Friday, January 21, 2011

Crime Scene!

There are at least three Istanbul rites of passage or rather, the bad things things that eventually will happen to you when you live here: earthquakes, car accidents, and home robberies.

Last week, we got the last one.

This Is A Crime Scene
We came home to a couple of tossed bedrooms, two missing laptops, and most of my jewelry that was worth anything.

So that pretty much sucked.

When we came home and I saw the door open, I thought, "Oh crap, I left the door open. Oh well, it's a safe neighborhood..." because we really do live in the kind of place that seem like you could forget to lock the door and everything would turn out fine. And for the most part it does, except apparently some thief has cottoned on to this. Our house was the fourth in our neighborhood hit last week, and there have been three more since then, according to the cop BE ran into yesterday.

The police were lovely. The first two who came looked genuinely crestfallen, as though they couldn't believe such an awful thing happens in real life. And they seemed pleased LE found their guns so enthralling.

Then they called for the crime scene guys. We had to wait over an hour for them, and were told very sternly, "Don't touch anything." So that was fun, trying to keep LE from touching anything for an hour. We made the mistake of telling him, "Don't touch anything," at which point LE started touching everything he could because he tends to get oppositional around dinnertime. I touched some stuff and made him a peanut butter sandwich.

Then the CSI guys came and I was about as enthralled as LE because it was just like that show "CSI." They had intriguing metal cases full of fascinating items packed in foam. The guy with the camera was dour and started snapping away. The one carrying the cases was the young fellow who did most of the work. The tall, handsome one looked over our stuff for things that might hold a fingerprint. He was ever so patient with me and my junior sleuthing, and kindly explained why a sock and T-shirt from the laundry would be on the living room floor, and why it was probably my cleaner who had cracked the glass in a picture frame (wiping prints for the first one, the unlikelihood of a thief re-hanging a picture he'd knocked down for the second.)

He asked if anything was out of place in the living room.

This Is Not A Crime Scene
However, aside from the laptop that had been sitting out on the shelf, nothing had been disturbed in this room. This is just normal because putting toys away sucks and is completely pointless. "No," I told the cop. "It's always like this." He laughed and said he had a one-year-old, and that his living room always looks like this too. I assured him it would get worse.

By the way, my Turkish word of the week (I tend to get stuck on a new word every couple of weeks) is dandık. Dandık came in very handy for getting robbed.

And our thief isn't an asshole just because he's a thief. It's also because he stole my backpack to carry off the computers. He didn't even bring his own bag to come a-thieving.

One mystery we couldn't solve that was discussed at length was why a half-full bottle of tonic water had been emptied onto the floor. I also mention this because it's another way our thief is an asshole-- he left us the gin but no tonic. It was very frustrating, because gin and tonic isn't good without the tonic. I suggested to the police that perhaps the thief had drunk it expecting water, but had spit it out when it was a tonic surprise, and then dumped the rest because he was pissed off about it. They liked that idea, and decided to swab the bottle for DNA.

I thought that was going a bit far for petty thief catching. Then it occurred to me they could have been doing all of this for my benefit because I'm foreign. I felt like telling them they were way nicer and way less frighteningly armed and Robocoppish than American cops. The tall, handsome one even let LE push buttons on his radio, which beeped menacingly.

This Is A Mess
But, just as when any guys come into your house to do work here, the cops left a mess. That fingerprint dust is a bitch, I tell you. Black and dusty and slightly oily. It didn't wipe off cardboard well, so if you're ever playing Trivial Pursuit at my house and you get black shit all over your hands, I can say, "Oh, yeah. It's because that box was dusted for prints."

Sweet! At least some good has come of this.

The other thing that's good is that LE and I didn't walk in on the thief, and also that he didn't come when were were home because I probably would have opened the door for him. One reason I tend to be friendly in Turkish is because my language is too limited to be anything else.

Later we had to go to the station to give them the paperwork for the computer, and the cop in the front office was smoking. Cheeky, though I did notice there weren't any signs forbidding smoking, with their ever-variable fine amounts. Still, a cop breaking the no-smoking law in a state building is the sort of thing that might actually trouble a foreigner. BE just goes, "This is Turkey, what do you expect?" and I'm thinking it kind of calls into question the whole "Who's policing the police?" thing, but maybe in essence BE and I are talking about the same thing. Anyway.

BE's delayed reaction to the theft is to go all Homeland Security. He wants an alarm system, a steel door, and a gun. I told him he could have a gun so long as it wasn't big enough for LE to blow off his face or any other part of his body with it so that pretty much rules out the gun, which is fine with me.

My delayed reaction is to wonder why the universe keeps biting me in the ass with theft. Last year on the way home from the US, my suitcase got robbed either by airport workers or airport security-- jewelry mostly. It's not like I'm such a jewelry person and most of what they took was worthless, but there was also a nice pair of earrings I'd gotten for Christmas and my engagement ring. So now most of my wedding jewelry is gone too, plus LE's gold coins, and I just decided I'm just never going to have anything nice again. I feel like I should be more upset about this whole thing, but a lot of what I'm feeling is, "Oh, crap, this again?" I can't even bring myself to catalogue the loss too much. MIL is though. Not only does she know every single gold coin and piece of jewelry, she knows who gave it to us and when. It's a little creepy.

I've been in Turkey long enough to think that perhaps the Great Karmic Wheel of Nazar is getting me for successfully managing to be sort of happy here, and liking my job and stuff. I just hope we're even now. Also in the back of my mind I started concocting a paranoid theory in which the theft was just to distract us so the government could get my computer and fingerprints to use later in some cocked-up scheme to accuse me of something ourageous.

