Lost and Found

26 Sep

Four days out of the week I drag my sorry carcass out the door before dawn and trudge over to a tiny gym. There I try to get a decent workout before work.

I love this little gym, which I get to use for free because I open it up twice a week. It has a few machines, a water cooler and no showers. Very low key. I have a set of friends there who are all at least 10 years older than me. They are also funny and wise. One such member, another volunteer who comes in a twice a week after me, once said, “Theft is the crime of opportunity.” He was talking about a rash of nonmembers who were sneaking in during the early hours coming in without paying because there was no one monitoring the desk (that problem has since been fixed).

If theft is merely a crime of opportunity, it’s a wonder more unlocked cars aren’t depleted of their contents, more wallets in back pockets aren’t picked and the church coffers aren’t emptied on a regular basis because my small town presents many of these opportunities. I’d love to think that in my small town folks are simply nicer and more considerate. Two recent incidents tell me that something less altruistic and more self-conscious is what keeps our fingers less sticky.

In both incidents, treasured objects were taken. The first incident took place at my gym where I accidentally left a new running shirt in the locker room over a 24-hour period. It was fluorescent green and very visible, something I had wanted for the last few months, having successfully dodged far too many cars that barely missed me on my morning runs or rides. Most things left in the locker room stay there for a number of months. No such luck with my shirt. When I returned the next day at 5:30 a.m., it was gone.

A few weeks later, a co-worker of mine left an expensive hiking backpack and a camera in his car. Someone wrenched open the locked doors and stole these items.

Miraculously, in both cases, the items were returned.

What happened? I’d love to think the thieves had a change of heart and, gripped in a fit of remorse, sought to undo their misdeeds. More likely, the thieves feared discovery and recrimination. I created a poster with a crude drawing of the shirt, my number and a plea for its return. “No questions asked!” I said in the poster. Seriously, I just wanted the darn thing back. My co-worker, known in his small town, told a few people who managed to spread the word at the local café and throughout the town. Three days after he was robbed, he found all the stolen objects on his porch early in the morning.

Theft is not only a crime of opportunity, but also a crime of anonymity. It’s a lot easier to steal from strangers. I don’t know what drove the thieves to return the stolen goods. Maybe it was finding out that their victims really did care about those items, even if their actions, which presented the opportunity, indicated otherwise. Maybe it was fear of recrimination from our friends and acquaintances. Maybe it was guilt. While I am glad to have my shirt back and glad my coworker has his items back, I’m sad the thieves didn’t first think of their victims, who were faceless but also human, and stick their sticky fingers back down into their pockets.

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2 Responses to “Lost and Found”

  1. Veronica Ohara September 27, 2012 at 6:15 am #

    Do you miss Japan? Remember the old days when you lost your wallet at the train station someone would turn it in to the station master!

  2. Martha Gold September 27, 2012 at 2:22 pm #

    I DO miss Japan. I miss the returned wallet part of Japan and I miss the food. I miss the hot springs and the public baths and I miss the people.

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