We have a new contributor at Choke and Stroke. He is here in Berlin so he has written a story about his time in the city. Strange days travelling. As the saying goes, 'some days you miss a belt loop, others you miss 'em all'
Another first. We finally have some legal image to use for the story. Comes from his instagram!
The story of how I lost my card box
This is a story about how I lost the box for my favourite deck of cards. There was a cardistry event in Berlin. It went for three days. All the best cardists from around the world were there to give presentations, share ideas and meet each other.
It's the night before day one and most of the participants have arrived. We are hanging out in front of a bar next to the hostel where everyone is staying.
As the title mentions, this is a story about how I lost the box to my favourite deck of cards. It is a nice box. It has a cool design printed on it and I have kept it in pretty good condition. To keep it in this condition throughout the night while I shuffle cards I tucked it into my shirt. It wasn't entirely secure, but I wasn't really doing anything too strenuous that should cause it to fall out or get damaged.
We’re a group of around 30 people. Standing on the sidewalk shuffling cards. A passerby has to squeeze through everyone to get past and people with bikes have an even more difficult time using the sidewalk.
Most cardists are pretty excited to talk about their hobby. Especially this weekend. There’s a certain intensity in the air. Many onlookers stop and ask us what we’re doing. One person gets really interested and continues with questions such as “what do you get from it outside of shuffling cards?” This is a particularly interesting question to me.
Eventually we get one person who stops in the middle of our group on his phone. His look can best be described as ‘Dandenong Drug Dealer'. He stood there longer than what I would have considered appropriate for any reason that wouldn’t be a concern. I'm starting to get a pretty dodgy vibe from him standing in the middle of the group on his phone instead of walking through.
After some time he is off the phone and asks me what we’re all doing. The cardistry community are all so friendly and accepting of others, I feel like I should be the same.
"Magic. Like with cards." I say. It wasn't exactly true but that’s an easier thing to explain. I show him a simple trick to give him an idea. He seems impressed. He goes for the hi-five hand-shake and then starts kicking at my feet. Oh I see, it's a game. I return the feet kicking. He then grabs my hand, pulls me in and we bump shoulders. All part of some kind of bonding ritual I guess. He seemed satisfied and walked off.
I go to check my phone. I think I had a message from my dad that I hadn't read which I received when I was in the bathroom multitasking; checking instagram whilst taking a slash. My phone wasn't in my pocket though. I quickly check all my other pockets. I've got some cards, keys, wallet, more cards. I still have the card box tucked into my t-shirt, but no phone. Quickly I run back to the bar to get the keys to the bathroom, the last place I knew I had my phone. It’s not there. I check with the bar. It's not there either.
Where is my phone? Could that guy have taken it? Surely not.
"Hey man, are you alright?" Asks a friend. Someone I had met a few weeks prior when traveling.
"Uh... I can't find my phone. I think it was stolen."
"Oh shit. That's not good."
"Hey, Ben you alright?" Another friend I met on my travels. (Tristan from now on).
"Nah man, I think my phone just got stolen."
"Oh shit. Did you try retracing your steps?"
"Yeah I tried that."
Aaron asks: "Can you ping it from your watch?"
“Yeah. I’ll give it a go.” The out of range indicator comes up.
"Oh... log into iCloud from Aaron's phone and then you can remote lock it." Great idea Tristan. Aaron already a step ahead has his phone out on the iCloud log in screen and passes his phone to me. I log in. Aaron takes his phone back and immediately hits the ‘Lost phone’ button and starts to track the location.
"Oh, it's just up here a block or so." Yep, it has definitely been stolen.
"Okay - let's put a message in it saying please call... do you have another number? No? Okay I will put my number in.”
I felt so stupid. I sense of dread comes over me. This was the first phone I had purchased outright. I had waited for over a year to get it because I knew I would be traveling and couldn’t go into another long contract. I felt compelled to do something. Anything. Knowing I would always wonder what could have happened otherwise. I made the decision to go and look for it. I don't know what I was planning on doing. I'm sure the thief wasn't working in isolation. That’s why he was on his phone scoping out targets right? Would I be willing to get into a fight? Would I be willing to put myself at risk of physical harm to get it back? Would I be willing to hurt someone?
"Alright guys. I'm going to see if I can find him."
"Woah. What are you going to do? Do you think that's a good idea?"
"No. But I'm going to do it anyway."
Tristan sheepishly asks "Uh... do you want us to come with you?"
"Yeah. That would be appreciated." I see hesitation on his face. "But you definitely don't have to."
"Okay good. I'm really not prepared for a fight.”
I couldn’t blame him. I couldn’t say for sure what I would do in his situation. I appreciated the offer all the same though.
I walk off. Half a beer in hand. Confused, angry and shocked. I walk up to the area where the phone was on the map. There's a lot of hostels and apartment buildings. It could be in any of these. What was I really thinking? Like the guy would just be on the side of the street with my phone trying to unlock it? What would I do if I find him?
