What I’m about to describe is like a really funny Arrested Development episode. Of course, as it was unfolding, I took it pretty seriously, but as I retell the story, the reaction I get is laughter, even from myself. Still, I hope you can imagine, if you were in my shoes, how frustrated and angry you would be if this same thing happened to you.
First, let me say that stealing is one of my most hated petty crimes. I experienced theft for the first time while I was in high school when someone decided they liked a sculpture I made in art class enough to steal it. I never saw it again. I worked exceedingly hard on that sculpture and at the time, my heart was broken over how someone could just steal it. To me, they didn’t just steal the sculpture. They stole my hard work and the time I invested into it. So stealing it like that does not compute in my own brain because I cannot look at something with someone else’s name on it and think, I want that so I’m going to take it.
If you’ve read earlier posts, you also might remember how I responded when George’s toolbox, which my dad bought for him with brand new tools, was stolen out of the back of my car. Part of that was our responsibility because we accidentally left the tools in the car while the car was at a mechanic’s shop. But regardless of the circumstances, they were stolen and I was pissed! We ended up taking the mechanic to court and settled on $400 retribution to purchase replacement tools. I was thankful to get anything back at all!
And this brings me to our most recent experience. While in Seattle, George and I asked a friend to stay in our apartment, to care for “Hazey Jane” and to bring in the mail. Before we left, I had purchased an iPod Nano from Amazon.com that would sync with the Nike shoes that George had bought me for my birthday. I purchased both in hopes to keep track of my workouts, especially my running, since I’ve been training for several 5K races. I bought the iPod on February 15 and it did not arrive by the time we left on March 6. I told our friend to look for it in the mail because March 10 was the last day for it to arrive. March 10 came and went and the iPod never showed, so I was forced to contact the seller through Amazon and inform them the product I purchased never got there. I was frustrated, but it was the sender’s fault for not sending it with a tracking number and Amazon had a purchase guarantee, so I knew I’d get my money back.
On top of never getting the iPod, the morning we left for Seattle, I realized I’d left my phone at my sister’s house in Queen Anne. There was no time for us to get it before going to the airport, so my sister said she would mail it to us.
After getting back to our apartment, I went through our mail again and saw there was nothing of real importance in there. Not even bills or statements. It was all junk. I was a little surprised at this but I still didn’t think much more about it.
A couple day after being home, George decided he wanted to purchase a new racket because he loves to play racquetball at school. He made the purchase online and ordered it 3-day mail with UPS. On the sixth day, when it still had not arrived, George contacted the seller and they contacted UPS, who confirmed they had delivered the racket to our address three days prior.
At this point, my sister had sent my phone priority mail and I should have received it by this time. But I hadn’t. I could stop wondering, What is going on with our mail?
Since George discovered the racket had been delivered, he decided to ask our neighbors if they had seen any packages floating around the building. The first neighbor he spoke to, Jennifer, said she hadn’t seen any package but that she had been missing mail. For example, her grandmother sent her a birthday card with $100 but she never got it. George then went to the neighbor across the hall and who also happens to have all our mailboxes located just outside her door.
I have to preface this regarding this particular neighbor. Her name is Penka (pronounced, “Pinka”) and she is mentally challenged and lives on disability. She has a “mentor” named Marcia whose phone number I had because of the times we had trouble with Penka. Sometimes, Penka would be caught smoking inside her apartment and other times, she had tantrums, screaming and pitching fits that everyone could hear. So having Marcia’s number had come in handy when Penka was being disruptive.
When George went to ask her about his racket, Marcia was with Penka but excused herself to the bathroom. Penka stood at the door and George asked her about the racket.
“Penka, have you seen a package from Racquetball Depot anywhere around the building?”
“I didn’t take it!”
This was Penka’s immediate response. George didn’t quite know how to react, but being the sweet guy he is, simply said, “I don’t think you took it. I was just wondering if you’d seen a package…”
Penka started to fumble with her response, “Oh, um… I saw a package, but, um, I didn’t take it. I didn’t take it.”
