As I sat at the edge of the Pacific Ocean watching the sun set, a woman approached me. She patted her belly and said, “How about a little money for the little baby?” I said no. “Let me tell you your fortune,” she persisted. No, thank you. She launched into her talk anyway. “Give me your hand. Look me in the eyes.” Satisfied that my wallet and camera were wedged tightly in my front pants pocket, I tried to humor the lady—anything to get rid of her. “Two people want to hurt you,” she told me. “They don’t want to kill you, just hurt you badly. I can do something about that, though.” I told her I wasn’t interested. Then I walked away and sat down farther along the boardwalk. She followed me, but finally left when I told her to leave me alone. It wasn’t until the next night that I realized my iPod was gone.
In retrospect, there were plenty of warning signs that I should have been more attentive to. The woman didn’t take no for an answer. She worked with a partner who tried to distract my friend Elizabeth. She used tricks to misdirect my attention. Ultimately, she was also quite good. I am still impressed that she was able to unzip the front pocket of my backpack and remove my iPod right in front of me.
Besides being short one iPod, the event impressed on me that property isn’t the only thing that gets taken in a theft. The world is a more friendly place when you can have a little confidence in other people. Part of that good faith in the world goes missing when you get robbed by someone pretending to be friendly. (On the other hand, if I really had that much faith, maybe I would have given the woman the coins I had when she asked. That’s food for thought.) Later, on the bus ride home, the driver offered to call ahead for a taxi so we wouldn’t have to wait at the deserted terminal in the dark. What would normally be a kind gesture then put me on edge. Would the taxi be safe? Would it take us where we wanted? The ride worked out just fine, nothing more than the kind offer it was intended to be. It was a reminder of why I dislike being generally suspicious of the world.
In the end, I thought of losing an iPod to be a small price to pay for the trip I had taken. I saw La Serena, the Elqui Valley, Valparaíso, and the beach. Though not cheap, iPods are replaceable. More likely than not, that’s what I will do when I go home. In the meantime, I am listening to the radio more, and that has its own rewards. It’s been more than three months since my music left me, and since I find it too exhausting to be cynical for that long, my good faith in people is back. That is, of course, unless a babyless woman comes asking me for money for her baby. If that happens, I’m grabbing my stuff and running like hell.