I see a lot of 'Dandenong Drug Dealer' types. None of them look like the guy. I'm getting angrier, more upset. The resentment is taking over. My head is filling with “what if I just…” thoughts.
Many people start talking to me as I walk past "Hey what are you looking for? What do you need? Cocaine? MDMA? Weed?” No. Fuck off. I don’t need any of your shit. One of the more persistent peddlers starts following me. I decide I don’t want to be hanging around here.
I get back to the group.
There's still about 10 people hanging out the front of the bar. Tristan nods at me "Hey man." Another guy I hadn't met yet comes up "Hey man, how's it going? I'm Brendon."
"I just had my phone stolen so I'm pretty fucking angry."
He slinks away. Fair enough. I don't see Aaron. I try and let it go. I'm alive. My phone is locked. I can still stay in contact with people on other devices. Maybe I can report it tomorrow.
Aaron comes back. I walk up and he pulls his phone out.
"Okay. It's still around this area. Oh actually it's a bit closer."
The group starts heading in that direction anyway. So we walk with them. Aaron with his phone out the whole time, updating me with the location each time it refreshes.
"Oh. Okay it should be just up here.
"Okay, we're pretty much on it now."
Everyone else is crossing the road. I dash across after them. Aaron calls out "wait." and tries to get everyone back on his side of the road. I realise he is standing by himself and cross back. Half way across the road I see the guy. It's definitely him. He's alone.
I approach him from the front. "Hey man! How's it going?" I ask.
He looks at me for a second before his mask switches back on. Confused he says "Hey man. What do you need?"
"Oh hey. Yeah we spoke before. Remember?" He looks more confused.
"Yeah yeah. Remember? I showed you the card trick?" He doesn't seem to remember. So I pull out the cards I had shoved into my pocket as I didn't manage to co-ordinate my limbs enough to put them back in their box that was still tucked into my shirt. This seems to jog his memory.
"Oh yeah. Cool. How's it going? What can I do for you?"
"Oh yeah. Good man. Hey... I can't find my phone. Did you take it?"
"No. No. No way man. I wouldn't do that." He pats his pockets... "Oh shit, my phone is gone too. I gotta go find it." He goes to cross the road.
"No. Wait. I had my phone before I spoke to you, and now I don't. Did you steal my phone?"
"No man. No I don't have anything in my pockets." He starts turning out the top of his pockets - revealing there was nothing in the first 2cm of them. It's a nice subtlety. I'll remember to use it in my next Card-to-pocket routine.
He again goes to move away and cross the road. I grab his arm. "No man. You have my fucking phone. I've tracked it to this location. Give me my fucking phone back." He again pats his pockets and opens up his adidas man-bag. Inside is about four phones that look like mine. Mine had a case, but it's not hard to imagine he ditched it.
I find this next part hard to believe but this is what happened to the best of my memory. I pull out one of the phones and go to wake it up. It doesn't turn on. I put it back, take out another one. The screen comes on. It has a message that says 'This phone is lost. Please call #########' the carrier is familiar too.
"Dude. I think this is my phone. Why do you have it?" I say as I call the number on it.
I look around. Aaron is approaching with the rest of our group. "Aaron is your phone ringing?"
I realise that I've had a group of 5 people or so behind me while this has happened which probably explains why the guy just let me take phones from his pouch. I show Aaron the screen and ask "Is this your number?"
"Yep. That's it."
I turn back to the guy. "This is my phone. Why do you have it?"
Now he has someone else standing with him but a circle of eight cardistry people surrounding him. His friend calls out. "That's not your phone man."
Livid, I unlock it. Show him a picture I took that day of me (yes I take selfies sometimes.) "This is a fucking picture of me that I took with my fucking phone. So yes it is." Still angry I ask the first guy "Why did you take my fucking phone? You stole my phone. Why would you do that?"
There's no discernible answer but a bit of a stammering, yelling from his friend and my new best friends.
I decide it doesn't even matter why. I have my phone. All the justice I need is knowing this guy is a fucking piece of shit and one day he will get the shit kicked out of him. But not today. I turn to walk off. Thinking everyone would follow, but I turn back to see that some of the bolder people in a group were still trying to get an answer from him. It's very close to a fight breaking out. There's 10 of us, and likely a few more from their group around the corner. There's some pushing. Some shirt grabbing... and then a smash as his mate cracks a beer bottle against a street pole to threaten them with it. The idea to walk has crossed the rest of our group as we turn to head in the other direction. The bottle smasher(now without weapon) is following us, swearing in another language and gesturing.
"Fuck 'em. I got my phone guys. Let's just get the fuck out of here."
We turn the corner. I check all my other pockets to make sure nothing else was missing. I find my cards shoved into my back pocket and decide I can finally put them back in their box. I tap my stomach - but the card case is missing.
The lesson here is never try and use a tucked in t-shirt as a pocket.