“Okay, okay,” George said. “If you see it, will you come and tell me?”
Penka nodded and George went back to our apartment. Only one hour later, Jennifer, the neighbor who lives across the hall from Penka, came to our door to let George know there was a racket in it’s case sitting on the radiator outside Penka’s door.
At this time, I was at work. George called me to let me know everything that had transpired. And I finally–FINALLY!–put it all together.
“George, what about the iPod? And my phone?!”
“Oh my gosh!” The lightbulb came on for George just then.
That’s when I called our landlord, Nicholas. After talking with Nicholas, it was a tough situation because we were accusing a girl with a disability of committing a felony! Still, I was bound by determination to prove that she was stealing residents’ mail because as long as she lived there, she had perfect access to continue to do so!
The next day, on several different occasions, I went to Penka’s door and knocked. I was ready to confront her about the stolen stuff. However, she refused to come to the door. I knocked and knocked and I could hear nothing. But I knew she was inside because she is known for not having a car and for being home all day. After four or five separate attempts at talking to Penka, I finally called Marcia, her mentor. I explained to her what had happened when George asked Penka about the racket and told her about the iPod and my phone. Marcia wrote all the information down and assured me that she would “turn that apartment inside out” looking for our things. I was so glad that Marcia believed what I was telling her and decided to confront Penka herself.
Which she did. Less than an hour later, Marcia arrived. Penka finally answered her door when Marcia knocked. I couldn’t help listening in the on confrontation. Penka began to yell that she hadn’t done anything wrong but 20 minutes into the confrontation, I could hear Penka ask Marcia, “Am I going to get in trouble? Am I going to get in trouble?”
George and I live upstairs in our building and we have a good view of the next door’s yard. We could hear Penka and Marcia walk through our building’s hall to go outside. George was getting dressed for work and watched Penka through the window as she went to the neighbor’s yard, pushed some leaves and dirt out of the way, pulled something out, cleaned it with her shirt and hand it to Marcia.
It was my phone! She BURIED MY PHONE OUTSIDE IN THE DIRT! On top of that, it had been raining all day! George looked at me, shocked, and exclaimed, “She had your phone! She buried it outside! She took your phone!”
At this point, even we were laughing about everything that was taking place. I couldn’t take any more so I finally went downstairs to see Marcia and Penka. I told Marcia that I was the one who called and Penka’s, whose eyes were filled with tears, stared at me in disbelief. Marcia told her to give me my things. Penka retreated into her apartment and came out with the iPod and the case it came in. I proceeded to tell her that we saw how the phone had been buried outside and probably wouldn’t continue to work, so I would have to buy a new one. Marcia assured me that Penka would compensate everyone she stole from, including Jennifer, whose birthday card and $100 she took. Along with my phone, iPod, and George’s racket, she had also taken a shirt that Jennifer bought online, two CDs another neighbor had ordered, and a birth certificate, which she threw away because she didn’t know what to do with it!
Needless to say, Penka was evicted and moved out of our building earlier this week. I purchased the same model phone I had before, which was $382 retail.
Luckily for us, we’ve already received a check to pay for the phone and Jennifer was compensated as well. We’ve officially decided to get a PO box and to keep much better tabs on the mail we’re expecting to receive.
Penka is extremely lucky that no one wants to press charges. Stealing and tampering with other people’s mail is a federal crime and in her case, she’d probably end up in some type of institution. I am going to inform the local postal services about the situation so they are aware of her history, but only to protect anyone else who lives in close quarters with her.
She couldn’t explain why she stole anything. I figure she couldn’t get my phone to work and that’s why she buried it outside… I’m really glad she didn’t throw it away or flush it down the toilet.
So that’s the story. I hope you enjoyed it. And I hope and pray you never have to go through it. Or if you do, it’s as humorous as our experience. At least I got a new phone out of the deal and a story to tell for years to come.