Who actually feels the need to bolt their door at night? For one, I do. Now. I never used to. But now, when I imagine it, it really is quite scary. Some of the many people I’ve told about it tell me that most of the petty crime here is caused by local crackheads. I just can’t help but imagine that whoever it was, he could have had a knife in one hand, while he used the other hand to grab my shorts and my friend’s bag off the floor. Just in case one of us woke up and saw him. One of us did wake up, Cassandra, the Canadian girl I split the double with, said she woke up with the light on and the door open, but figured I had left it that way. It was only in the morning that she, waking up first, exclaimed that her bag was gone, along with all her money and everything valuable. That shot me awake. From the bed I could still se my backpack was still there. OK. Oh boy… my shorts. Having put them on the ground at the foot of the bed, I had to get out of bed to see them. Or not to see them. Damn. This sucks. And a few more timely neuronal firings reminded me: my wallet. My camera. In the first one was about US$15.00 of various funny-named currencies and my driver’s license. Wow, that’ll be a pain in the ass. In the other were the last 2 weeks’ photographs. And the rest of my trip’s potential ones too.
“Oh my god! Yes, oh my god. I took my money and my passport out of my bag just before bed last night! I’d almost thought I’d lost them.” Cassandra showed me a small handbag, implying they were in there. “Oh no. But my necklace is gone. That was a present from my mom.”
Luckily for me my licenses to live in a legal and capitalist society (i.e. passports and money cards) were safely in my money-free-at-the-moment money belt, still in my possession. We went out into the hallway. A few other guests were already up at the time. After telling them what happened, we heard back a few second-degree stories about other thefts at the hotel all in the last 5 days or so. One girl, present, noticed that her bathing suit was no longer hanging on the line to dry as she had left it the night before. We all walked down to the porch to see the clothesline, and sure enough, the clothes that had been there were gone. From the porch one could see into the closet-sized kitchen (the use of which was one of the reasons to want to stay at that hotel). Cassandra exclaimed “my books!” and ran into the kitchen. On the small counter spread out and most likely rifed-through were her books and a few other things out of her bag. Under some other stuff she found “my necklace!”
We can assume our friend emptied her bag to stuff the other things in it. We can also assume that he was a he, and on crack, and ready to kill me at the slightest flinch. But, more practically, we can assume this guy is very familiar with the hotel. He knew how to open the door quietly, knew the layout of the room, the lightswitch, where someone might leave something easy to grab. He knew that there was a convenient flat spot in the kitchen. And he’s obviously at it a lot. We’re talking an employee or someone close to the owners.
So was the police chief, talking about it I mean. He agreed with me, when I went to talk to him at the municipal building, which is really the second story on a dock, and only has about 5 offices. This was certainly not the first time he’d heard about it, and he took my report and my address and was really nice and concerned. He even told me to come back before I left to see if anything shows up. Even though he was a million times more helpful than the average Central American policeman should be, I still wonder how hard it would be just to set up a little trap and get this guy red-handed. If he’s done it so much before, it’s 1000 to 1 he’ll do it again. But I really have no hoped up of getting anything back. At least it sure would be nice for this not to keep happening to people.
I think I’m noticing things that would make really cool pictures even more now that my camera grew legs. I’m getting over the shock, little by little. My initial feeling right that instant when I was sitting on my bed staring at the shorts-shaped empty piece of floor was to get the hell off this damned island, get the hell out of this fuct-up part of the universe. Go home and not have things like this happen to me. But after a little while I calmed down a bit. I remembered how terribly lucky I am. Not only can I come to places like this, but I can also leave them. I have a wonderful home I can go to. I can buy a new camera. A better newer one, even. Life goes on. No big deal. Best of all, I get another apparently very valuable lesson. Bolt the door at night. I won’t let this make me paranoid, but at least more sensible and cautious.