When we were visiting my parents this past Labor Day weekend, I went to the local gym on Saturday morning. It’s a gym I’ve been to many times over the years as a guest of my parents, who are long-time members.

I arrived around 9:30am, and when I went to shower around 10:30am, I opened my locker and saw that the pocket where I had my wallet in my shorts was hanging open – and empty. My first thought was that my wallet had fallen out. I looked at the bottom of the locker, then at the floor around the locker, and then hoped that someone had found it and turned it in. I then reached into the other pockets of my shorts and realized that not only was my wallet gone, but also the wad of cash which I had taken out of the bank the day before, and my iPhone. And, one of the pockets had been ripped open by the thief.

I went to the front desk, they called the police, and they let me use a phone in an office so I could start canceling my credit cards (and ordering replacements). The police saw that the thieves had broken into a bunch of lockers, but there were only seven men in the gym at the time of the theft and only two of us were using lockers (the other gentleman lost his wallet and keys).

Of course, I felt violated and frustrated, and I knew a big hassle was ahead of me. I had no money or credits cards, no phone, no driver’s license, and I had lost a bunch of other things I kept in my wallet. Luckily, I hadn’t left any keys in the locker – the only key I had with me at the gym was my car key and the front desk of the gym was holding that in exchange for the locker key.

Here’s what I can impart from the experience:

  1. I won’t be bringing full pockets with me to the gym. And if I have to bring valuables, I won’t be locking them in a locker. (My dad had worked out earlier the same morning. He had his wallet, house keys, and watch in his locker. He won’t be doing that again.)
  2. The photocopy that I keep in a safe place, of everything that I keep in my wallet, was very helpful.
  3. The fact that my iPhone was backed up was awesome. I’ve always been a big believer of back-ups. You know it’s important, you know you should do it, but you don’t know how great it is until you need it – and it’s great.
  4. Having a password on your smartphone gives you tremendous peace of mind if it goes missing. (On the iPhone, set the “Erase data” feature to “ON” which means that it will “Erase all data on this iPhone after 10 failed passcode attempts.”)
  5. Having the “Remote Wipe/Find My iPhone” feature sounds like a great idea (I didn’t have that and now will).
  6. There were things in my wallet which I am no longer going to carry with me. Two examples: (1) Supermarket check-cashing cards because I never cash checks at the supermarket and because in most places you can get the “club member” sale prices either by asking the cashier to swipe their card, or by telling the cashier your phone number. (2) One check in my wallet – while always having one has come in handy, I rarely use it and have decided I can do without it.
  7. I had gotten into the habit of using cash for many purchases because I don’t like receiving large credit card bills. I’m now planning to use my credit cards more often and walk around with less cash and to make more stops at the ATM for smaller amounts, rather than the one, big withdrawal I was making a couple of times a month for convenience.

What I didn’t learn is to stop exercising. I throw that in because three of my friends joked about that. Kathleen and Brian each said the exact same thing to me, “You see – exercise is bad for you,” and Seth said, “That’s why I don’t exercise.”  Not!

And here are my two most important learning experiences:

  1. The time without my smartphone was an incredibly peaceful and freeing experience. I’m going to go “smartphone free” once in a while from now on.
  2. It’s not the end of the world when you lose your wallet. Before losing my wallet, while the idea of that happening was pretty horrifying to me, if I really thought about it, I would have been able to tell you that such a loss would mostly be a major inconvenience. It’s also good to experience something like this to help you: to maintain the proper perspective on what’s a big deal and what’s “small stuff”; to appreciate and be grateful for the important things in life; and to know that life goes on when this kind of thing happens.

Have you had similar experiences?

If so, what did you learn?