In February, the month of St Valentine, I had my bag stolen.
From a Starbucks. Just outside my office – where I go once a day, at least. I felt like an idiot. Like a naive tourist who had fallen prey to the oldest trick in the burglers’ book. One minute it was there next to my foot, and the next (or to be precise, in exactly 33 minutes), it was gone!
As far as silver (or brushed metal) linings go, my laptop was on the table. Sadly my iPad, my scribbling pad, a spare hard drive, a USB stick, and the bag itself, which was precious, were all gone.
The initial hunt proved useless. The Starbucks people promised to check the cctv and let me know if they saw anything. I came home feeling foolish. And with a very important lesson #1 – don’t carry the back up drive around!
The store called me the next afternoon to say that indeed, they had seen on the cctv footage a couple of people steal my bag. It was the work of professionals. They came with purpose. One of them took of his jacked and dropped it next to him, covering my bag. They then got up and left holding the jacket but also my bag under it. These were clearly experts and could have fooled anybody.
I felt fooled. And foolish.
Called the police, gave them the details and they promised to check the footage. I asked if I could watch the footage. Not sure why, probably for the thrill or watching myself in a Tarrantino-esque crime sequence. Starbucks wasn’t having any of it.
A lady left me a voicemail to say she found my diary in a bus, but I was travelling. By the time I called her back she had destroyed the diary. The diary had the notes i had scribbled on my last holiday. When I would wake up at 5 AM in Lucknow, feeling my head still buzzing with work thoughts, and I would sit at the dining table and write and draw things out. I was emotionally attached to that process and though I no longer need those notes, it was a loss.
The funny thing is, that was really it. The cost of the bag and spare drive weren’t that high. I had an iPad from work, which is replaceable. Nothing ‘valuable’ was lost. And yet, this is what it boils down to – the idea of theft in a digital age.
I didn’t lose any data, but the thieves have it too. Much like the old adage about love – you can give it away and still have all of it. But this is a different kind of loss. It’s the loss of privacy, of confidentiality and of useful information falling into the wrong hands. How do you put a value to that?
Then of course, I thought about my passwords. I have many levels of passwords and they’re all neatly structured between bank passwords, email passwords, other services, all the inconsequential sites that need passwords – i have different passwords for each levels. I also have a list of sites and passwords in a note on my laptop, a copy of which has been dutifully backed up. The list itself is cryptic, though not encrypted, but to the alert mind, decipherable.
I changed my passwords. All the key ones, at least: financial services, emails, evernote, dropbox, and other key ones. I found an email from Facebook asking if i had requested a password change. I hadn’t but clearly somebody was trying to get into my account.
This will play on and on in my head. Every day i’ll agonise in a new way about what else might now be in the hands of miscreants. But it was a stark lesson on the idea of theft in the digital world. Even my laptop is completely backed up in the cloud. So there would be no real loss of data. But it would be a gut wrenching loss of information and a huge violation of my personal space. Like somebody was playing around inside my mind.
I feel wiser. And still, foolish.