Tuesday, July 23, 2013


The Burglar Wore a Straw Fedora: An Illustrated Guide to My Missing Stuff

An idiot in a straw fedora burglarized my apartment this past 4th of July, at 4:47 in the morning.

He was using his cell phone as a flashlight to rifle through jewelry on the dresser just seven feet away from my bed. He knocked over a bottle of pills. I woke up and saw him. I realized what was happening. I shut my eyes and pretended to be asleep. “He just wants your stuff,” I told myself. “If he wanted to hurt you, he would have done it by now. This will pass. He is wearing a hat.”

But rather than take the out my initial opossum instincts allowed him, Fedora shone his cell phone light in my face.

Directly in my face.

Let me repeat that: the burglar in the fedora shined a bright, blue-tinted light directly at my face, just before 5 a.m., while he was in the process of stealing my shit.

I lost it. On pure instinct, I opened my eyes and screamed, “WHAT ARE YOU DOING?! GET OUT! GET OUT!” Then I jumped up out of bed wearing only a t-shirt and underwear and chased Fedora out of my ground floor apartment.

As he ran out the front door, he dropped something on the carpet. I pursued Fedora      two feet outside my door before he turned the corner and disappeared. I didn’t want to push my luck, so I retreated back to the apartment. He was moving pretty quickly for a chubby guy.

I locked the door and saw that the object he had dropped was a cell phone.

I assumed it was my cell phone.

It was not.

It was his.

Fedora had left his own phone at the scene of the crime.

In that moment, I felt like a fucking rock star. I chased a man twice my size out of my house in the dead of night. I sat on the bench throughout my entire soccer career and I have adult acne that will sometimes bring me to tears but a grown ran man scared from me. And he didn’t do it for any emotionally clingy behavior.  But because I was not to be messed with. My adrenaline was pumping and I felt like I had to puke, but in a really great way. It was one of the shiniest moments of my life.

I was safe.

I called the cops. Set the paperwork in motion. Canceled my credit cards. Alerted the bank. Made coffee. Called my parents, who live 3,000 miles away. I did not puke.

I really held it together until they had me look at a photo line up of potential suspects. That’s when I lost my shit.

Have you ever seen a photo lineup? Why are all these men smiling in their mug shots? Do women smile in their mug shots? Who are these men? They looked awful. If I didn’t know which one had been in my room that night, then it felt as if they had all been in my room. That’s when the worst-case scenarios started to play themselves out in my head.

I felt angry to feel so lucky.

This idiot could have hurt me. He didn’t. But he could have.

While I (or rather, the authorities) have his phone, he made off with a bunch of my stuff. This is what I imagine he is doing with all the things he took to stop myself from imagining all the horrible stuff that didn’t happen to me.

Cracked I-pod

His buddy replaces the cracked glass for $34.95. He is disappointed there are no naked selfies. He listens to a particular Dirty Projectors song on the Most Played playlist. He doesn’t “get it.”

Flat Screen TV

Yes, he burgled the one house in the neighborhood where the sound on the TV is broken! After failing to sell it on Craigslist he moves it to the toolshed, and it stays on the Animal Planet for the rest of its sad life. You don’t need sound to enjoy Animal Planet.

NARS Heat Wave lipstick

He sanitizes it with rubbing alcohol. Gives it to his girlfriend who deems it "too orangey." Girlfriend gives it to her daughter to put in with her play make-up. Daughter loves it.

Driver’s License

He would have clocked me at 130 pounds instead of 120. (Broad shoulders. Happens all the time.) Uses it to clean the grime out of the grooves of his dashboard after realizing he knows nobody that looks like me and has a rule against giving IDs to minors. We don’t need high school kids on the road, let alone drunk high school kids.


After taking it to a pawn shop and discovering it is worth all of $17.32, he gets upset and throws everything on the ground of the parking lot. First the TV, now this! My grandma Mary’s ghost will direct a woman to find it. The woman will take the necklace my grandma gave me. Years later, my grandma’s ghost will make sure the woman and I bump into each other in the Denver airport. She will graciously return the necklace, putting an end to a particularly bad week.

