On Getting Robbed in China


Shame can be a strong theft deterrent.
I’ve never seen this in China but writing
“Thief” on your chest and sticking you in
a public place seems like it might be an
effective rehabilitation for kleptos.
One time in China . . . someone broke into my hotel room and stole a camera and some money from a friend and I.  The worst part is we were both in the room when it happened.  Ok that’s the second worst part . . . the real worst part is that we both slept through the whole thing.  In our defense, it had been a long day.  In the thief’s defense, he walked clear across the room and practically had to step over me to get to my wallet.  The hotel said we could call the police if we wanted to but ensured us it would be a waste of time.  
One time in China . . . a guy stuck a knife in my wife’s face and growled at her.  In his defense she was rather rudely insisting that he stand still and go nowhere.  In her defense, he had just taken her purse in a crowded supermarket and she kind of hoped store security might step in and take over.  She let him go with a warning.  Security arrived and told her to stop crying.
One time in China . . . I left my wife’s brand new, DSLR, stinking nice camera (read more about stinking things) at the airport.  I went back to the airport and stood in a tiny hut with 20 chain-smoking policemen staring at a ten inch black and white television replaying the security tape of me . . . forgetting my wife’s camera as I loaded the rest of our bags into a taxi.  We watched it 37 times and each time they pointed out the part where I got in the taxi and drove away.  Had I paid attention I’m sure I would have learned the Chinese word for “moron”.  Three hours later I was standing in a Korean hair dye shop on the opposite corner of a city of 8 million people.  The hostess asked me if I wanted my hair dyed black or light black.  The manager then handed my wife’s camera to me.  I went back to thank the airport security team.  They said, “yeah, yeah” (only in Chinese).   And then they probably said, “moron” again.
One time in China . . . we left our computer in a taxi (coming home from the airport).  That was a bad day.  We thought for sure it was gone forever along with every, single picture we had ever taken of our daughter (no we hadn’t backed up our files . . . don’t lecture me).  Three days later our friends, friends, cousin who was a policeman at the airport walked through a line of a hundred taxis, found the one we described and asked him if he had a computer in his trunk.  He said, “yep” (again in Chinese).
Theft is big here.  I know people who have had their bicycles stolen . . . seven times (same person – seven different bikes).  The fact that stealing happens doesn’t shock me at all.  Stealing happens wherever there are people.  The cultural dynamics flip my lid though.  The police would be a “waste of time?”  “Stop crying?” “Go to the Korean hair dye place?” “Yeah, yeah?” I am so confused.
But there is a bright side of theft in China.  I don’t personally know anyone who has been killed, beaten or even threatened for the sake of robbery.  Sidenote . . . my wife doesn’t count because she was threatened only after he gave her purse back.  She was threatened for the sake of freedom, not robbery.  Big difference.  I have yet to find a neighborhood that I would be afraid to walk through, even at night, in a pink tutu and I have never heard of a single case of drug related theft or armed robbery (there are reasons for that but we’ll talk about that later).  It is a kinder, gentler thievery.  Every bit as selfish and only a fraction as violent.
I’ve never seen this in America either but
evidently shame is a cross cultural reformer.
One time in America . . . someone broke into our car and took our ipod, our video camera, my wife’s stinking nice DSLR camera (same one) and our computer (same one).  The hotel asked if we wanted to call the police and I said, “no it will just be a waste of time.”  They looked at me funny.  I said, “oh yeah, I mean yes of course, let’s call the police.”  So we did . . . and we never saw that stuff again.

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