You may be familiar with The King of Paranoia and the Queen of Rationalization. Let me tell you a little more about the Queen of Rationalization. I have never been vigilant. I dropped my wallet getting out of my car in college. Luckily, I lived in Minnesota, where everyone’s kindness is above average, and a good neighbor rang my doorbell with wallet in hand. On another Boston trip I left my laptop at airport security and happily boarded my flight home. A month before leaving New York, my wallet was lifted straight out of my wide open bag on the subway. I didn’t even notice until I got home. That’s me. Ultra-responsible with most things in life, but oblivious with others.
Here is another situation for which I can thank my character flaw. On our last day in Athens, while packing, I noticed two things missing. The first was may camera case, which had the equivalent of $50 (no camera). The second was 12 crisp $100 notes taken from my wallet. Whoever swiped the money was kind enough to leave one Benjamin. The scariest part is that my wallet was always in our rental apartments. Sandeep carries around the cash we needed and I kept the stack of U.S. Dollars stored for later conversion. I never bothered to check the contents of my wallet because I figured there were always safe in our apartments. We have had cleaning people and babysitters, so someone we had trusted effectively robbed us. My mistake was that the wallet was loosely tucked under a pile of clothes or thrown into a suitcase rather than locked away or truly hidden. I was obviously upset about the situation (Sandeep was, to put it mildly, livid) but more than the money, we felt violated that it had been stolen from a place we called home.
Until our midnight cycling in Athens, we had never once felt unsafe during our trip. So far we have been to places that are conventionally considered safe. We are now in Africa, first Namibia and then South Africa, followed by Rio de Janeiro. These places have reputations for things more serious than pick pocketing and petty crime. In a way, if I needed a wake up call to swing me over to paranoia, Athens was the perfect time for it to happen.
We drove around Windhoek on our first night here in search of dinner at what was described as “a local African restaurant”. The more we searched for this elusive spot, the deeper we went into deserted streets. The only place we felt comfortable stopping for directions was at a Hilton. There, the valet gave us a long lecture about car jacking, not driving to areas we don’t know, and only visiting restaurants where a valet is on hand to guard the car. The old me would have brushed this off as crazy talk but the new me directed us straight to one of the better spots in town, where a valet gave us the peace we needed to enjoy an amazing Portuguese dinner.
We are not happy about the loss of money. I am also annoyed that I lost a great camera case. But since I never listened to the King of Paranoia when he told me to take better care of my stuff, this was the lesson I needed to prepare me for the rest of our journey.
Now I check my bags every few minutes. I have a constant eye on the kids. I hide everything in places only a mouse would find. My $1,250 lesson in vigilance has made me the Princess of Paranoia, at least for the next few months. Plus, I don’t know that I can ever fully let go of the Queen of Rationalization role.