Taking from a thief

Another anecdotal daylog

Years ago, in 1987, I was robbed on my way home. Well... actually I guess I wasn't, since I believe "robbery" includes some kind of threat or even violence on the robbers behalf. I guess I just had my money stolen from my purse, but that does not sound very cool. So I was robbed.

I was on my way home from a weekend conference, travelling together with some new friends I had met during the weekend. We were on a train, rushing through the wintery night; not a lot of people on board, and not a lot of train attendants either.

Shortly before my new friends had to get ready to disembark I had to go to the lavatory. Of course I took my purse along, and of course (since this is me being who I am) I forgot the purse when the train slowed down as it approached the station. I rushed out to say goodbye to my friends, and only after a few minutes did I remember about the purse. Hurried back to the lavatory to find the door closed, naturally.

So I waited outside the door. In the end it opened, and a young man came out. He didn't notice me but I took a long, hard look at him, making sure I saw which way he was going, and made a note of his clothes and so on. And then I went in to find my purse where I had left it. The only thing missing from it was all my money. A good 500 Dkr. Remember that this was in '87, so 500,- was quite a lot of money.

Well I was not going to just let some punk walk away with all my money! I though about going off to find a train attendant, but decided that I didn't have time; the punk might be leaving the train at the next stop. So I had to go forth and get my money back on my own.

I mustered all my courage and then some, and made my way through the all but empty train carriages while keeping a sharp lookout for the young man. I had no idea what I'd do when I found him, but playing it by ear have always been one of my fortes.

Soon I found him. I heard him and his friends from quite a distance, laughing and cheering away. Maybe he had told them about his little "stroke of luck"... That thought made me really, really angry, let me tell you, but I kept very calm and collected as I went to stand by the happy group. It was him all right, sitting by the window, grinning and looking very happy. He did not look at all like a "punk" or a "bad boy"; he seemed to be in his early twenties, fair haired and blue eyed, and he looked very innocent. I remember thinking, just for a second, that I was looking at the wrong guy. But I decided to go for it.

"Hi", I said to him. "You were using the lavatory just a few minutes ago, while my purse was hanging from the hook on the wall."

"Um... I don't remember that," he said. His friends went completely still.

"The lock on my purse makes a very distinct sound..."; I opened and closed the magnetic snap-lock once to demonstrate. "I was standing outside. I heard it. I saw you come out."

No answer but silence. I remember two of his friends looking at me, and one looking at him.

"I just want my money back."

Without a word he reached into his back pocket and produced his wallet. Still without a word he took out a wad of bills and handed them to me.

"Thank you", I said, and nodded goodbye. And then I walked away*. I think it would almost have been possible to hear a pin drop...

Not until I reached my seat in another part of the train did I begin to react; I started shaking all over from anger and relief. Not fear. I was not afraid at any point, partly because I was so angry, and partly because he and his friends had not looked like bullies or anything, but just like ordinary kids.

I counted the money he had given me, and it amounted to 500,-. Actually, thinking about it later on, I'm not sure I had 500 from the beginning. It may have been only 400... but I'll never know, I guess. I made it home, none the worse for wear, and I never saw the young man again.

When I told this story to my friends they just shook their heads. Somehow things like this happen to me: dramatic events become defused, and disappointments never come to pass. I seem to have an exciting life in a slightly boring sort of way...

*I still remember the incident very well. This is what was said, pretty much word for word.

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