I am a few months old and have just had my first surgery. My parents are taking me for a walk in the hospital park, when suddenly they notice that my teddy bear is gone. I must have thrown it out of the pram somewhere along the way, only minutes ago. They turn back immediately, looking for my teddy everywhere. But of course, it’s gone and no one ever hands it into any lost-and-found office. Someone found it on the floor and just… took it. Nine months old and already robbed by a stranger of something that would never be the same, even if bought again. Luckily, I was too young to understand what had happened. My parents, however, re-told the story many times. I think I never really got the point until last weekend – when something was stolen from me again.
Let’s just think about this for a second: Who the hell would steal a teddy bear from a baby at a hospital? A piece of comfort for a vulnerable child, a gift given with love, an object that it is supposed to become a life companion for years? Who would dare to take that for themselves instead of giving it back to its owner? Well.. probably the same people who steal a traveler’s camera. When I boarded the bus from Copenhagen to Hamburg, I carefully put mine back into my bag, thinking “I don’t need this anymore until I’m home”. I was looking forward to put the SD card into my computer so much. I love taking photos and I had big plans: An epic blog post, the usual memory book pages and more. When I unpacked my bag at home, the camera was gone. A week later, neither Eurolines nor the lost-and-found office in Hamburg can deliver good news. I think it doesn’t really matter whether someone actually stole it while I was sleeping on the bus or someone found it after it had fallen out of my backpack and just didn’t bother handing it in. To me, both are theft.
So here’s what I have to say to the thief:
I hope you’re happy with yourself. You just took something from another person. Good job! Do you feel like you deserve to have my camera more than I do? You know, it’s not even about the money. Of course, it is a lot of money, especially for an intern. But I’m not going to complain about that. I know I am a relatively wealthy, privileged person with a privileged life in a privileged country. I can probably even buy the same camera again if I scrape up all my birthday and Christmas money and live off pasta&pesto for a month or two. I can do that and I am willing to do that for my hobby. But the thing that really, really troubles me is that a camera is not just a material object. It is a personal item with personal meaning. I don’t just own it. It belongs to me. My photographic memories of a great weekend are on that camera. And thanks to you, they now feel like a black hole, like a little piece of life that you took away from me. I’ve been trying to stop being angry all week and I cannot manage. I’ll never get those captured moments back from you. No matter what I do, they’re just gone. I hope you feel terribly, deeply ashamed when you look at those happy selfies from Nyhavn or at the picture-perfect sunrise on Langebro that belonged to me, and only me. I hope karma is kicking your butt. I don’t know who you are. Maybe you’re an intern, too. Maybe you don’t have enough money to buy a nice camera for yourself. Or maybe your salary is a lot higher than the one I bought that camera from. Maybe you’re rich. Know what? I don’t care.
If you’re cold, steal my coat.
If you’re in desperate need of money, take whatever you find in my wallet.
If you’re just another asshole who can’t get enough, take anything that is meaningless to me (and choke on it).
But why steal a personal item with so much emotional value? Don’t you have any decency? And next time, why don’t you at least leave the SD card?