Getting robbed is a very invasive experience. Even if the event was completely devoid of violence or any perceivable threat, a theft can still have a way of lodging itself in your psyche like an unwanted house guest.
I had all of my identification, cash, and cards stolen from me on December 30.
Mexico City becomes relatively quiet around the New Year. Most expats will hop planes back home or head to the beach in order to help put the previous calendar behind them. It can be lonely if you forgot to book a ticket away, and for those of us left it usually means a lot of hanging out with little to do except drink mezcal, listen to music, play guitar, and pass the time.
This was the type of night I was returning from. I was getting a headstart on my New Year's Resolutions to be better with money and opted to take public transit instead of my usual 11 PM Uber ride home. After exiting the bus I began walking the few blocks to my house, Beastie Boys cranking in my headphones (I’ve been on a bit of a Beastie Boys kick after finishing their recently released and incredibly in-depth new book).
There’s a corner not far from the bus where it’s quite normal to see various ladies of the night plying their trade. They’re usually harmless, and as was my custom, a quick crossing of the street will normally take you away from any possible danger. So, I crossed the street, bobbed my head to “Intergalactic” and thought nothing of it until a scantily-clad person emerged from around a corner and grabbed my arm. Having my headphones in I couldn’t hear anything they said, but they had a strong grip. After a few seconds of me explaining “no” in various languages, I was able to shake the person and continue on my way. It was a few blocks later when I realized my wallet had been lifted out of my back pocket at some point during the encounter.
Fueled by anger and a need for justice - or, at least, a desire to not have to pay to replace all of my identification - I retraced my steps, hoping to find my wallet with the money gone by my ID still intact. My search was to no avail. A friend came to help me look for it, but we were eventually told by passersby to give up the hunt and go report my cards stolen.
The following night the city remained eerily quiet. My friend lent me enough money for us to go out to one of the city’s cooler jazz clubs in order to ring in the New Year. We laughed, danced, toasted strangers, and I was able to forget about the theft if even for a moment.
Since then, I spent the first week of 2019 calling banks and visiting Mexican immigration offices slowly piecing back together the contents of my wallet. It’s been a nuisance that I would rather not have to deal with, but it could have been much worse. All of those things are replaceable, after all.
The incident has hung over me though. But not necessarily in the way that you might expect. It didn’t scare me in any way that might make me want to leave this country. I actually still feel pretty safe here. There have been enough bad things happening in Toronto over the last 12 months anyway.
I took from it the usual lessons like “put your wallet in your front pocket at night,” and “don’t carry your work visa in your wallet,” and “pay attention to your surroundings.” But I also learned that, in a pinch, your friends will be there to help you out.
That’s one of the joys of travel, of stepping outside of your comfort zone for a time. There are other people there too, outside their own comfort zones. And we’re all looking to help each other out and make it a little easier.
Happy New Year.
Ty Trumbull, from his base in Mexico City, covers the entrepreneur’s journey, M&A and business continuity for ChannelE2E. On the occasional Tuesday or so, he offers views about his adopted hometown — his personal Dispatches from Mexico City. Oh, but sometimes he pops up in his home nation of Canada.