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Michelle Turnberg, Published November 11 2011

Turnberg: Others’ mistakes offer a learning opportunity

I am a firm believer in learning from the mistakes of others. Today you can learn from me: Carry a smaller purse.

Last Saturday night my best friend and I went to exercise. We parked in a fairly busy lot and proceeded to go on a 5-mile hike. We finished just as it was getting dark. I got in my truck and wondered what I was sitting on? It was glass. Someone had smashed in my rear passenger window and stolen my purse.

I am not the first person to have their vehicle broken into. I’m thankful we didn’t surprise the thief and end up getting hurt or worse. But still, simply put, being a victim is an icky feeling. It makes you feel violated and vulnerable. Knowing your personal belongings and information is in the hands of bad people is an uneasy feeling.

My huge purse held a lot. Gone was my phone and all of the pictures I had taken over the past 18 months. My wallet, which held my driver’s license, credit cards and gift cards, was gone. My camera, which I had grabbed earlier in the day, along with my IPod and jewelry – all gone.

I also had special notes and items from loved ones in the zipper compartment. Stuff that would mean nothing to anyone else, but which means so much to me. Stuff that just can’t be replaced. What makes me so upset is what I consider a treasure is now probably in the garbage somewhere or thrown out a car window. I wish the thieves would have just taken the money and valuables and left the rest.

It’s easy to take personal security and safety for granted. I thought I was smart by putting my bag on the floor, out of view, in the back of the car, but I learned a few things that perhaps should have been obvious.

- Park your car in places with a lot of traffic and lights.

- Keep nothing of value in your vehicle. It likely took a couple of seconds to smash the window and grab my purse.

- Upload your digital pictures as soon as you can. My adorable photos from Halloween, summer vacation, Twins games, and the first day of school are all gone. Had I just uploaded them, losing the camera would not have been such a big deal.

- Forgo the big bags. From now on I carry only necessities, and I keep them with me. If that means I have to wear a fanny pack while running, I will. ID, debit card, and a little mad money. That’s it.

The incident has been a hardship. My pleasant Saturday night was spent filling out a police report and cancelling credit cards. The jerks that did this got away with less than $50, which was hardly worth their trouble had they been caught. For me, however, the fiasco has cost me hundreds of dollars and lots of headaches.

A good lesson: You can never be too careful, carry a smaller purse and hide the good stuff at home.

Michelle Turnberg writes a weekly column in SheSays. She can be reached at michelleturnberg@gmail.com.