sense of vigilance, especially when I’m on public transit and when it’s later at night, and fewer people are around. Since I first upgraded to an iPhone, I’ve always kept in mind the huge numbers of Muni thefts, reported mugging attempts and successes, etc. I try not to get so lost in my little device that I forget my surroundings.

I guess I never, ever imagined that something like this would happen in such a public, open space, with so many people around, under a bright shining sun with nowhere to hide. So I walked across the street holding my phone at my side, when it should have been tucked away in my bag instead. This was my daily routine, and I thought it was a safe one. Lesson learned.

The silver lining? Apparently while this was all going down, someone did call the police (as I found out later that same day). The police arrived a few minutes after I’d returned to my home, and at least one or two people gave witness reports. The police drove around looking for both me and the thief (witnesses apparently saw him jump into a car and drive off). So, I can’t claim that no one tried to help – although I can’t help but wonder how this story would have been different if someone, anyone, had stepped in to help while this was happening, had tried to pull the guy away like I did. Maybe he wouldn’t have gotten away with this, and the volume of these types of robberies would decrease. Additionally, what if I’d tried to kick him or push him away with more force? Am I not tough enough?

But I can’t know what could have happened, because it’s a done deal. Plus, it could have been worse – what if he’d had a weapon, for example? And, like I said, it’s just a phone. It’s not a rare bicycle, nor was anyone kidnapped or injured. So, it’s fine. I’m fine. From now on, it’s all about keeping my valuables hidden safely away, not ever letting my guard down and keeping a sharp eye out for both myself and my fellow city dwellers. Let’s all be safe, strong and vigilant.

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