Monday, January 24, 2005

Rob Jen Rob

“Okay ma’am, can you just start at the beginning, from the time you got home, and tell me what happened?”

“Sure. Okay, it was around 5:45pm when I walked in my back door, and immediately noticed that something just wasn’t right. The pantry door was open, and I never leave the pantry door open. I walked into the living room and saw my DVD player in the middle of the floor, and my CD’s thrown all over. That’s when I freaked out, realized that my front door had been smashed in, bolted out of the apartment, and called 911.”

And thus began my weekend.

After calling 911, and ensuring that I wasn’t wearing grey sweatpants with loafers, I knocked on my next door neighbor’s door to see if he was home and had heard anything. I noticed that Klaus’ door had some big marks on it as well where it appeared the burglar had tried to get in. As I waited in the stairwell for the police, Klaus and his friend Fernando came in.

“Hi Jenny – how’s it going?”

“Well, been better, I guess. My apartment just got robbed, and it looks like they tried to get into your apartment, too.”

Klaus was very sympathetic, offered to crack open a bottle of wine while I waited for the police, and then attempted to open his door. As soon as he put the key in the lock, we heard a big clunk, and all three of said in unison, “Oh shit.”

Klaus’ apartment had been burglarized as well.

When I spoke to the 911 operator, she told me to be sure to leave everything exactly where I found it so the Evidence Technicians could look for clues. Since I was pretty certain that the empty pizza carton on my coffee table and the underwear on my bathroom floor wouldn’t provide any meaningful leads, I took the liberty of removing said items from the scene.

It really didn’t matter, though, since what I did have to leave untouched was my bedroom – exactly the way I found it. It looked like a bomb had exploded inside my dresser. Whoever broke into my apartment flipped my mattress, rifled through my dresser, and dumped out almost every item of clothing onto the floor, taking special care to ensure that as many pairs of underwear as possible were on display for the Evidence Technician to review.

Somehow, he managed to get a bra hanging across my printer. Oh wait, maybe that was there to begin with. Well, in any case, it was a disaster area, and not a scene I was keen to share with strangers. But of course, since Klaus and I were now co-victims, we felt it was our duty and right to parade through each other’s homes to assess the damage.

So the first time I met Klaus, you may recall what happened. Now, on my chance to redeem myself and restore Chicago’s good name at the same time, not only does the boy get robbed, but he has to see, simultaneously, every pair of underwear and every single bra I own. Even the laundry day grandma underwear, which would more appropriately be called bloomers.

While Klaus was calling the police to report his break-in, I started calling all my friends and family to let them know I had become a statistic. First up was my mom, who immediately started brewing some Sicilian curse. She also mentioned something about cracking thieving skulls with a cast-iron frying pan, at which point I told her I needed to make some more phone calls.

Next, I left a message for Natasha, and then moved on to Vivian. It seems that every one of my friends has been robbed at least once, so I felt like I had suddenly become a member of an elite club. Vivian was concerned with the fact that I sounded too calm, and became convinced that I was in shock. She told me to call our friend Chris, who lives nearby, to have her come over and hang out with me.

“Viv – there’s a blizzard out. I’m not going to call Chris.”

“Call Chris!”

“Vivian – I’m not calling Chris!”

“Call Chris! You’re in shock!”

“I am not in shock and I’m not calling Chris!”

Our conversation continued like this for about five more minutes, until my call waiting clicked in and it was Natasha. Within two minutes of hanging up with Nat, I got a call from Chris:

“Vivian called me! She said you got robbed! She said you’re in shock! I’m coming over!”

“I did get robbed, but I’m fine. You don’t need to come over – there’s a blizzard.”

“You’re not fine, you’re in shock. I’m coming over!”

“I’m really fine, you don’t need to come over. I’m drinking scotch with my neighbor. He got robbed, too.”

“It’s 6:00pm and you’re drinking scotch. You’re in shock! I’m coming over!”

And so this went for another few minutes, until my mom called me back on my cell phone to see if I owned a cast-iron skillet. I told Chris that I had to take the call.

Thirty minutes later, Chris arrived at my door covered in snow and carrying a can of pepper spray.

“Isn’t that illegal?”

“No, mace is illegal. This is just dangerous. If you don’t know how to use it, you may end up spraying yourself.”

“Okay, so you’re bringing me something that most likely will end up blinding me, thereby allowing the criminal to do whatever he wants? Couldn’t you have brought a cast-iron frying pan?”

“Uh, no. I only have a wok.”

