Campus Column: I was Robbed, But This Time I Took It Back


Nicolette Noce, Campus Editor

Over the past weekend, my phone was stolen in downtown Cleveland. This time, the thief was a stranger. Because of my past experiences, I chalked this occurrence up to another loss and remembered; when something is stolen, it is seldom recovered or returned. 

In my life, I’ve had many experiences in which people have stolen from me. The first time was right after my 17th birthday. I went to a gathering hosted by a friend; all of my closest friends at the time also attended. Hours later, I discovered that $100 was missing from my purse. It was birthday money. This violation not only repulsed me but emotionally bruised me. Here I was, at a function full of people I knew and knew well, or at least so I thought. 

 The next time was right after Christmas of 2018. It happened at a former boyfriend’s house. I left my purse in the kitchen and went to sleep. Five of his closest friends came over to hang out. When I woke up the next morning, my purse  was gone and with it, all of my belongings, including money, Christmas notes, vintage sunglasses and gold hoops given to me years earlier by my Italian grandmother. She got them for me on a trip she took to Rome: for her, a visit home. For me, a piece of her. 

 The experience felt  like an attack. I felt violated and disturbed by the idea of people, who I thought I knew, stealing from me. I never recovered my purses or the items inside. I never discovered exactly what happened. I was emotionally distraught, and I still have not fully recovered from these events. 

Despite that, last weekend I called the stolen phone numerous times. To my surprise, the thief answered. I began to bargain with him and even resorted to offering him money to return it. When I asked him why he stole it and why he was harassing me, he responded ridiculously: “This is just how the world works, now what are you going to give me?” I told him I’d give him $20. He came to my location and, with a smile on his face, handed me MY phone. When he asked about the money, I said I wasn’t giving it to him and ran away. 

 At that moment, I felt like I was in the wrong for deceiving this person, but the other half of me knew I did not owe him a reward. Then again, why did this person feel the need to steal from me in the first place? And what was it that changed his mind? For some reason, I do not think it was $20. 

 Still, I was shaken by how he rationalized his action and concluded, “This is how the world works.” Maybe that belief is part of the reason our world is in the condition it’s in. Does stealing stem from utter desperation or is it rooted in entitlement? Is it seen as an opportunity to gain something — material objects, money, power? But then I wonder, what can one really gain by disempowering another? 

 How much does one’s emotional response to theft have to do with one’s ability to see the situation in a new light? Our society is very much one of materialism and ownership; many of us become emotionally attached to our belongings. We pride ourselves on what’s “mine.” It could be that our obsession with possessions is a direct reflection of the current state of our world. 

If someone feels the need to steal, perhaps their needs are not being met in other parts of their lives. More specifically, if someone feels the need to steal from me, clearly I am perceived as more “well off” than they are. These people are obviously facing some level of desperation which has led them to commit crimes against another. 

In the end, both parties are left with some degree of hurt or shame. Maybe it’s not about the material items that are never recovered but about the misunderstanding that lingers between those who “have” and those who “have not.”