It has been close to 2 years, but I remember every detail of that morning. We were on our way to spend Christmas with our daughter and my parents in sunny Florida. We were so excited to get out of the cold of Illinois, knowing we would have 2 weeks of swimming, sunning and family. The trip was well-organized as they always are. It is “my thing” to really plan well for vacations. I make lists of the things I don’t want to forget, I had the packages all wrapped and in shopping bags. The suitcases were filled with enough clothes for the entire trip so that we wouldn’t have to think about doing laundry at the hotel. We packed an overnight bag for our nights on the road, as we have always done in our 30 years of family vacations. It was what my parents had always done and it made it so much easier to pull into a hotel exhausted, and grab just the overnight bag. We were staying at a Marriott Courtyard hotel, in an upscale area with a Marriott resort and golf course. It was almost new, and we had stayed there a few months earlier. We were on the first floor, next to the exit.
I slept in my ugliest pajamas, the gray ones that my husband put in the dryer and turned into highwater pants. After all, it was just for the hotel on the way there. I was still sleeping when he went out to take something to the car the next morning. The first thing I heard was my husband opening the door to our room, looking at me and saying “it is all gone, I have to go to the front desk” and then he was gone. Stunned isn’t the word for how I felt. I couldn’t process what he was saying. I called my dad and couldn’t even speak. He talked to me while I walked (in my pajamas and barefoot) out to our SUV which had a broken window…and everything inside was gone. All of our Christmas presents, all of our luggage, my husband’s laptop which he had hidden under the seat, the CD’s which I had downloaded from iTunes, they even took our dirty clothes bag from the night before. They took the bag that held my scissors, and extra wrapping paper in case we bought more gifts while in Florida and my knitting bag. We had nothing left. We had the clothes that we had in the room to wear that day. They left our winter coats and our cooler. Everything else was gone and we were alone in a strange town on a Sunday morning, 8 hours from our destination, with a broken window.
I wandered into the lobby sobbing, where the front desk manager offered nothing except saying “bless your heart” way too many times. The desk clerk told us the same thing had happened to someone else parked in the same spot the week before. I found they were a bit late with that information. My husband went to a Home Depot store nearby and got plastic and tape to cover our window, the store opened early for him. The manager on duty didn’t even offer to help with covering the window, on a blustery cold morning with winds of 50 miles and hour, so I helped in my pajamas. He did finally offer us breakfast for free, as if we could swallow food. The actual manager of the hotel eventually gave us a free night’s lodging, and was very nice. That was after I wrote a letter complaining when I got home. The front desk manager should have been fired. He never walked out to look at our car, nor did he go talk to the police when they arrived.
We were lucky that we had a long-term relationship with our insurance agent. I could call her on a Sunday morning. She told us to start making lists of everything we had with us and go replace it. Our homeowner’s policy covered everything except for a $500 deductible. Our automobile policy covered the window repair, after a $100 deductible. We found kindness in the hearts of strangers as the hotel we checked into (another Marriott) guarded our car overnight, until it could be repaired. They also offered to go get us toiletries or things we needed. The salesclerks in the Chicos store that first night, asked my size and what I needed and liked, and they brought things to me…enough to get me through a few days of shock. The waitress in the restaurant that night asked a simple, “how are you”? When we told her, she used her discount on our meal. People really stepped up to help strangers in trouble, and we were so grateful.
We never leave anything in the car that we care about now. It is a pain to carry in all of our luggage for a long trip for just one night, but we do it. I make a list now as I pack of what I have with me. It isn’t easy to remember exactly what you have and how many of each if you have to provide it to the insurance company. We were able to replace all of the Christmas presents with almost identical items. We didn’t let it ruin our holiday, just the first few days of it. We counted our blessings that my husband hadn’t caught them in the act, or they might have killed him. We realized that stuff is just stuff and that isn’t what matters in life. We also learned that there are horrible people who will steal someone’s Christmas without batting an eye. We decided that they must need those things more than we did, although I’m sure that iPod, computer, cell phone and all those gift cards were cashed out pretty quickly. We also realized that there are wonderful people, who will step up and help a stranger.
1) Take everything into a hotel room that you care about.
2) Carry your insurance agent’s phone number (and home number) with you when you travel.
3) Make a list off what you have in your car and in your suitcase.
4) Save receipts when you buy clothing, it really helps when you are filling out the paperwork for the insurance company if you can prove what you spent on your shoes, jeans etc.