Tuesday, June 5, 2018


He stole it literally from under me. Or behind me, I suppose. My backpack. Broad daylight, public café.

I was lucky. For some reason, I’d pretty much emptied everything onto the table before he got it. My glasses and case, my laptop and cord, my phone and cord,…even a notebook with all sorts of notes about my writing projects. Unusual for me to unpack so much. He got away with the backpack itself—an oft-complimented Keith Haring blue and white Herschel—a couple of vegan magazines and some research notes that I have on my laptop as well. Lots of napkins, pens, pencils, a pencil sharpener,…contents he’ll dump in an alley.

Hey, maybe I’ll convert a carnivore. Maybe I’ll create a writer. (Many of my ideas have first been scrawled on napkins.) Or maybe I’ve just reinforced and emboldened a thief’s habits.

Sounds like a fish story, but it’s true. Right out from under him! I swear!

It shows how intense I get when I’m in a writing session, a surprise to even myself. Writing in a café, I look up regularly as patrons come and go. This morning was no exception. I don’t know for certain who stole it, but I think I do. Guy with a crutch. We made eye contact. He wandered behind me as I sat at the end of the café. I don’t think he bought anything. He asked to use the restroom. That’s presumably where he stuffed my empty backpack into his own. Nice! I saw him leave. I could still see him a half block away when I realized by pack was gone.

Maybe I could have chased him down, but what would have been the point? I’d accuse, he’d deny. The evidence was out of view. I couldn’t exactly grab his backpack, unzip it and yank out my own. What if I were wrong? There’d be witnesses, watching me try to take away a backpack from a guy with a crutch.

It’ll go for five or ten bucks on the street. I paid fifty. I can look at it as an excuse to go backpack shopping. A new style! (I’m currently reverting back to a perfectly good Herschel that’s accumulated a few stains along the bottom.) I’ll probably search obsessively and buy a brand new backpack, the same version I had before. I like what I like.

As with anyone, I feel violated. Someone pegged me as a target. He got into my space. He grabbed what was rightfully mine.

It could have been worse. It could have been worse. It could have been worse.

My laptop is my most prized possession, filled with writing. My phone is loaded with photos, contacts and notes. You’re supposed to backup these things, but I’m techno-clueless.

It happened on Hastings Street. It’s that street, a section of it a hub to the most destitute people in Canada. There’s some sort of support services building right across the street. I write in the same café five days a week. I watch the people crowd the building, waiting for it to open at 7:30 each morning. There’s always an urgency of activity over there…the start of “the wrong side of the tracks”. I’m not usually judgy; just openly curious. Today, feeling violated, I’m not my best.

The easy thought is, He needed it more. And maybe something like this was overdue. I’m stingy when someone presenting as homeless asks for change. I overthink things, desperate to find a better solution than people scraping together a handful of quarters. I moved to this area fully aware of the surrounding poverty, along with the prevalence of mental health issues, addiction problems and everything that goes with that. As my head continues to spin uselessly, failing to brainstorm something to create deeper change, the backpack represents an involuntary donation. Maybe the incident will prod me to get more involved and to become more active in my quest to be enlightened.

Three years here. My first theft. Remarkably, my bike remains in my parking stall and my car has yet to be broken into. I’ve experienced worse living in other parts of Vancouver. The backpack, for me, is mere crumbs.

I still feel violated.

It’s easy to overreact. I’ve had sweeping thoughts today. Don’t let people use the restroom if they’re not buying anything. Stop giving them water, free coffee and day-old pastries. But then logic takes over. I’ve seen many down-and-out folks come into the café. I’ve never been stolen from and I’ve never heard another customer yelling, “Stop! Thief!”

Shit happens. I’m physically fine. I still have all my writing…my passion, my hard work. He just has a backpack.

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