About forty minutes after this picture was taken (right, the shot of a statue of a man in a “heil”-like pose), something dire occurred.
My iPhone was lifted out of my bag, never to be returned. Or found.
I have told this story several times since that day, and I usually tell it the same way.
During one rare window when — though not completely alone — I still was not accompanied by a local tour guide, I had no sooner dropped my iPhone into a zippered slot in the front of the crossbody handbag I wore close to my side and was just ready to zip it back up — pffft, just like that, the bag felt the slightest mite lighter, thanks to an agile thief with the sleightest of hand.
Now, as I’ve said elsewhere on this blog, I have long lived in an urban environment known for crowds. I have also traveled to foreign cities on various continents. I am no stranger to pickpockets and other petty crimes that occur in large crowded metropolises where anyone can become a victim of opportunity if not on high alert. In fact, no fewer (and perhaps surprisingly, no more) than three times have I had my wallet stolen right out of my backpack or handbag: Twice in New York City (a shoe store and a pizza joint), and once in a Paris pub.
I’m not surprised it happened any of those times. I was off guard, not paying attention, engrossed in some other activity, a conversation or something.
This day, however, was different: I had even felt a strangely close brush past me several times leading up to the event, something I only noticed in context, in hindsight. I was on high alert. It was a crowded section of Cape Town, with market vendors selling their wares. I was aware of strangers too close, held my bag tight to my side, protected my wallet, made sure not to put anything in a back pocket. But I was protecting the wrong loot against a bandit who was too skilled at his trade (and, I think, was operating in a pair).
All of which is to say that the thief who absconded with my iPhone 5S quite justifiably deserved it. Like a hard-won prize.
In the moment it happened, I panicked. I looked around. I confronted a couple of vendors at the street market where it happened. Surely they had seen something and were staying mum. I even asked a “safety officer” who was wearing some official-looking type of orange vest, and he pointed me toward the police station to report it a few blocks away (which I did, a futile exercise).
Ultimately, after racing all over that area, visiting cell phone “re-sellers,” and scanning the area for guilty-looking parties and reeling from thoughts of the irretrievable and un-backed-up contents of my phone (mainly the two thousand or so photos and a multitude of notes and lists and writings), I let myself be devastated for about 24 hours (okay, maybe a tiny bit more), and contacted my service provider, who happily informed me that I qualified for a free phone upgrade, and eventually started looking ahead to the new phone that would be waiting for me when I arrived home a week later, the following Saturday.
Ultimately, I just chalked it up to being part of the “vacation experience.” There was far too much to love about this beautiful country and its people to get dragged down by one bum circumstance.
This fellow in the “heil”-like pose, by the way, is Cecil John Rhodes, the British imperialist who took over large swaths of African land and named portions of it after himself (Rhodesia, now Zimbabwe, for instance), until 1980 when his name faded into the distant past.
Sort of like the loot a thief makes off with.