My colleagues warned me about it. My editor warned me about it. Even Michael Carter, “The White Guy” who interned at Awoko last year, warned me about it.
The warning: Mind your pockets; watch out for pickpocketers.
Some readers may recall that I was nearly pickpocketed on the morning I left for Pujehun about a month ago. Since then, I’ve been careful about people reaching for my pockets, and I haven’t allowed anyone to steal anything from me… until now.
A few days ago, someone finally succeeded to nab something from me. Lucky for me, it’s something I can live without: The spare battery and charger to my digital camera. It’s unfortunate that I will lose power on my camera as I enter my final few weeks in Sierra Leone, but I thank my lucky stars that it wasn’t the camera itself, or even my wallet or passport which was stolen.
Anyway, let me get back to the scene of the crime. The day started like it always does: I walked out of my hostel and looked to catch a cab to work. As I waited on Syke Street for an available taxi, one already full cab pulled up next to me.
I actually didn’t notice that the cab was full until after I asked the driver, “Percival Street?”
The driver told me to hop in, and I figured if he and the passengers were OK with squeezing one more person in the car, it was OK with me. (Strike One)
Once I got in the car and we started moving, the driver started speaking Krio to me and appeared to be telling me to shut the door properly. I thought it was strange that he wouldn’t speak English to me, because I haven’t encountered any taxi driver in Freetown that can’t speak English. Regardless, I followed the instructions given to me by the driver and the passenger sitting next to me. (Strike Two)
They were telling me to sit up out of the seat so he could shut the door closed. Uncomfortably positioned, I tried to tell the driver that the door is just fine. The driver stopped the car and made me switch seats to sit on the inside so the other passenger could shut the door properly. (Strike Three)
When I got back in the car and we kept trying to “shut the door,” I felt the passenger to my right reaching in my right pocket where I kept my wallet. I quickly shrugged him off and told the driver to stop the car. I angrily got out of the car and caught another cab to work, thinking to myself, “Geez, that was close.” Little did I know they had already succeeded. (I’m out)
I carry my camera, spare battery, charger and a memory stick in a small bag I take with me everywhere. Once I got to work, I needed to transfer some pictures for a colleague, so I opened my bag to get my memory stick. It was then that I realized that my battery and charger were both missing and suddenly a dark cloud floated above my head, ready to pour down showers of shame.
I frantically looked around the office, thinking (hoping) that it had just fallen on the ground somewhere. I even went back to my hostel in the hope that they were just in my room somewhere. No luck.
Disappointed and distraught, I took the long walk of shame back to the office. Again, I’m thankful for the fact that nothing essential was stolen, but I’m rather humiliated that I allowed it to happen.
I’m not one to let a single sour experience ruin an entire summer filled with sweet memories, but deep sighs and headshaking will probably be the norm for at least a couple of days. Certain phrases keep running through my mind: You live and you learn; It could’ve been worse; Fool me once, shame on you; fool me twice… (ugh, I don’t even want to finish that one)
by Yu Nakayama