Once the police arrived and assessed the scene, I learned that the form of small talk police officers are most comfortable with involves sharing all of their crime stories which fall into the “much worse than this” category. The first officer, who was in his own words, just the report taker, tried to make me feel better about my losses by telling me about an apartment he recently visited that had been stripped of every single item – from the drapes to the floor rugs. And then he told me that he owns a building on the north side that had an available apartment, so if I was interested in moving out... this did not ease my mind. A cop was telling me to move out of my apartment.

While he was taking my statement, I became mildly obsessed with reenacting the crime scene to determine the sequence of events that led up to my ultimate burgling:

”Okay, so we’ve established that the crime took place sometime between 8:00am and 2:00pm on Friday, January 21. Based on the disheveled state of my apartment, and the surgical precision they used in my neighbor’s, I can only assume that they hit his apartment first, moved on to mine, and then heard a noise that spooked them, so they ran out of my place before they could finish the job. Why else would they have left the DVD player on the middle of the floor? But what was the noise? Think, Jenny. Think!"

“Ma’am, I appreciate your feedback, but I just need to get all my facts straight here first, okay?”

I hovered behind the police officer, making sure he missed no details. At one point, I noticed some wet drops on my floor:

“Okay, these footprints are still wet, which means that the perpetrator was here within the last hour. Ohmigod. The footprints. They are leading straight toward me! OH MY GOD!! HE’S IN THE APARTMENT!! HE’S STILL IN THE APARTMENT!!!”

As I lunged for his gun, the officer stepped back and said, “Uhh, ma’am? Those are your footprints. Your boots are wet.”


Once the Evidence Technician arrived – six hours after my initial call – I joined Klaus in his apartment while the officer dusted for fingerprints. Klaus got up to turn his music off, but the officer told him to keep it on since he really liked that Stevie Wonder song.

“It’s so much nicer here than most of the crime scenes I’m at. Because there’s usually a corpse. And they aren’t much for conversation.”

Morbid cop humor – gets me every time.

Then he told us that the dust they use for fingerprinting causes cancer, but “they don’t tell you that when you join the force.” When the officer moved on to my apartment, he was able to find some fingerprints on my dresser, so he had to take my prints as well to make sure the ones he found weren’t mine. And that way I guess he could make sure I hadn’t robbed myself. Trust me, if I were robbing me, I sure as hell wouldn’t have taken the Swimming Pool DVD – that was the worst movie I ever saw – suckers! Sweet, sweet revenge.

As he was taking my prints, he complimented me on being such a cooperative subject by saying, “Geez, you’re easier to do than some of the corpses I find.”

To which I replied, “If I had a dime for every time I’ve heard that…”

Necrophiliac humor – gets me every time.

Since both upstairs neighbors work out of their apartments, I thought for sure one of them must have heard something. From the looks of my door, it didn’t appear to have been a quiet job. When the police interviewed them, both neighbors stated that they noticed that my door was open, but assumed I was moving out.

Uh, yeah. They assumed I was moving out because of all the chunks of splintered wood that were littering the floor outside my door? Okay, okay. So I’ll cut them some slack. People like to mind their own business, so they don’t pay attention to the small details. But what about this detail? The woman above me also told the officer that she thought something was weird because the locks on our entryway door didn’t seem to work right. And by “not working right”, she meant “had been pried off with a screwdriver.”

But I suppose I shouldn’t be too hard on them. Like I said, we’re conditioned to not get involved in other people’s business. I really don’t know what I would have done differently had I been in her situation. I mean, maybe there’s one thing I might have done differently, but it’s so minor, I probably shouldn’t even mention it.


I mean, really, people. I’m not expecting anyone to get all CSI, but use your damn brain. Even if you don’t give a crap that I was robbed, don’t you think you might be concerned about the thieves moving their way up to your apartment next?

Whew. Now that I got that out, I feel so much better. Now, where’s that cast-iron skillet?

[Sidebar: whenever someone tells you that a relative of theirs has cancer, people feel compelled to share their stories of family and friends who have also been diagnosed with cancer. It’s a bizarre form of one-upmanship meant to lessen the blow of bad news. “You think that’s bad? My aunt had a double mastectomy and then they found out that she didn’t even have breast cancer, but then she died of cervical cancer anyway!”

So, with that in mind, I am opening the floodgates and requesting, in seventy-five words or less, your best robbery stories. Special prize goes to anyone who’s had their entire apartment stripped clean, from drapes to floor rugs.]