December 2013

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Saturday, December 28, 2013

I Am A Sit-Com Character 

A "funny" thing happened to me yesterday. I got robbed.

Well, not exactly.

After a nice week's vacation in Las Vegas, my wife and son and I planned to go to breakfast and then off to the airport. As usual, I was carrying the heavy luggage down to the car by myself and was in a hurry to get it done. I carried one full-size suitcase and one carry-on bag (my son's) down the flight of stairs to our silver Hyundai Elantra rental car. One strange thing that happened was that my car remote failed to open the trunk, no matter how long I held the button down. But, it did seem to unlock the doors, so I opened driver's-side door, released the trunk manually and loaded the bags into the car.

But, then I noticed that the remote also failed to lock the doors. I heard a faint clicking, but the door didn't lock. I tried to lock it manually with the key (first time I tried the key in the door) but the key didn't turn. Seemed like an artifact of some stupid modern anti-theft system that depended on the remote. I wondered how we were going to lock the car at the restaurant, but figured that was a problem for later; now I just wanted to finish loading the car.

I walked back up to the room, told my wife about the remote-control and key issues, and brought down the second suitcase.

When I got back down to the car something seemed a little off. I noticed that the trunk was open (I was sure I'd closed it) and then saw that it was empty!! WTF??? Somebody had taken our stuff in the one minute it took me to go up and get the other bag. Maybe they jammed the remote somehow (???). I asked around but nobody saw anything. We spent time complaining to the resort management and security who were nice and polite, and would review any security footage (didn't cover the car itself) for suspicious activity, but denied any liability, since I had left the car unattended.

We felt terrible and violated. It was too late to go to breakfast, so we just went to the airport, complained to Budget about the faulty remote helping to get our things stolen. From the airport, I called the police and filed a report (they wouldn't do anything, but maybe it would help to try to recover something from Budget, or maybe American Express had some coverage that would help).

The whole thing was very upsetting.

We spent the afternoon trying to console ourselves. It was only stuff that could be replaced. Nobody got hurt. The thieves got very little of value to them (lots of laundry, an old laptop, toiletries). My wife and son kept thinking of other things in those bags that were problematic (including lots of DRM'd songs from Apple, some photos on the laptop, a gift that I'd bought for my wife, a library book, etc.). And, there were things (including the suitcase itself) that were memories of my wife's mom (who died this year) that caused grief to lose. My son was worried that he should change all of his passwords (a process I helped him start with my phone).

But, all in all, I think we handled it pretty well. We were rattled, lost some faith in humanity, but reminded ourselves that we were still okay and had each other for support.

After we got home, my wife brought our phone to me and told me that there was a voice mail that I had to hear.

The manager from the resort had called to say that another guest had found our luggage. Apparently, the bags had been placed into their car.

What an idiot!!!! I put our bags into the wrong car!!!

We'll have to pay to have our bags shipped back to us, but we'll get them back.

In retrospect, a few things conspired against me.

  1. There was another, nearly-identical car parked in the area where I had parked late the night before.
  2. It was unlocked!!
  3. It didn't have any stuff in it that made it obviously not our car.
  4. They left right after I'd loaded it (it wasn't around when we were looking for witnesses and places for the bags to have been stashed).
  5. I was in a hurry and eager to believe that the car was closer than it really was.
  6. I wasn't familiar enough with the car to know that what happened wasn't possible.
  7. There must have been a large vehicle between the cars, obscuring the one the remote was working on.

But, I still feel really dumb. I should have been more suspicious when the key didn't turn in the lock. I think that since the doors had apparently unlocked, I had no doubt that this was the right car. Also, I should have noticed that it wasn't the same spot (I now think our car was two spots further away), but when I saw the open trunk I was too distracted to focus on that. And, I should have been more suspicious about the remote starting to work fine again (but I was already blaming the thief).

Also, nobody hearing the tale asked: "Are you sure it was the right car?"

But, I still feel really dumb.

We'll work on having our stuff shipped back. It will be an expensive lesson, and a good (but really, really embarrassing) story to tell.

I'm sure that some day it will seem more funny than humiliating. But that day is not today.


Sunday, December 15, 2013

Wealth Inequality Concern: Do You Hate Wealth or Poverty? 

I watched a recording of last week's Stossel today, and was struck by something that Johan Norberg said.

I'm paraphrasing, but in response to Stossel's mentioning the concern about wealth inequality, Norberg said something like "Those who are primarily concerned about wealth inequality hate wealth more than they hate poverty."

Now, I know that this isn't true about everyone concerned about wealth inequality, but those who are aware of the tremendous advancement that the poor have made due to markets should be cautious about calling for too much interference and redistribution. Unless, as Norberg says, they are more concerned with taking from the wealthy than the are for the longterm welfare of the poor.

It was a great point.