Unwrapped TUMS

Throws away the top one, which is covered in grime. Puts the remaining two in a Ziplock sandwich bag and stores it in his gym bag, "just in case."

Hard Drive

It’s compatible with his PC! He is (again) disappointed there are no naked pics of me, or of anybody else. He reads the final draft of a script I wrote in college and agrees with my professor: it would have been stronger as a one-act. Copies most of my music and the one Top Chef episode from iTunes (why only one?!).  Wipes everything, sells it on e-bay for $75 (plus shipping).

Bobby Pins

He will put these in his girlfriend’s drawer without telling her. She will not notice the 15-plus bobby pins added to her collection.


His Doctor recommends he not use inner ear headphones as they aggravate his tinnitus. Gives them to the neighbor kid who mows his lawn.

Water Babies sunscreen

He feels a moment of guilt as he thinks maybe I have a kid, but he didn’t see any baby stuff in the apartment. Maybe the baby was at its father’s house? He knows how hard it is to try and raise a kid on your own. He drives to his estranged daughter in Encinitas to make sure everything “looks all right.” He moves her garbage and recycling up from the curb. Drives home. They will not speak for another two years. Maybe three.

Photo via wicker-furniture/flickr.

Meghan O'Neill is a writer and actress. She narrates the lives of JCrew models at jcrewcrew.com and spends the rest of her days updating her website.

48 Comments / Post A Comment


you have to put your weight on your driver's license in New York? *starts sobbing and clutching her MA driver's license fearfully. three more years.*


@antarcticastartshere Huh. I've had driver's licences in Arizona and DC, and I've had to provide weight on both of those. I never knew there were states that didn't require it. There must be a list! To the internet!


@antarcticastartshere I had to take mine out to double-check, but no, you do not have to put your weight on a New York license. Just height, hair color, and eye color.


@Emby Huh. I found a list here, but it would appear to be outdated (from 2008). It lists New York as NOT showing weight, and doesn't include MA as one of the no-showers.


@Emby Interesting article, by the by. Researchers have attempted to use height and weight data from driver's license databases for demographic studies, and found they couldn't. Too unreliable. Women lied about their weight, men lied about their height.

polka dots vs stripes

@Emby I had a NJ license until recently and they never required it.


@polka dots vs stripes I currently have an NJ license and thank god they don't require it. My MO license did and I tried really hard not to lie about it but MAY have shaved off a couple pounds, just by rounding down.

That all said, this is a GREAT story despite how horrifying it would be to wake up in the middle of a robbery.

polka dots vs stripes

@kellyography Oh yeah I totally wrote down the lower end of my 5 pound swing when I got a new license. It wasn't lying, per se, since on any given day that IS my weight!

Ditto to: awesome story.


@Emby The British Columbia licenses list your weight, but they only take that information down with your first one then transfer it to subsequent ones. My license lists my 16 year old weight which is no where near accurate.

Faintly Macabre

@Emby PA doesn't require it either. We do have height and eye color, and I'm pretty sure I could have lied to the woman who took my photo about either of those without them caring. However, the guy who took my paperwork after I passed my driving test noticed that my nails were bitten and chastized me.


@antarcticastartshere One of the most embarassing moments ever in my life is when I got pulled over in Maryland, driving on a florida license (where you do not provide your weight), and the cop leaned in and asked me my weight! I had a carful of coworkers and was so embarrassed that I jumped out to tell him, which they proceeded to make fun of me for. I can't BELIEVE he asked that, so nonchalantly. Ugh. Cops.

E. Dimples

@antarcticastartshere I put my weight on my permit when I turned 16. I have never changed the weight on my license. I am alright with this.
I also just checked my current one and my weight is not on there. But I do distinctly remember writing it down all of those years ago.


