Where’s Inspector Clouseau When You Need Him?
A few days ago, I lost everything I have ever written.
Every article — gone.
Every draft — gone.
Two half-completed books — gone.
Hundreds of World Series of Poker official reports — gone.
Thousands of personal photographs — gone.
Basically, everything I’m now working on or have nearly completed as a writer — gone.
So, what happened?
My laptop was stolen.
After spending 24 hours crying and another 48 hours throwing up, my next instinct was to write about the pain this has caused. Even as I sit here now, three days removed from the loss, words cannot express what comes from being severed forever from the emotional reactions I had to different things over the years that were reflected in those very heartfelt writings.
When I felt happy, I usually wrote about it. When I felt sad, I usually wrote about it. And, when I felt angry, I almost always wrote about it. That laptop was a basket case of emotional bedlam.
And now, it’s gone, likely transformed into little more than back-alley barter for the next $50 fix.
Much of the fault was mine. For leaving the laptop out in a public place where it could easily be stolen. Certainly for not backing up old files that were irreplaceable.
Until now, 2012 had been a banner year when it came to my “return-on-investment” for laptops. I was only on my second unit for the calender year and it was already the end of September. Fact is, I tend to break (or abuse to death) about three laptops every year — usually from unforeseen accidents or temper tantrums. I’ve punched out computer screens, kicked laptops onto the floor, and cracked quite a few by simply dropping them. Once, I became so frustrated with the screen freezing, it was heaved into a trash can while still plugged in. A lot of this had to do with losing sports bets and my online poker-playing days, because nothing feels so right than pummeling a $900 laptop into shards of broken metal and plastic than losing a $1,000 football bet or getting rivered on a two-outer for a $2,300 pot.
Bu this one hurt worst of all.
I had just purchased a new Acer laptop about two weeks earlier. All my data from older laptops was on memory sticks. These past few weeks, I was in the process of transferring what amounted to thousands of old documents (I estimate the number at close to 4,000) and organizing those files onto the new laptop. The memory sticks were tucked safely inside a small black computer bag. Of course, the laptop was in the same bag and you can start doing the math as to why I am about to jump off a bridge.
The details of the crime reveal gross negligence on my part. Perhaps I even got what I deserved. Up at 9 am on Thursday morning, I went downstairs into a quiet room where a major poker tournament was being held. The room was secure (or so I thought). Surveillance cameras were all around. After working for a half hour, I unplugged the laptop, placed in inside the black bag, and then hid it under a desk. Then, I went on my daily workout which took about 90 minutes.
Back at 11 am, I immediately sensed something was very wrong. Two of the bags I left under the table were still there. But the black bag with the laptop was missing.
Frantic, I asked everyone that began to funnel in if they had seen anything. Had they seen anyone suspicious? Phone calls were made. Security showed up. To the hotel’s credit, they took the matter very seriously.
Long story short, hotel security did have have the room under surveillance. When the tape was replayed, the grainy image of a man entering the room appeared. He looked around. Then, he spotted my bags beneath the table and proceeded to look inside. Once he saw a silver laptop, he tucked the heist under his arm and fled out a side door onto the street.
That’s it. Much of my life’s work in nestled in the armpit of some lowlife.
Hotel security advised me to go and file a police report. They instructed me to visit to the local police station and make a claim, in case the criminal was caught and my laptop was recovered.
And this my friends is where tragedy turns to comedy.
There’s a old saying that “comedy is tragedy — plus time.”
You’re looking at the grand entrance to the main police station in Cannes, France. From the look of things, any hope at all that my laptop is going to miraculously be found sinks from about a 5 percent chance to one-in-a-million.
What you imagine the inside of a French police station would look like, that’s pretty much the picture. Right out of a movie. Several people are off to the side, seemingly bickering among themselves in various foreign languages. I discover there’s no “take a number” system in use here at the police station. It’s pretty much a free for all as to who can scream the loudest and command the attention of some overworked and underpaid civil servant.
