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Don’t it always seem to go, Joni Mitchell once sang, that you don’t know what you got til it’s gone? That lyric works in abstract terms as a reminder to enjoy the moment and be grateful for the good things we have in life. But when thieves ransacked my workspace this week, I can affirm that I knew precisely what I had well before it went, and could consequently itemise precisely what had gone for the police report.
In the rich smorgasbord of human existence, the feeling of being robbed is definitely the offal course. Walking into a familiar space and noticing that some of your things are no longer in their usual place is a wrench in the guts that turns into weary resignation as you trudge around the space trying to figure out what was taken, while you’re glued to the phone breaking the bad news to everyone.
My home wasn’t robbed, fortunately, although that has happened to me before. Instead it was a shared office space where I hang out with friends who work in the arts doing things like painting and writing, and while I haven’t been there often in the past few years, it’s still a home away from home where we can play ping pong, listen to music - or could, before the speakers were stolen. It’s where I go to write articles like this one, at least before my computer was stolen.
I don’t know whether the thief has figured out how to access my files, but if they do, I very much hope they’re enjoying my three novels and hundreds of self-indulgent columns. Then again, if Johnny Break-and-enter is listening to the whiny songs I recorded on my hard drive in my teens and early twenties, he’s probably suffering even more than I am at this point.
Fortunately, I have all my files backed up both elsewhere and online, so there wasn’t much harm done, as much as I dislike the prospect of some unknown villain browsing through thousands of my photos and videos. They’ll think very poorly of me when they realise that absolutely none of them are in any way erotic.
Whether you think my backup obsessiveness makes me seem paranoid or merely prepared, I do not much care. Because once again, my lack of faith in my fellow human-beings has been entirely justified, just as it was when Australia lost the Ashes and Redfoo was invited to become a judge on the X-Factor.
For many years, I have approached life on the basis that I am going to be robbed, all the time. That might not make me, say, terribly cheerful, but it certainly makes me prepared for burglaries. Upon returning home each evening to discover that my apartment is intact, I feel no relief, merely the certainty that they’ll get me the next time, or perhaps the time after that. Because they will, as sure as eggs are eggs and ‘Hold The Line’ by Toto is a winning karaoke selection.
I learned to expect a constant stream of thefts when I owned my first car, a Mitsubishi Mirage, in the late 1990s. I was enormously fond of it, but it had one significant issue that was not mentioned by the salesman - the stereo. There was no problem with it - to the contrary, it was excellent. So much so that it was a particular favourite of thieves, who just loved purloining it even when I’d detached its detachable face. Apparently my car door was quite easily opened with a coathanger, although more often than not the thieves just smashed a window. Which I felt lacked finesse.
During my three years of owning the car, the stereo was stolen - well, I’ve lost count, but it was at least four times. Sydney’s egalitarian car thieves, bless them, were happy to nick my stereo no matter where they came across it. Once it got ripped off in a dodgy back street in Redfern, and another time it was nicked in one of Woollahra’s poshest streets.
It got to the point where I went back to the car expecting the stereo not to be there, and even if it seemed like it was, I didn’t trust the evidence of my own eyes. Which is perhaps why Mitsubishi named that model ‘Mirage’.
All these thefts have taught me that you shouldn’t buy anything extremely valuable, because it’ll just get stolen. Even when it comes to jewellery, it’s simply not worth it - spend your riches on holidays. And you should always have insurance, so you can replace your things when they are taken. Most importantly, you should back up your files as many places as you can, in a manner that is automated.
If you’ve never been robbed, then I doff my hat to you - but there are sufficient horrible people in this world to get around to you eventually. Just be prepared for when they do. At that point, you can dust yourself off, and say - well, at least I saw it coming. And if you’re the kind of person who constantly boringly nags others to back up their files, then the theft of your computer is, if nothing else, a wonderful opportunity to be smug. And I enjoy those so much I could almost thank those thieves if they hadn’t also taken the speakers I use to blast out ‘Hold The Line’ while I work. Burglars, like love, aren’t always on time. But they’ll get you in the end.