Taking Cues from Criminals: What I Learned From the Kid Who Stole My iPhone
“Never a failure, always a lesson,” according to a tattoo Rihanna rocks.
“Relationships are assignments. There are no chance encounters,” echoes the sagely advice of spiritual guru Gabby Bernstein.
So what then, if anything, was the universe trying to teach me when I was robbed on a Saturday afternoon, other than I wasn’t invincible, and people were not kidding when they referred to Brooklyn as “Crooklyn”?
It was a beautiful Saturday afternoon, and I was headed home, bags in hand. I didn’t have a care in the world as I walked along the busy Brooklyn sidewalks, the sun beating down on the pavement. It was a short walk, maybe five minutes, that I did routinely. (“Routinely” being almost synonymous with “mindlessly”.)
As I neared an intersection next to my house,
bags in hand iPhone in hand, I glanced upwards from the text message conversation I’d been deeply engrossed in just long enough to safely cross the street. I’d been glued to the screen for another minute or so, when all of a sudden, someone with stickier fingers than mine came by on a bike and snatched my phone right out of my hands- after trying to snatch my purse right off my shoulders. (Apparently being “glued” to your phone does nothing to prevent theft; someone should have told me this sooner!) I foolishly attempted to chase after him, but to no avail. (Warning: Do not try this at home, kids.) Despite the diligent efforts of NYPD, the thief still has not been located, which left me to deal with the hassle of replacing my phone. (On a side note, Carolyn at AT&T customer service was an incredible help, and restored my faith in AT&T’s ability to provide good customer service.)
As I shelled out the money for a new phone, reminding myself that it was “just” money and “just” a phone and I shouldn’t have attachment to a phone or cash, I was (understandably) angry with the thief and the world. I was a victim. This wasn’t fair! This wasn’t my fault. I shouldn’t be in this position!
“To be aware is to be alive,” someone close to me said to me. ”You weren’t aware. The kid who got you? Now him…he was aware. That’s how he got you.”
I felt as if I’d been slapped in the face. They say the truth hurts, and that statement stung for moment. As I weighed the words in my head, I embraced the sincerity in those words; I realized I wasn’t a victim. I was in the position I was in because I had ever so conveniently (for the criminal) placed myself there. I am by no means victim blaming, and upon exploring these thoughts I’ve come to realize that there is an incredibly fine line between victim blaming and preventing yourself from becoming a victim. We should always take reasonable precautions to ensure our safety, but no one has the right to violate us, regardless.
But the fact of the matter remains that in every situation, good or bad, we have to look at the role we play, because that’s the only part of the situation we can control. How did we contribute to the situation; what role did we play?
My lack of awareness regarding my surroundings had me playing a role that wasn’t me.
I became even more aware of my lack of awareness when NYPD showed me the surveillance videos pulled from businesses along the route I walked. Not only did they manage to catch the actual robbery on the footage, but they were able to see the moments leading up to it. It becomes quite evident that the young man had followed me for nearly the entire length of my journey. At one point, he catches up to me too quickly, so he doubles back and rides in circles for a few moments until I am in a place where no one is around, and then he strikes.
He chose me. He followed me. He was aware that I was unaware of my surroundings. He knew that timing was everything. He knew that I had something he wanted. And he went for it, and he got it.
I had to examine my role in this. I had to learn from this. We know that if we don’t learn from our mistakes, we are doomed to repeat them. And in order to learn from this, I had to take a cue from the criminal- I had to learn to be more aware.
When we’re well versed in mindful practices, we may forget that being mindful is just that- a practice. We are not perfect. It is a practice; we do have to work at it, with dedication and diligence.
I had to take my loss, extend forgiveness to him, and more importantly, to myself. I knew better than to be walking down the street, blissfully unaware of my surroundings. I missed out on truly feeling the sun’s glow on my skin for that short walk because I was engrossed in the artificial glow of my iPhone’s screen. I missed out on smiling at strangers who may have needed a smile to brighten their day because I was caressing the sleek & seductive curves of my phone. But it is with utmost gratitude that I can say I didn’t miss out on the lesson.