Sometimes you are really stupid and you're so embarrassed and you don't want to tell anyone but you kind of have to.
Last Wednesday someone stole both Nick's and my Mac laptops, Nick's two antique watches, one of which was his father's, his dad's gold signet ring, and my mom's watch.
Oddly enough, Nick's PC laptop, which was with his Mac, was still there. As was Betty's laptop. And all our jewelry. And radios, other electronics. Also, we have a tall row house. So they bypassed the first floor, went to the second for my laptop, the third for Betty's watch, and the fourth for Nick's stuff.
There was a two-hour period of time that day where the only people at the house
were two men working on our doors--the closet in the front hall, and the
My laptop was there when I left just before 3 pm; I know this because I was frantically working on last-minute photo gifts and looking through my email for addresses for holiday cards.
Nick called 911 when we discovered the theft. And he called the contractor, who got his assistant and hurried to our house. Both arrived when the police officer was still here, and both said they had no idea what happened. The assistant said someone must've come into the house when he left the front door open and went to his truck.
I said, "And headed all the way up to the fourth floor?"
The officer said he'd be following up with them, and would send someone to do fingerprints, as they would be fingerprinting our house. And the assistant said, "But there won't be any if the person was wearing gloves." Hmm.
I cried. I went on Facebook and ranted about the theft and the violation. But then I got to a point where I was like, it's only stuff. We're all fine. And we still have the Time Machine with the backups of all our pictures and my writing. We can always get new computers.
Thursday it occurred to me that I ought to find the backup and start figuring out how to get all the data onto Nick's computer. I walked over to the bookcase in the front of the living room, a location fully visible from the front windows.
It was gone. I went into hysterics. I couldn't breathe, I was crying so hard. Who would do this?
Every baby picture. Every picture. Everything I'd ever written. The book I may or may never finish. Writing samples. Gone. Who would take the data backup? I called Nick, sobbing.
I put it up on Facebook. Friends were so sympathetic, so kind, so upset on my behalf. Who would do this?
I cried for practically two days straight. I did nothing about Christmas presents. Nick tried to console me, but I was inconsolable.
Saturday we went to the Mac store, and I brought the specs for my 2009 laptop, which I loved. I explained what had happened and said I wanted to get something comparable.
The guy, who was very nice, said that mine was old enough that anything I picked would blow me away by comparison. And "No offense, but I'm not sure why anyone would steal your laptop at this point."
And then I told him that they also took the backup. He said, "Who would do that?" And then I started to cry.
Really, I wasn't fit to be anywhere.
Oh, and also, we had The Lice! None of us were fit to be anywhere. I combed through my hair that morning in addition to the kids. And I had nits. Nick found nits.
We were all lousy and had no photos of our children. I'd washed my mom's pillows early in the week and a feather pillow had broken. We still have tiny feathers flying out during spin cycle.
I can take a lot, but this was my breaking point.
All the washing, all the bed making. All the memories. I sat down and sobbed and sobbed. I just couldn't deal.
Kristin messaged me from Geneva saying she was worried I was in crisis. I was.
So I called a lice service and after the laptop store we spent all Saturday night being combed with olive oil and thoroughly picked over and bagging stuff up and changing beds.
Having lice seemed pale in comparison to losing all my pictures of my babies. I'd take double lice and have my stuff back! Which didn't stop me from wishing a pox and lice on The Assistant.
Why didn't he take my car instead? Why was I so stupid that I hadn't backed my data up to the cloud?
I may have drunk a lot of Leffe during the delousing.
Sunday I awoke olive oily but feeling more in control. The lice, nits, eggs were out, and we had a plan. We'll be greasy for weeks, but we're on winter break. It's fine.
Nick went to work first thing and pulled photos off his computer and found all the camera cards and flash drives he could and started loading every picture onto my new laptop. As it turned out, there were a number of them.
I had newborn Jordan and India! Some of their wee toddler videos! Our honeymoon! My dad before he died! (But what about all those pictures of four-month-old Jordan in the snow? What about...?)
So I kept crying intermittently.
I really was trying to pull it together.
Through this, Nick and I fought. Because what I heard him saying was, "I am fixing this! And you're not even grateful. Stop being so upset!" And I was all, it's a terrible situation. Why does he want me to stop crying? He doesn't even care. Asshole!
And then he was really pissed that he was doing nice things for me and I was disparaging him. Which, yah. I could see that. After.
Then a DCPD detective called Nick and he said it did sound implausible that someone walked in off the street and bypassed easily salable goods and only took these very specific things. He was going to call the owner of the company and ask him to come downtown. Nick also gave him every scrap of background check information on The Assistant We Believe Is Guilty.
Things were really looking up!
That afternoon, as Nick was getting my new laptop set up with our new Time Machine, he noticed that our old Time Machine showed up as a Wi-Fi signal. Was this real? This meant it was close!
Which meant we could get our stuff, right?!? I texted several computer-genius friends to ask.
