Robbed in Paradise

After twenty-six years sometimes traveling remote and often dangerous places around the world it was difficult to believe I could be silently robbed in one of the safest cities.

I’d delighted to tell of train trips in remote areas of Asia where one was advised to sleep on top of one’s shoes or luggage during an overnight train journey, wrap money and valuables in a plastic bag deposited safely within the depths of one’s clothing, and tie carry items to my wrist in an ingenious way so treasures wouldn’t be whisked away without warning. I’d survived it all. Clever me!

Just in case people were not impressed with my cleverness I had the ultimate story to tell of a robbery foiled in Colombo Sri Lanka. The would be robber in his long flowing white robe had an air about him and it pressed warning buttons even though he was some distance away. We dodged each, other darting in and out of columns of the business district until he at last confronted me head on with the invitation, “Want imported shirts Sir?” I felt his hand flick my shirt pocket, looked down and saw my gold pen missing. Grabbing him I shouting “thief,” and he shook the pen out of his sleeve and took off at a run. I recovered my personal effects and moved on smugly through the gaping crowd.

I was ripe for a humbling experience November 25, 1990. Heading to Korea for appointments, my briefcase was loaded with things I’d need to make this journey successful. Credit cards, traveler’s checks and currency were safely tucked away in my briefcase, with sufficient to meet any emergency arising during my travel. Fortunately I’d retained some cash in my pocket, but not nearly enough.

In the few brief minutes my attention was diverted at the ticket counter pointing out visa entries to the counter attendant, a thief cleverer than I made off with all the things I needed to assist me on that trip. Security men literally ran with me from row to row at the airport departure area to try and catch the thief before he could leave the airport, but to no avail. Everyone was embarrassed as this after all was the cleanest and safest city in the world! He had floated through like a ghost, and no one had seen him take the briefcase.

I then had the embarrassment of insisting a briefcase exactly the same as mine should be taken back and opened as it wended its way on the conveyor belt for transfer to my suspect’s plane. It wasn’t mine! It was bad enough admitting I wasn’t as clever as I’d thought, but having to admit this to my wife was even more of a humiliation. She rallied to my support though, cancelling credit cards and traveler’s checks quickly enough to avoid financial disaster.

As I ruefully made my report to airport police and listed articles in that briefcase I was forced to evaluate my losses. I presumed I’d not be able to replace lecture notes I’d struggled to prepare quickly, and I’d not have any reading material for this long trip. Losses were regrettable, but replaceable with the possibility of computer generated notes being e-mailed through. American Express would replace traveler’s cheques, and insurance covered other items of value. The worst part of the robbery was my ego bruising, and the inconvenience of it all.

Three days later my briefcase appeared and was delivered by police to my Singapore address. It had been found abandoned in a remote area of the city in a minority enclave under a delivery truck. The only things remaining in that briefcase were my lecture notes and a copy of the Koran I was working my way through in an attempt to understand one of the prominent religions of that area. Apparently the robber wanted me to study that religion a bit more? Apart from some minimal losses and a good deal of inconvenience I’d not suffered intolerably as a result of the robbery.

I learned a lesson from that experience. Even in Singapore where it’s safe to walk the streets at any time of night or day you shouldn’t take safety for granted. There’s always someone with an antisocial dysfunctional outlook who’s clever enough to take things from you in spite of tight security.

From that point forward my valuables have been well hidden, or out front where I could see them regardless of the country I’m in.

“© Copyright Ian Grice 2011 All rights reserved”

2 Comments Add yours

  1. The incident in Colombo Sri Lanka happened in 1970. The loss of briefcase in Singapore was after I transfered to Singapore in the mid 1980s. Yes, come to think of it I’ve had a very interesting life.

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  2. jamesfee1 says:

    Hello, Ian
    A very interesting story. Now, am I to get this straight? The first character (the flowing robed, gold pen stealing, fleeing robber) just
    a diversion person in a more sinister plan? The diversion was timed to give character number two the chance to “filch” your briefcase?
    Or, were the two events completely unrelated? I was not exactly sure in you segue from instance one (where you were triumphant in getting back you gold pen) and instance two where you were distacted by officials and you really valuable briefcase was snatched as it were? You di describe how you wee completely “deflated” by the whole event. But, you gained some satisfaction in not having a complete defeat in getting you briefcase back and in not having been stripped of your funds that were in Travelers Cheques and Credit cards. You did have adventures of all kinds in your work travels, that is for sure.
    Cheers,
    Jim the Fee

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