Gil: Lost and Unfound
By Michelle Gil, The Dartmouth Staff
Published on Wednesday, February 20, 2013
The fact that Murphy’s Law dictates my life was as clear to me as ever on the night last fall when my favorite sweatshirt was stolen. It was the day after I had bought a “fracket” at a thrift store in West Lebanon, and I promised myself it would be the very last night I wore my sweatshirt out before switching over to the new coat. Of course, that promise would be my downfall.
As usual, I tied one arm of the sweatshirt to a table leg at a fraternity and the other to a string of my friends’ jackets. When I returned later, someone had taken my sweatshirt. Graciously enough, however, they had taken the time to retie the next coat in the line back to the table leg.
Why is it that at a school for which our parents pay potentially over $60,000 a year, we have to worry about our coats being stolen? Why is it that every weekend, the Class of 2016 Facebook group is flooded with posts about lost jackets, often with valuable possessions left in the pockets? Why should I have to worry about having to walk home in freezing temperatures in the early morning hours because another member of this community took something that belongs to me?
Most times, the answer is alcohol. Drunk students grab the first jacket that even remotely resembles their own — though sometimes they don’t even attempt to find something similar — and don it as they move on the next part of their night. Often they think they are going home with their own coat, only to discover the next morning when they have sobered up that they have no idea to whom it belongs.
Quite frequently, though, they know that the coat they are taking is not theirs. A friend of mine once had her coat stolen only to realize that the person who took it had removed her phone and Dartmouth ID from the pocket and left them out on a table. Clearly, this person knew quite well that the jacket was not his or her own but still made the conscious decision to go home in it.
I don’t know if the people who take jackets that don’t belong to them ever wear them again. I’d assume some do, but just as many are unable to. A number of the stolen pieces have names of high school sports teams, summer camps or even last names on them.
I don’t understand why anyone would hold on to such a jacket. You cannot possibly wear it around campus without risk of being discovered.
So instead you are keeping apparel in your room that means nothing to you but likely holds great sentimental value for its owner. I realize that often people are too embarrassed or lazy to track down the rightful owner, but they could at least turn in the jacket to Safety and Security.
Still, some of the blame must lie with the victims. There are students who repeatedly lose jackets or have them stolen at parties, but continue to wear expensive North Face and Patagonia ones each time they go out. I have trouble mustering sympathy for these students. It is relatively easy to go to a thrift store or Walmart and purchase the cheapest coat available. When I go out, the only fear I have in regards to my jacket is that I’ll have to walk home cold, because I’ll only be out 15 bucks at most. Of course, I will never, nor have I ever, taken someone else’s jacket in such a situation.
One proposed solution that I have heard is to create a “stolen jacket exchange.” Whether held by a willing Greek house or organized independently, this event would be an opportunity for students to drop off any coats or other articles of clothing they may have taken throughout the year, no questions asked. In turn, people could search and see if their missing things were returned. There would be no judgment, because we all understand that sometimes these things just happen. But to leave what are likely hundreds of coats sitting unused in the wrong students’ rooms makes absolutely no sense and is a waste of perfectly good goose feathers.