Continuing our Authentic New York theme, we've asked several New York writers to riff a bit about their city. Amelia Mularz offers a reminder that while Times Square may now feel like Epcot Center, it still pays to be on guard when it comes to keeping your stuff safe...
Though I love Europe, ask any traveler who’s toured the continent and he or she is likely to have a pickpocket sob story of some kind. I myself have wandered wallet-less and teary-eyed through a Madrid metro station only to report my crime to a police officer who meets me with that eye-rolling, here-we-go-again kind of look. I’ve always taken comfort in the fact that New York, on the other hand, is relatively theft-free. Of course this is a big city and you have to have your wits about you, but it’s unlikely that a woman in Grand Central will make you hold her baby while she rifles through your pockets, looking to steal your wallet. I, perhaps naively, thought that petty theft in New York had gone out with subway crime and the seediness of Times Square. But after the week I’ve had, I can safely say that thievery is alive and well in New York City.
Last week somebody stole my desk. Yes, it was a full-size piece of furniture. I ordered it online and waited patiently with my new stapler and matching tape dispenser for its arrival. When it never came, I went online to track its progress and was confused when it said it had been delivered and signed for a few days beforehand. I called the company and the agent assured me the doorman had signed and it was safely in my building. The only problem is…my building doesn’t have a doorman.
Just as I was coming to terms with the fact that some doorman imposter had stolen my desk, my mom called to see if my roommates and I enjoyed the Easter basket she had sent…the Easter basket that, like my desk, I never received. Now the fact that I’m a grown woman and still receiving an Easter basket from my mom is completely beside the point. What’s important here is that somebody would actually steal an Easter basket sent from a 57-year-old woman in Illinois…so sad. I imagined at that moment some maniac in New York was sitting with the contents of my basket spread across my desk, separating the good Jelly Belly flavors from the bad.
The following day, I decided to restore my faith in humanity and took a relaxing yoga class. However, while I was in the studio becoming one with the world, somebody was in my purse become one with my stuff. After class, I realized my iPod was gone. Now it’s true, my purse was not locked up, but I had been going to the studio for about a year without incident. This, coupled with the week’s prior events, was just too much. Not to mention, I couldn’t bear the thought of some stranger perusing my playlist, which includes the soundtrack to Rent, the Led Zeppelin cover band Led Zepagain, and The Eurythmics.
Later that night, I met a friend at a bar so could I recount the story of the ridiculous week I had had. As I began describing the desk incident, I set my beer down on the table next to where we were standing. Just as I got to the part about my iPod, I turned to take a swig, but somebody had stolen my beer! At that point I felt as though I should just walk through the bar with my wallet open telling people, “Go ahead. Help yourself! Don’t be shy!”
So let this story serve as a cautionary tale and as a reminder that petty theft runs rampant not only among tourists loitering under the Eiffel Tower, but also right here in New York City among people just going about their business. But I should also mention that sometimes, VERY RARELY, but every now and then, you actually receive things in New York. Yesterday I got a free month of yoga classes (although I’m pretty sure that was due to a clerical error) and just this morning I was short on money and a stranger gave me 30 cents so I could buy a cup of coffee. Not too shabby.
Amelia Mularz is a freelance writer who has worked for New York magazine, Maxim, and the New York Daily News. She will happily accept any uneaten jelly beans that are left over from your Easter basket.
Photo: Sign in the NYC Subway warning passengers about pickpockets, by secretofcaress via Flickr