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No Food for Thought

Bad stealers and good stealers

admin Saturday February 27, 2016

I was in first grade the first time I had something stolen from me. In fact, the stealer took Micro Machines I had temporarily exchanged with my electronic helicopter, so the owner of the stolen Micro Machines did not give me back my helicopter, which produced sounds when its buttons were pushed. I remember the poor child I was regretting that loss years later.

Since then, the only things which were stolen from me are 2 winter bikes (i.e. cheap bikes), a seat-post and a wheel. And only one of these thefts involved breaking a security device. Eventually, I realized I have always been lucky, in particular on that front. In recent years, I realized how lucky in particular I was for having never lost a wallet.

On January 23rd, I went to the gym. I put all my stuff in a locker to go warm up swimming. After a shower, I arrived at the pool and noticed it was unavailable. I took a couple minutes to memorize the schedule, went back to the locker room, dried my hair and went back to my locker about 15 minutes after leaving it. I noticed half of my stuff was missing, and realized it was not my lucky day.

I wondered if the stealer would bring back some of the stolen stuff he could not make use of, but the middle-aged security agent who received my deposition said he had never heard of such luck. While I was waiting for footwear and clothes needed to go back home, I realized how much time (and money) it would take to recover and buy again the more than 20 items I had been stolen. I asked 2 or 3 times whether some of my stuff had been recovered, without success.

At least initially, I even felt that some of my trust in others had been stolen. I was not done dealing with that mess when, 23 days after the theft, I received a call from the gym asking me to come get my stuff, which they had picked from a locker in a different locker room than mine 2 weeks earlier. I was so shocked that I failed to realize that they did not realize what had happened. They had cut the lock because users are not allowed to permanently let their stuff in a locker, and they had been waiting for 2 weeks for the owner to come claim his belongings. They did not realize it was not the owner of those personal items who had let them in that locker, which is why they did not feel compelled to contact me earlier.

When I claimed my stuff, I confirmed the attendant was right. Everything I had been stolen was there, except for my lock. Either that lock was cut by the stealer, or—much more likely—I had forgotten to lock it and the stealer used it to lock my effects in the locker where he left them. Everything else was there, including payment cards, gift cards, 170 CAD (which is more than I estimated I had been stolen), 2 controlled keys, and various other personal items worth a few hundred dollars.

I wish I could confirm I had forgotten to lock my locker, and I wish I could understand why. But I am a lot more curious about the stealer's behavior. Did his relatives ask him to bring back my possessions? Did he realize who he had stolen and decide the victim did not deserve this? Or did he simply change his mind fearing the consequences of getting caught?

Recovering my effects is far from having compensated the trouble of canceling and obtaining new cards, buying replacements, dealing with the risk of having a stealer with the keys of several buildings and possibly my address, temporarily bringing down my website, and more, but a lot of that could be blamed on my gym. The stealer involuntarily taught me a few important things about security, as well as how one's vision of his fellow citizens can easily be influenced by anecdotal events of one's history. For these lessons, for my goods of course, but also for your restitution's large restoration of my trust in mankind and my desire to work for it, I thank you, mysterious stealer.


I should use this opportunity to thank Vincent Amyot, who caught me trying to steal a pog when I was in sixth grade, and rightly warned other kids at school to stay away from me because I stole pogs (one by one!). And thanks to Guillaume Talbot, who caught me stealing his Internet account (in the good old time of dialup) and The Palace account (although he then remained my best friend for years). And thanks to the RFID tag I could not see which prevented me from stealing a magazine about Microsoft Windows from my college's library, an attempted theft which the free software zealot I was at that time considered ethical. You all made me realize I was not good enough to be a robber, and made me a bit less uncomfortable for having the privilege of being the victim of such a good stealer.