So as I've survived my first Istanbul rite of passage, I've apparently started to give in to some crazy thinking.

Stupid thieves. I wish they'd just give me my stuff back.


Ayak said...

I'm really sorry to hear about this. It's an awful feeling isn't it? We've not been burgled as such since I moved to Turkey but we did have one incident when we were moving house in Side. Our removal man's assistant was sick so my husband offered a day's work to a man he found in the teahouse. This man stole money from my purse. Everything I had..deposit and 1st months rent for our apartment and the money for the removal man. We eventually got most of it back after a car chase half way to Alanya (a story for another day!), but it leaves a bad taste in your mouth.

I was burgled twice in England but I kind of expected it there. Unfortunately foreigners are often targeted here it would seem.

Anyway...that was a bit of a ramble..sorry, but I hope this whole experience doesn't affect you too badly.

Stranger said...

Thanks, Ayak. I'd love to hear your car chase story sometime...

I don't think it was because I'm foreign (in fact, the thief must have been a little disappointed at how thin our pickings were if I thought I was hiding my money tree in the house somewhere), though that probably made it a little easier to track my like-clockwork habits. I think someone just figured out ours and most of the buildings around us have top floors with only one door, instead of two units side-by-side. All the other robberies have been on top floors too.

The disturbing thing is that the thief knew we're usually gone during the day. I'm on break now though, and LE and I had been home every other day during the week. So it's a good thing we went out, in a way. Plus, LE and I got to visit with some of our best friends we never see anymore.

It's interesting how when you get robbed, it's a little like being pregnant-- everyone has a horror story for you about their own robberies. Given that, I'm just glad no one came in when we were sleeping!

Nomad said...

You are obviously handling it better than I would have.

I have never been burgled in this manner in Turkey. One time while living in Oklahoma, I was friends with these five Taiwanese girls. It was like having your own girl scout troop. One evening in summer, as promised, they decided to cook me a traditional Chinese meal. But after starting, we all realized that it was much too hot to do any real cooking at their home. So we piled everything into the car and drove over to my home which was close and air conditioned.
It was a lovely evening. I introduced them to "It's a Wonderful Life." However, when I drove them back home, they all started nervously whispering in Chinese. "Can you come with us please? Something is wrong!" I asked them what was going on. And they told me that their front door was open and this was inexplicable. So as I am walking up the steps to the second floor to the apartment, one of them mentions. "Be careful of the gun."
"Yeah? What gun?"
They had been keeping a rifle for a friend of theirs at their apartment. Hmmm. Ok. Walk back down the steps and ring the doorbell many times.
When we got upstairs to the apartment, everything, I mean everything was gone. All their clothes, all the food from the fridge, their shoes, TV, radios, the frozen food, the bed sheets, and when we went to phone the police, no phones.
If you have never heard a group of hysterical Chinese women then I can say you haven't really lived. Taking charge of things, I sent them on tasks, of making note of everything that was stolen for the police, etc. That was hardly effective because every time they would notice something new that was missing, the screams and tears would explode all over again. Then suddenly they all went to the back of the apartment where there was a kind of balcony and they all lit incense and stood silently composing themselves.
When the police finally arrived, both of the looking like the cop from The Simpsons, they took a look around and actually said, "Well, I guess this was probably done by a foreigner." And they poked around a bit and as far as I know didn't even file a report. I felt so embarrassed.
It was immediately decided by the women that, under no circumstances, could they ever live in that apartment any longer. I thought it was foolish but understandable. A break-in like that is a sort of violation and it can be very upsetting when you lose the illusion of security that you had taken for granted.

Anyway, glad to hear it was only things.

toastytoasty said...

I am really sorry to hear about the break-in. My place was broken into in Beylikduzu in the nineties and we got a steel door.

All the best

Aunt Sis said...

It's such an awful violation to be robbed. I'm so sorry, Sarah. We were robbed in Palomino Valley. I remember coming home and opening the refrigerator door to get out the sausage to fix for dinner. No sausage! Then we found a lot missing--guns, coins, etc. I hated the feeling of violation more than the loss. OF course, Chuck tracked them. Scared me to death but he came upon them up in the mountain, eating the sausage. Guns scattered around, etc. They were scared to death teenagers but I didn't forgive them. I hope you get your computer back.

Anonymous said...

Hi Stranger -- I'm really sorry to hear this. I'm glad you and LE weren't home, and I'm relieved that none of you encountered any personal danger.

That cosmic nazar stuff should be off your backs for a while, inshallah....

Anonymous said...

so sorry to hear this!! it's my biggest fear. Everything I hear a new story, I start hiding my stuff while I'm gone again. Ugh.

Briar said...

I'm so sorry this happened! Scary and crappy.

Maybe you can get an iPad. They're small enough to carry with you everywhere always. In fact, I am now going to explain to Wes that the reason I must always carry my iPad with me everywhere is that it might be otherwise thieved.

Stranger said...

@ Aunt Sis, Uncle Chuck TRACKED them? How cool is that? Alone? Even knowing they had the guns? He must have scared those kids half to death if he got your stuff back like that.

@ Nomad, in addition to being upsetting, that story is kind of funny. Not their misfortune, of course... I've heard of some robberies like that here. I knew a guy who had his house cleaned out while he was a t work for a couple of hours. All they left was a cord and a few pieces of paper.

Thanks, everyone else. We're getting an alarm system put in today. It will help us rebuild our false sense of security...

aburcubur said...

I am sorry! It is exactly the same story that happened to me :(