@antarcticastartshere: Oh jeez I feel you. I moved from PA, where they don't have a weight requirement, to CA five years ago. My then-boyfriend and I got pulled over one night for a non-serious reason and the cop took both our IDs (I was the passenger, and I handed him my brand-new CA license in which I had taken the leap of actually recording my real weight). He then looked at my license, looked me up and down, smirked, and said, "Are you SURE that's your REAL weight?" I wanted to die. And yes, it was! I know I'm a big fat fattie but come ON now really?


My boyfriend's license naturally provoked neither smirks nor really any scrutiny.


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@antarcticastartshere Nope, I think that was just a joke. I've lived in New York State my whole life and they didn't require it at least as long as 11 years ago when I got my learner's permit and still don't.


Huh. While you do have to provide weight and height and eye color in Alaska, I find it interesting that hair color is not reported. (But it makes sense if you're going to dye your hair a lot? Or are bald? Or just rocking the salt and pepper look like my mom?)


@xenu01 Ugh. What a twat. I never had to put down my weight, and if I did, I would lie. It's nobody's goddamn business.


@QuadrophonicSound In New Zealand, there is no appearance info on our licenses. Just your name, date of birth, date the license was issued and expired type of license, donor (if you want), address (if you want). Oh, and if you have any restrictions on your license e.g. must wear glasses when driving, can only drive automatic vehicles.


Uuuuuhh, waking up to a strange man in your bedroom has got to be one of the most terrifying things I can imagine. But one hell of a story.


@avocadosandwich It happened to me, once. A man broke into our apartment while I was alone in bed. I was only only wearing underpants so I wouldn't get out of bed. I just screamed and he ran out, with my husband's laptop. My husband bought me a nearly life-sized stuffed tiger to protect me after that.


@avocadosandwich I only *thought* there was a strange man in my house once and damn near had a heart attack - I've got to be the only person who ever calmed down from realizing "this is an earthquake!"

Meghan, you were brave in a completely frightening situation. Also, re:adult acne, get Mario Badescu's buffering lotion (talk about "no more tears!").


I know that feeling--I caught a guy trying to break in through my bathroom window and I actually chased him for a block in my socks. Kind of dumb--what was I going to do, tackle him?--but I flagged down a cop right afterward and they found him hiding under a tarp in a backyard about 20 minutes after that. Booyah.


@ragazza Yup, in college a dude came into my (unlocked) dorm room late one night pretending to look for my roommate. While he was talking to me he was clearly eyeing my wallet. I just wanted him the hell out of there.

After what seemed like an eternity of wondering if I was going to be raped or whatever (but was probably like 2 minutes), he grabbed the wallet and bolted. Somehow my pure relief and surpressed fear translated into the biggest rush of adrenaline I've ever had, and I chased him down the hall screaming "Give me back my wallet!!" Luckily he was about 6'7", so ran a hell of a lot faster than me and I didn't catch him (still not sure what I would have tried to do??).


@ragazza I chased a drunk driver down in my car once after he rear-ended me. Luckily there was a police car at the next intersection and they saw him plow through a red light and all I had to do was follow them to file a report once they pulled him over. But I was so indignant that this asshole had the nerve to try to drive away after hitting MY stopped car that I just floored it after him like OH HELL NO!!


Ug, as someone who lives alone and sweats out the summer out of fear of someone climbing through the windows of my ground floor apartment this whole thing terrifies me.


@Jen@twitter Do you have or can you get those little locks that can be installed on windows so they only open like 6-8 inches (i.e. too small for a body to get in)? I have them and they make me much more confident.


@formergr My windows do have them and that does make me feel much safer (whether that's a delusion or not is a different story). Ha, I still refuse to open the windows because the thought of someone coming up to my window and speaking through it is almost as nerve-wracking as someone coming through the window.

I've clearly watched WAY too much Law and Order/CSI/etc.


@Jen@twitter I once had a guy I was not-quite-dating who was a cop come to my ground-floor window late one night while he was on shift because he wanted to see me but didn't want to wake my roommate (pre-cell phone days). There is nothing scarier than waking up to a face at your window!!