Also! If it was here, then we were wrong about The Assistant, who lives in Alexandria. We share walls on both sides. Was it really a neighbor, as he'd suggested? Had we defamed and disparaged the wrong man?
Thank god Nick hadn't let me find a thug to rough him up. (I do not actually know the criminal element, it is true. But I've been watching The Wire. And Nicole says she knows a guy.)
Nick called the police, who came over and said that the signal was clearly very close. They asked if we'd checked the house. Who else lived here? And did we trust our tenants? Neighbors. We should suspect everyone
One officer said, "I tell people who have been burgled to check the whole house, because robbers often defecate in a corner. Really. It's all about the power trip. Could be any of your neighbors. Nothing is weird to us at this point."
They left, and we set about getting into the old Time Machine to import the files. My dear Vik told me how to find it on the new laptop and get into files to drag them. He sent screen shots. A bit later our friend David, who works at Apple, got involved and took over my computer. Nick ran off to Best Buy to get an external hard drive, because it was a lot of data.
The pictures! The writing! We could get the files! Which, really, was the most important thing to me! Things were really taking a turn for the better!
I was afraid to get too excited. I didn't want to share any news until it was really real.
The time estimate for download was 10 days(!!), because the wireless signal was good but we had hundreds of gigs of data.
Nick downloaded an app on his phone to help him find the strongest signal. This, he decided, would lead him to the neighbor. And would also speed up the download, which hopefully would complete before the neighbor took it offline.
Nick said the signal was much better upstairs on the right side of the house. This meant it really was one of
the neighbors that The Assistant described to the police.
We'd been maligning and wishing poxy lice on the wrong person!
I was terrified they'd turn it off before we got the files. I willed it to hurry. It seemed fortunate that I had kiddy bedtime to occupy me. And I didn't have to rush, because it was going to take 10 agonizing days.
Once India fell asleep, I found Nick in the kitchen and asked how it was going. He said to come upstairs. He'd show me.
This must be better than expected! All kinds of amazing files!
We bypassed the third floor. He led me up to the fourth floor, saying, "It wasn't a neighbor. The Assistant definitely did it."
Oh my god! Had he actually defecated in a corner? Left his mark?
While I was cuddling my girl, Nick was prowling the house, phone and laptop in hand, looking for signal strength. Second floor was better. The front of the third floor was even better. Signal was great.
He kept walking up the stairs, and on the fourth floor it was fantastic. Better lower, near the floor. He followed the signal, bending, crouching, ultimately crawling, laptop and phone outstretched.
It got stronger and stronger and stronger until...he found the Time Machine!
HE FOUND THE TIME MACHINE! Our Time Machine! Under a small table at the end of the couch. It turns out the Verizon guy had moved it several months ago when he installed Fios.
Except that for five years prior it had been downstairs on the bookcase in the front room. So that's where I went to look for it. I was so used to seeing it there, I never noticed when it was moved, and Nick forgot it in the hysteria and chaos.
I was like, "Do you think The Assistant moved it up here?"
Nick said, "Not unless he put the cable into the wall and then wired it into the network. That was Verizon."
I was horrified. I was like, "Now I look like the biggest asshole! I've been crying and complaining to everyone that we've lost all our pictures! And look! Look! We must never tell anyone.
You know how well that ever works for me. And what am I going to do? Lie to save face?
Then I was spitting mad. I felt so stupid. Particularly since Nick kept laughing at me. He laughed and laughed. When he should've known it was there. I never knew.
And then I was like, wait! This is the best thing ever! We have all our pictures! I have all my writing! Life is fine! All is well! And we've been terrible, accusing The Assistant of taking our data!
Everything is fine! We can drop the charges!
At which point Nick was like, "Lisa. I am still missing two gold watches, a gold ring, and my laptop. Your mom's watch is gone. And, may I point out, so is your laptop. We have our files, but someone still stole all those things"
Oh. Right. All the original stolen stuff is still, you know, stolen.
And Nick said good that it was inadvertently hidden, because why not take it if you're taking Apple stuff?
So. Here is my apology.
If you were one of the many people sending me hope, thank you for it. I'm sorry for troubling you. Please forgive me my idiocy. Thank you for your well wishes and love.
I'm embarrassed. But I'd rather be foolish and wrong, but have my files intact than be right and not have them.
I have to say, losing every all those memories, both photographic and written, and then having them back, has put everything in perspective for me.
Stuff is, at the end of the day, only stuff.
Lice are rude little bastards, but not insurmountable. Everything is getting clean and our hair is going to be spectacularly shiny. The feathers will eventually all eject themselves from the washing machine.
People are what matter, which is what it always comes back to.
And yes, photos are stuff, but it's also true that they are so much more than that. So you have to back that shit up and keep somewhere nobody can steal it. Or, uh, move it and not tell you.
This is the best Christmas gift ever. And it's something I already had. (Isn't that an O'Henry story?)