After standing with my thumb up my ass in total confusion for ten minutes, I muscle my way up to the front desk. After shouting “scuse moi” about two dozen times, the clerk advises me to wait and someone will be with me (he says this in English — which means my American dialect is obvious when I try to speak one of the nine French words that I know).
I sit and wait and finally realize this place is about to give the DMV a run for its money when it comes to the inefficiency gold medal. Not a single person is processed during this time.
There’s more bickering. A Tunisian immigrant comes in, bloodied and bandaged. I resist the temptation to ask him if he’s seen any hot Acer laptops out on the street lately.
Unable to wait any longer, I approach the desk again.
“La declaracion,” I insist. “La declaracion!”
To my utter amazement, the clerk pulls out a form.
“Ah, la declaracion!” he says.
Now, we are getting somewhere.
We go through the usual steps. Name. Address. Hotel where I’m staying. When I mention that I live in Las Vegas, this actually brings a few additional unwanted inquiries.
“Ah oui, Las Vegas…..you like the gambling?”
I feared this would happen. I’m trying to recover stolen property and all the police clerk wants to know is my gambling habits.
Finally, he asks about the stolen laptop.
“Serial number?” he asks.
Serial number?” I respond. “You mean the serial number of the laptop?”
I guess I’m a little odd. I mean, I have my telephone number memorized. I know my social security number. BUT I DO NOT HAVE THE FUCKING SERIAL NUMBER OF MY LAPTOP MEMORIZED!
Is this for real?
“We need the serial number,” he explains. “Here, we get many laptops. They are very common to steal in France.”
I wonder — HOW MANY LAPTOPS DO THEY GET HERE WITH 2,000 FILES OF THE WORLD SERIES OF POKER, PLUS A DESKTOP PHOTO ICON OF MY CAT ‘ALEX?’ Tell you what, if the Cannes Police Department just so happens to recover two stolen duplicates of a silver Acer with all those documents and photos of my cat, then — I PROMISE I’LL GO BACK HOME 12.000 MILES AWAY AND RUMMAGE THOUGH THE RECEIPTS AND FIND THE SERIAL NUMBER. How’s that?
Seriously, he wants to know the serial number in what is quickly becoming theater of the absurd.
The scene from The Big Lebowski suddenly flashes into my head where Jeff Bridges’ junk car is recovered by the police and he inquires about the police department having any good “leads.”
“Leads? Yeah, they got us working double shifts,” replies the crackling policeman while staring at the $250 heap of junk. “We’re all working overtime. Leads? (explodes into hysterics).”
The bureaucratic ping-pong match continues for another ten minutes of utter futility. I can only presume my “file” will end up inside a dusty box somewhere, eventually shipped off to a warehouse. Finally, I’m instructed by the clerk who’s taken down all this information to “come back tomorrow.”
“Huh? Why do I need to come back tomorrow?” I ask.
“An inspector will interview you then,” he replies.
“Can the inspector interview me now?” I ask. “I’m leaving tomorrow to fly back home.”
“No. We are getting ready to close.”
I now see that it’s about 5:45 pm. Apparently, the police station closes at 6 pm, which leads me to believe all crime in Cannes must take place on the day shift.
Alas, if comedy is tragedy plus time, my emotional clock has yet to strike midnight and begin a new day. Nevertheless, I must make the new day my own, as best I can.
Broken, bitter, and defeated I depart the police station now convinced that in order to survive I must simply accept the loss, and move on.
As difficult as that is — accept the loss.
And move on.
In the meantime, I am left to wonder what, if any, emotion the thief or person who ends up with the laptop will have when he powers up sees the personal mementos of my life. The priceless photos of my wife on many vacations. The irreplaceable pictures of a treasured pet I lost. The things I wrote and the emotions I shared with no one but myself.
Now gone — forever.