I feel like the items stolen indicate he was playing around in her bathroom for a while, you know, checkin' out the makeup bag, testing the Heat Wave vs some Russian Red, deciding the pins would do even though they were the brownish match-your-hair ones not black ones, diggin' around the random stuff drawer for TUMS. I am imagining him humming while doing so. what a weird thief.

I'm Right on Top of that, Rose

@martinipie Yeah, he probably ran out wearing all that stuff - bobby pins, shade of lipstick, sunscreen = ready for the summer!


@martinipie Somehow that makes it creepier to me. I understand the motivation behind stealing my TV, and it's not personal. Stealing my lipstick and bobby pins is another matter.

I'm Right on Top of that, Rose

Well, Meghan, if it makes you feel any better, my four sisters and I are obsessed with the J Crew Crew, and no one can steal that from you. NO ONE.


That is the dumbest hat in the history of burglar hats.


Did he load the heavier stuff into a car before you chased him away? Was he making multiple trips? How creepy!

lucy snowe

Oh, I hope that woman does find you in Denver someday.

Someone once stole a very large painting I'd done in grad school. Not valuable to anyone but me, but I loved it. No idea how they got it out of the building with no one noticing. I've enjoyed picturing some person with no home using it as a ceiling, and appreciating it even more than I did.


@lucy snowe Wait, this didn't actually happen? I so wanted this part to be true.

This did actually happen to me, but the item was not stolen, just lost at a crazy party, and it got passed through four different friends before winding up on the finger of one who came to visit me across the country in New York.

It could happen. Did it happen? Please tell me it happened. I want to believe.

lucy snowe

@Linette I'll be clapping my hands to make it true, Linette!

Heat Signature

If this is what actually happened after burglars stole people's stuff, what a wonderful world it would be.


I can't believe this is going to be my second Hairpin comment saying I'm pretty sure there is not such thing as a "straw fedora." Fedoras are made of felt. The straw hat this kind of shaped like a fedora is called a Panama hat.

DISCLAIMER: I DO NOT WEAR FEDORAS (or any other kind of hat). I'm just a pedant.


I guess I should be glad we aren't allowing assholes like this guy to ruin another kind of hat? I feel like "Trilby" could be another good hat-metonym for dickheads should that ever become a thing.

Fear Biter

@stuffisthings And *I* can't believe that my first thought on seeing the title and pic was "stuffisthings isn't going to like that..."


@Fear Biter You can tell how adsdfaklsdfja; I was from all the grammatical mistakes in my first comment.

Proof that even the concept of fedoras makes you stupider I guess.

lucy snowe

@stuffisthings Did you know Panama hats are actually made in Ecuador?


Heat signature good others first likes your comment.


oh my god, this brought back so many memories--my mom once chased a burglar out of our house when I was in (& at, while this was happening) elementary school. she'd uncharacteristically left the front door unlocked after getting the mail, & then after hearing the floorboards creak in the bedroom while she was down in the basement, she came upstairs expecting to see my dad on a surprise visit from work.

she was so startled by seeing someone else that she just started yelling--"what are you doing?! get out of my house!" & then, after she realized he was still carrying a pillowcase full of her jewelry, "drop that bag!" I guess she was so "mom"-like that his guilt centers were activated--he left immediately saying "yes ma'am, okay ma'am, sorry ma'am"--& then she noticed he'd pulled his car far enough up the driveway for her to get his license plate number.

it was only after he'd left, when she was talking to the police, that she started thinking about Bad Things that Could Have Happened & freaking out. & when she was giving her description of his shirt, she was like, "it was velour...I touched it!" without even thinking about it, she'd been physically pushing him down the hall on his way out the door.

I'm sure "just yell at the guy until he leaves" isn't necessarily the smartest strategy for on-their-own women in the process of being burglarized, but there's something heartening about knowing that it can be effective.


Some guy snatched my purse/laptop bag while I was waiting for the bus last month. I chased him (in a dress and flip flops) for a full block, screaming every foul word I knew, before he jumped in his car and took off. Couldn't even get the license plate because he turned too quickly. But I'm with you--the "what could have happened" stuff scares me too bad to even think about!


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