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Lessons learned. A hard way...

Three minutes, at most.

I pulled into the designated dry cleaners parking spot fifteen feet away from the establishment in the Trader Joe's shopping center on University in San Diego, rounded my car and opened the passenger side front door to get the two items to be cleaned. At the counter which faces the shopping center parking lot and my car, one of the two ladies helped me. “Phone number, please.”

She printed my receipt and back I went to my waiting car, the white SUV pictured above with the right front tire up on the sidewalk.

Foot on the brake and a push of the accelerator button; my car wouldn’t start.

Tried several times before realizing obviously I had taken it into the cleaners.

When it was not on the counter, the women who like me because I am a regular, graciously looked into current bags of dry-cleaning thinking they could have slid my purse, along with the clothes into the bag.

They hadn’t.

In seconds I solved the problem. Obviously, when I pulled out the two garments, I pulled out my good-sized leather purse which my friend refers to as my diaper bag.

Back the fifteen steps to my car in the hot afternoon sun to get on my knees looking under for it.

Not there.

Beyond puzzled and sweating my brains out, at this point, I sat myself back in the driver’s seat and within seconds was struck with a harsh and frightening reality.

My diaper bag purse and all its contents had been stolen.

Back in the cleaners, both women, along with a now-on-the-scene pimply-faced security guard, and a most helpful customer—a guy who stopped in to get his khaki shorts altered—became my support team as I alternately freaked out and cried and stewed in indecision and furor over what to do.

With no cell phone, I immediately realized I know NOBODY’s phone number. This compounded the s**tshow as I blubbered “What can I do?”

By the way, one insult added to the injury, I had pulled into the parking space managing to leave my right back tire up on the curb. My car would stay for several hours for all to enjoy rushed and sloppy parking job.

How did it all end? Actually, it hasn’t. Am still in the throes of recovering.

But that day, after moaning and cussing and agonizing, I finally thought to use the kind lady in the cleaner’s cell phone to call my hair salon and beg for the phone of my good friend who happened to be within three blocks of the cleaners, came rushing to pick me up, and drove me the five miles home.

However, at home, my car’s second fob had a dead battery. Two hours later, with a second close friend on the scene, he drove me during rush-hour trip to the dealership for a new battery for car fob #2, calmed me with a glass of wine and some peanut butter toast before we returned to the shopping center, not only to get my car but to scour the parking lot and surrounding area trash cans, hoping my purse and contents would have been tossed.

No luck.

Back home, I filed a police report and got a case number. Not long after, security at the shopping center called to inform me they had footage of the incident which they forwarded to me. I share with you, just in case…

Here’s the *@#*!!#@* thief, wearing a bright blue shirt with my purse stuffed under, walking brazenly between the cleaners and my white car with the bad parking job. He apparently ducked down on the passenger as I headed into the cleaners, made the grab, came around the passenger side for a bold look into the cleaner’s where I stood, before taking off toward University Boulevard. Bold. In bold daylight.

The thief got an iPhone8, three movie passes, two dollars, all my identification—credit card, insurance cards, AAA, my new glasses with progressive lens—and a bunch of stuff useful and important only to me, I think. My favorite lipstick and comb, my museum badges, the writing journal and pen I use regularly with all that’s jotted in it, and the index cards with my notes for the Monet to Matisse exhibition at The San Diego Museum of Art which I had just toured.

In addition to all of the above, I pretty much lost a week and a half of my planned life replacing, restoring, repurchasing all that I could from the theft of my purse.

My fault, I left the car unlocked. I learned that lesson, have finished all that I can recapture, and have purchased the same pewter-colored purse purse with unending pockets and zippers, which is pictured, just in case…

Lessons learned:

Slow down

Replace batteries when indicated

Limit attachments

Tattoo someone’s phone number on my body in an inconspicuous, but accessible place.


Serendipitously, a story about Bob Dylan arrived in my inbox just after I posted this piece. Maria Popova's email digest, The Marginalian, is most often way over my head in content, but I always gather something from her brilliance.

This morning, she featured Bob Dylan and a teaching he learned from the Hasidic rabbi Dov Baer, the Maggid of Mezeritch which the poet/songwriter pinned to his wall:

From a child you can learn

1) to always be happy;

2) never sit idle;

3) to cry for everything you want.

From a thief you can learn 1) to work at night; 2) that if you cannot gain what you want in one night to try again the next night; 3) to love your co-workers just as thieves love each other; 4) to be willing to risk your life even for a little thing; 5) not to attach too much value to things even though you have risked your life for them — just as a thief will resell a stolen article for a fraction of its real value; 6) to withstand all kinds of beatings and tortures but to remain what you are; 7) to believe that your work is worthwhile and not be willing to change it.

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Sep 06, 2022


So sorry this happened to you. Makes me Angry AF. I don't think I would be sane if I ever caught a thief.


Dammit! After I read this, I really got it ...what a bitch to have to contact all those credit cards/bank cards, etc. The drivers license, who knows what all. I hope writing about it gave some scratch to the outrage itch.


Mary Witztum
Mary Witztum
Aug 29, 2022

I am so sorry this happened to you.


Aug 29, 2022

Harrowing, Marilyn, and you must have felt so violated. Take care.

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