Saturday, January 23, 2010


Until yesterday afternoon, hostel life hadn’t been all that different from hotel life. Apart from one Australian roommate who vacated the room before I even woke up the first night, I had the entire 4-person dorm room to my self, which was fantastic. Yesterday morning, though, when I paid for yet another night at the hostel, they moved me to a different room. The dynamic nature of hostels makes it so I can’t really stay in the same place, especially when I pay one night at a time.

I knew that moving to a different room was the kiss of death for my isolation. I had had a high bed number, which meant that they had dozens of other beds to fill before getting to my room. I was given bed 6—a low number. I didn’t worry about it too much, so I went out for the day.

When I came back later that afternoon I checked into my new room and discover that I did indeed have a roommate: a 20-something Sicilian girl named Graziella. The room stunk of tobacco and alcohol—her nightstand was full of cigarettes, beer, wine, and orange juice. We talked for a few minutes, wherein I discovered that she had been smoking in the room (against hostel rules), but had been doing it at the window, so “it was all okay.” She told me I could help myself to any of her drinks or food and then started calling friends on her cell phone to plan the evening.

Her plans sounded suspicious, and should have raised a few red flags. After discussing what to eat for dinner for 15 minutes (pasta or pizza, pasta or pizza?), she started asking about which pills she should pick up and which pills her friend had already bought. They weren’t talking about prescription drugs.

She left to take a shower at 8, so I Skyped Nancy and the girls from the empty room and then went out to find dinner. When I came back, Graziella was there, using her computer on her bed. I sat down on my bed and started sorting through the hundreds of pictures I took of the documents I found at the archives earlier in the day.

At 11 there was a knock at the door. A 20-something Sicilian guy—Graziella’s friend. She was surprised that he had come up to the room. He admitted that the people at the front desk said he couldn’t come up, but that he had snuck in with a group of tourists. Hmm… more red flags.

They chatted for a while until she was ready to go out for the night and by 11:30 they left. On her way out, Graziella ominously warned me that I should lock up all my stuff in my hostel locker that night. Everything. “There are bad people in Rome. You have to be very careful.” The hostel provides lockers out in the hall for when multiple people are in a room as a way to keep your valuables safe.

After they left I left the room to go the shower. I left my computer, wallet, phone, and keys on the bed. Since I was only going to be out of the room for half an hour, and since Graziella and friend were gone and I was the only person in the building that could get in the room, I didn’t lock anything up. I had been locking my stuff up during the night, but I hadn’t while showering, since I had been the only person in my room during all the other nights. I’m a trusting person. The only people that could get in the room were Graziella and the hostel staff.

When I got to the bathroom, I found Graziella and friend hanging out by a sink. We said hi and I found an empty shower stall. After a nice long and hot 20 minute shower, I went back to my room, gathered all my stuff up (including my wallet and keys) and locked it up in the hall locker. I then went back to my room and went to sleep.

I woke up at 7, but not because of my alarm. A drunk Graziella was pounding at the door. I opened the door and she stumbled in, collapsing into her bed.

Two hours later I officially woke up and went out to my locker to get everything I needed for today. I went downstairs to pay for another night. When I opened my wallet to pay, I almost keeled over with shock. It was empty. €170. Gone.

Everything else was still there—credit cards, IDs, even five bandaids—but all my euros were gone.

I ran back upstairs to check if the money had fallen out in the locker. Nothing. I back to the room to check in and under the bed. Nothing. I went back out to the locker. Still nothing.

Then it hit me. Graziella. My wallet was out of eyesight for thirty minutes yesterday, while I was in the shower. Graziella and her shifty friend hadn’t left for the night yet—they were standing in the bathroom. They went back to the room while I was in the shower and took my money. It’s the only possibility.

I went back to room, opened the door loudly, turned on the light, and let the door slam behind me. Sleeping Graziella didn’t move. I shook her bed until she woke up and then confronted her about it. I figured that since she was groggy and hung over she’d confess readily.

“I’m missing €170. Yesterday while I was in the shower was the only time I didn’t have my wallet, and you and your friend were still around.”

“No we weren’t. We left.”

“No, I saw you in the bathroom. You waved at me.”

“It must have been another Sicilian girl.”

“Um, no. It was you.”

“Well, you can check my purse. Go ahead and check it. You’ll only find like €5 there. Go, look.”

“No, I know nothing will be there. You would have spent it!”

“I told you there were dangerous people here in Rome. You didn’t lock it up and someone got to it. Not my fault.”


“You know, you are a very fortunate person. You have a Mac—a very nice computer. I wouldn’t worry about the money. Stop worrying about it. You’re lucky whoever took the money didn’t take the computer. It looks very nice.”

And with that she went back to sleep. I stormed out of the room and went downstairs to the front desk. I knew that the hostel couldn’t be responsible for the robbery—they offer lockers for this very reason. I told them what had happened, that I had left my valuables unattended in my locked room for 30 minutes and had been robbed by my lying druggie roommate.

The manager came and apologized profusely. He and the rest of the staff were infuriated. One of the front desk ladies remembered that she saw the Sicilian guy leave with Graziella last night. She yelled at him since she had told him an hour earlier that he wasn’t supposed to go upstairs. He waved her off and left.

The manager took me to the main office and I told him the full story again. He couldn’t believe what had happened. Then I told him that she had been smoking in the room. He immediately opened the computer reservation system and cancelled her remaining three nights. He moved me to a different room and again apologized.

However, he said, there was a serious lack of evidence. It was my word against hers, not enough to warrant a police investigation—she would lie or bribe her way out of it. While he was absolutely sure that she had done it, there was no way to track it down. The money had been spent on drugs or alcohol in some shady cash transactions during the night. Calling the full force of the police would be expensive, time consuming, and pointless. I wouldn’t be able to get the money back, even with a full investigation. He said the best he could do was kick her out and put her on the no-stay list.

€170. $238. Gone.

So, I realize that it is my fault. I left my wallet in my room while I showered. It’s my fault and it sucks. Big time.

Well, I guess it’s really mostly her fault. She, or her friend, was the one who took the money.

Either way, it sucks.


  1. Don't blame yourself. It's not your fault, you're the victim here. Actually, I think you should contact the police either way. If she gets out of it with a police file that contains a theft accusation, that's alright too.

    I hope you have access to other funds while there... Terribly sorry to read you had to go through such a crappy experience.

    But since there's little you can do about it, then forget about it and enjoy the rest of your trip!

  2. Oh man, that sucks. I am breathing a sigh of relief, though, that they didn't get your computer. At least it was "just" cash.

  3. And all your ID and credit cards... identity theft is worse than theft of cash...and what were you thinking? You really are WAY too trusting!! Msn, I don't even leave my wallet in my purse in my drawer in my desk in the library without locking the door!

  4. What a loser head. I'm happy everything else was there as well. Like Myrna said, Id theft wouldn't been crazier, but it sounds like drunken girl would be too stupid to figure any of that out anyway. Once again, loser head.

    I'm happy you confronted her about it too--:) Awesome.

  5. From now on, I'm showering with my money. :)