Florida: I’ve Been Robbed

Continuing series of posts covering my two years around the United States with my Rialta RV

Late October 2011

“Hey boss, sorry to call you like this on a Sunday night. Umm, the thing is….


I just got home. And I think I’ve been robbed…

They got my laptop…

So, yeah.


I don’t store passwords on my computer, but, we should probably change my company password…”

That was a Sunday night returning home to find my house door wide open. Someone took all my electronics. No signs of forced entry. But I should trace back to the beginning a month before.

In October, my ghost of a roommate decided to leave abruptly. This left the guy I was subleasing from, Matt, in a bind since his name was on the lease. But, he quickly found a new roommate, a coworker at his sandwich shop job. He was a tall, blond surfer looking young guy with a motorcycle and a great love for reggae, weed, and women. Probably in that order.

The two of us got along well enough and hung out sometimes. He wasn’t very organized, loved to party, but he was also really easy going and had a big heart.

But, one Wednesday evening, he brought a “friend” over. An older, homeless and unemployed guy who believed he possessed clairvoyant intuition and healing massage powers.

After he gave my roommate a massage, they went out to drink somewhere. But, this crazy guy came back at midnight in a panic about his lost medicine pills and a sickening tightness in his chest. He slept on my roommate’s bed, and the next morning called an ambulance. That was the last I saw of him.

A few weeks later, a bill came from the hospital. His ER visit cost over ten thousand dollars. He lied and gave our address since he clearly couldn’t afford anything.

My roommate regretted bringing him over.

I thought that was the end of it. But one Sunday morning, there were numerous odd signs in the house. First, my roommate was scared that his “friend” had broken in and stolen his cellphone. Second, there was a puddle of water spilled in the living room and a smoked cigarette in the toilet.

I brushed it off thinking it was the antics of my reckless roommate. After a few weeks, the truth was revealed that he was a real bum. He couldn’t pay rent and had been accused of stealing at work. Matt, the man on the lease, got in numerous arguments with him with each side threatening to call the police. In a desperate plea for cash, my roommate tried to sell his beautiful bicycle to me for less than $100 bucks.

Meanwhile, I tried to remain aloof and neutral, wondering how my luck of roommates was so bad in Florida.

The next day I went to my usual Sunday Zen night of meditation. Afterwards, Matt called me about the next roommate coming soon while I walked home. That’s when I noticed my side door was open…

I thought, “maybe my roommate came in a rush and took his possessions and left with the door open.” But then as i looked around, I noticed all my electronics were gone. My laptop, my friend’s digital camera, my Kindle, and other items. All gone.

A little later, my roommate actually returned home to pickup his stuff. In a state of shock, distrust, and anger, I asked him twice with cold disbelief whether he stole my shit. He was adamant that he didn’t do anything and blamed his old “friend”. He asked if I wanted a hug?

I never figured out what happened. I hate to believe my roommate who I lived with for a month would be capable of stealing. He was a fun loving guy, and I never once got a bad vibe from him. Even threatened with eviction, he reacted with injured pain rather than anger.

On the other hand, it could of been that homeless guy who had been in the house before. He could of easily climbed in through the bathroom window that my roommate chronically left unlocked.

My first reaction was to call my boss to let him know about the robbery. Then I called some of my Orlando friends to find a place to sleep and reset my online passwords.

The robbery was the last straw and marked the beginning of the end of my time in Florida. I would never feel completely safe in the house again such that for the remainder of my time in Florida, I would sleep with a hammer and a knife under my pillow. I know it was completely irrational and useless, but somehow, having them made me feel better, safer. Also, I would leave my backpack in my RV whenever I left home. Ironically, a year later, I would be robbed again except this time it would be my RV.

Another irony was that I had done a short, one day Zen retreat on the previous day, Saturday. At the end, the Zen master instructor gave a short talk. She said we meditate because something went wrong in our lives. That meditation training helps us recover in times of stress, lost, and hardship whereas most people would automatically react and lose their minds.

At the time, I thought her talk was a negative perspective on meditation. It was warranted considering the teacher was going through cancer, but I thought I also do meditation to be more alive, more aware, and more joyful.

But 24 hours later, after feeling peace at my Sunday meditation, here I was in a state of anger, shock, and fear. The teacher was right. Life, ever full of surprises both pleasant and painful, was teaching me the lesson I had failed to listen to the first time. It was almost funny to me.

I was robbed. Worst of all, I’m pretty sure whoever robbed me was someone I had known. My evaluation of the basic goodness of most people was challenged.

In perhaps the greatest irony, my next roommate who would move in just a few days later turned out to be an ex-con. If there was going to be a stereotype for a big, scary, and uneducated black guy then here he was. Yet from asking me for numerous favors though, I never had any issues with him, and he was just a good guy trying to get his life back together. Heck,, I meet his entire family and gave his homeless friend a ride. He loved to talk about girls with me. Despite his physical size, I saw him anxious and vulnerable a lot of times wondering if he would get a job or where to go.

A week after the robbery, I would have a heated argument with Matt about me leaving a month early, and him talking about keeping one’s word. I was pretty pissed off that he said that considering his former friend had bailed on him as a roommate and then his next tenant didn’t pay rent.

So, as the perfect Orlando winter climate began settling in, I was ready to leave Florida. I wanted to return home to recover where things were boring, safe, and predictable. By mid November I left behind Florida forever for Birmingham where I would spend Thanksgiving with an old friend in an empty sports bar.