Recently, I was walking past a doctor's office when I found a debit card on the ground. For a moment, visions of paid bills and Prada bags danced through my head. But I didn't use the card, of course. I made sure that the bank listed on the card was alerted that the card had been found. After all, if I had tried to use the card, it could have gotten traced back to me. Then there would have been visions of me in a prison jumpsuit dancing through my head, only they wouldn't just be visions; they'd be reality.
Once I found a Kindle. This was before I had the money to buy my own e-reader. I could have kept it, and it wouldn't necessarily have gotten traced back to me. But the owner of the Kindle had put his name and e-mail address on the back, probably so that if he ever lost it, the e-reader could be returned to him. So I contacted him, and he was grateful to get it back. And I felt good that I had done the right thing.
The other day I was studying in a coffee shop, and I accidentally left my cell phone on the sink in the bathroom. When I realized my mistake and went back to get it less than half an hour later, my phone was gone. The baristas said no one turned it in.
I was at the coffee shop that day because I had a coupon for a free cup of coffee. Ironically, that free cup ended up costing me more than a hundred dollars, because I had to pay for a replacement phone (fortunately, I had insurance on my old phone, so I didn't have to pay full price), a memory card, and a new case. I spent more than an hour at the phone store, learning about how to remotely wipe the data from my old phone so the thief couldn't access it, lock my new phone, and back up the data on my new phone. I foolishly did not back up most of the data on my old one, so I lost all the pictures I'd taken, including the ones from my trip to New York.)
I also had to keep running down to the mailboxes of my building to check for the delivery of my new phone, because my loser neighbors have a bad habit of not only stealing my magazines (I actually had to cancel all my subscriptions) but also my packages. I once put up a note asking for the return of my mail, and the losers put up their own note mocking me for their theft and saying they would do it again if they found more of my mail (the postal workers keep putting the wrong mail in the mailboxes. I tried to file more than one complaint about it, and the post office retaliated by giving my number to one of those workers, who called me to scream at me and blame ME for getting the wrong mail, as if it was my fault she kept doing a bad job). Fortunately, I got to my new phone before those leeches did, so they couldn't steal it.
The theft of my cell phone really pissed me off. I always try to do the right thing (though admittedly I don't always succeed). I don't keep things that don't belong to me. The one exception is when I find coins on the ground, because who's going to run back and search for a quarter or a couple of pennies, right?
But unfortunately, some people aren't honest. Some people are selfish thieves and just immoral. This isn't the first time I've gotten robbed, because this is Chicago, after all. I've gotten mugged and pickpocketed on more than one occasion, which is why I never carry a lot of cash or major credit cards with me. Once I accidentally left my coin purse in a bathroom at one of the schools where I teach. I went back less than five minutes later, to find the purse still there but all the coins missing. And I don't think it's a coincidence that not long after some of my mail went missing, someone tried to open up a bunch of credit cards with my information; fortunately, my credit card company stopped them and alerted me to what was going on.
It's times like those that make me wonder why I even bother trying to be considerate and honest. I know it's the right thing to do, but it doesn't always pay off. Even when I try to help people, it occasionally ends up backfiring.
For example, once I saw an old woman struggling with a shopping bag as she went down the stairs of an El station. The bag split open, and all the things inside fell out. Other people walked by, some of them trampling over her things without a second glance. I said, "Here, let me help you with that," and I tried to pick up what she had dropped. She screamed at me to keep my hands off her stuff and accused me of trying to steal it. I quickly backed away and let the old witch take care of it herself.
In spite of creeps like that, I will continue to try to do the right thing. If I find something valuable again, I won't keep it; I'll make sure it gets returned. I have enough Catholic guilt in me to motivate me, after all. But it still discourages me and makes me mad that no matter how nice I try to be to people, I still end up getting screwed again and again. It bothers me that some of the worst people in the world end up rich, successful, and getting everything else that they want, like karma isn't real after all. It's not like I help people with the expectation of being repaid every time, but it would be nice if people would show me the same consideration and at the very least return my possessions. But maybe that's expecting too much.
What about you? Have you ever gotten robbed? Have you ever tried to help someone, only for your efforts to end up backfiring? How do you deal with people like that?
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