Second Theft

Some Vietnamese guy just stole your mother’s iPhone. We were enjoying our time together outside in a relatively safe, open public area that wasn’t busy because of the Communist Part of Vietnam. More specifically, the typical, scared shitless regulations it has imposed on its residents in an effort to control the latest COVID-19 outbreak because it can’t do so otherwise even with all of its big talk. So, as we were taking turns playing with you and drinking our chanh sả đá xay, he snuck up and then sat behind us on the slightly oversized concrete bench long enough to take her phone, which she had mindlessly sat beside her. I can’t blame your mother because the events unfolded right in front of me. After snapping a quick picture of her drink atop her hand set before the background, I saw your mother put the phone down somewhere next to her. Also, I caught a glimpse of the guy sitting behind us as my eyes looked to the left momentarily. Shamefully, he caught me off-guard. First, I should have picked-up your mother’s phone and put it in my pocket, which I would have done had she sat it between us rather than the opposite side. And, second, I should have known something was wrong when he sat behind us. I thought it was weird in the moment but didn’t really think anything of it because Vietnamese people lack etiquette and commonly encroach upon another person’s space, as far as common Western standards are concerned.

Neither the property’s security nor the police could do anything about it. By the time we realized that your mother’s phone was stolen, 15, maybe 30, minutes had passed. It was too late. We tried to call her phone and find its location on Apple’s Find My app, but it was off. I’m sure the thief shutdown the phone as soon as he knew it was safe to do so. The security men had told your mother that phone theft happens all of the time in that area, which was unbeknownst to us. That’s our fault. By the way, we have no faith in the police because it won’t lift a finger unless an adequate bribe is paid, we’re normal folks and it’s just a phone. The fuckin’ Vietnamese police will even make up a bribe amount based on nationality. No shit.

Find My failed to alert me at my Vietnamese phone number when her phone came back online around noon the next day despite successfully verifying it. Piece of shit app. I only became aware that it had been located because of my curiosity. Since we had not received any notifications from Apple, I opened the app around 4 P.M. to see if there were any updates and, to my surprise, it told us her phone had been erased per our instruction. Its last known location wasn’t far from where the theft took place. One day I hope to visit that location but I don’t expect to find anything. Let’s hope that Apple’s mapping tech is pinpoint accurate. Wishful thinking, yes.

Unlike your mother, I wasn’t distressed at the time of the theft. I actually felt relieved because we still had you. Child theft in Vietnam is nothing to take lightly. Children are sold into sex slavery or for their young, healthy organs. Sellers aren’t necessarily strangers, either. It very well could be a child’s mother or father. That’s how selfish enough of these people are. They’d sell their own children for personal gain. A good communist would say that they don’t represent communism, but they do. They’re a byproduct of the failed ideology. And, if you think child sales is likely a small, insignificant problem, think again. Your first world perspective isn’t applicable. This is Vietnam as of 2021.

Also, I found it comical. Something unwanted has happened to your mother’s phone about every six months, and this six-month mark wasn’t any different. I couldn’t believe it. We’re much better at recovering her accounts though but not without frustration. Although I can find some humor in the situation, losing many of our memories of you again really sucks because we can’t get them back.

Never in my adult life have I ever had anything material stolen from me anywhere in the world before calling Vietnam home. I’ve only encountered human kindness during the times when I mindlessly forgot things. One time I had left my one and only iPhone, an iPhone 5, and credit cards in the iPhone’s case on my airplane seat when departing. Fortunately, the person who sat behind me gave it to me as I was trying to get back onto the airplane. There were also three or four times when I left money in a hotel room after checking out. I didn’t even notice until someone had reached out to me, immediately. And, I had even left my two laptop computers at an airport’s screening area one time and didn’t even notice. A couple people from the airport’s staff had eventually tracked me down and returned them about an hour later as I was waiting at the gate. I wasn’t in a rush, luckily, because leaving those behind would have sucked. Those situations aren’t exactly the same as theft but someone could have easily kept my stuff. Nevertheless, in the short amount of time that I’ve lived in Vietnam, this was the second time we have had something material blatantly stolen from us. Two guys on a motorbike stole your mother’s purse from under my arm soon after we had left The D Bar on Tôn Thất Đạm after only one drink during my first year here.

It’s hard for me to always have to look over my shoulder. But it’s necessary because there are too many opportunists here. If it’s not someone who’s trying to steal something from you, it’s someone who’s trying to take advantage of you because the Vietnamese lack ethics as well. Your mother and I have been shaken down by customs agents, police officers and government administrators, among other so-called professionals. I don’t understand how the communist party expects its citizens to set good examples when it’s the biggest crook. Great job, communism! Great job, Communist Party of Vietnam! You’ve really taught your people well. Never give a Vietnamese person the benefit of the doubt.

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