A story starter · Choices · Co workers

A thief, a cross and a night shift

In 1992, which seems a long time back now, I was a very junior doctor, fresh out of college. It was a rural area and the hospital was the only one that served at least 20 hamlets around. Patients were few and those that came preferred to come at the dead of night. For that is when they fell ill. We junior doctors were on duty most nights- to be spared the night shift was a privilege of the senior doctors.

One dark night, it must have been in late October of that year, I was on duty. Our shifts were for 24 hours at a time. At around 1 am, I got called to go to Emergency and fortunately the case did not take too long to look at. I could get back fairly quick to bed- that I remember.

Shrieks and huffs and puffs woke me up. The time on the luminescent dial of my watch declared it close to 2 am. The sounds seemed to come from my neighbouring room. Shuffles and pushes and pulls were heard. Words like “let me go” or ” let it go” were audible through the thin walls. And then loud sobs and doors slamming. I buried myself in my blanket and my sorrows. I was newly married at that time- just a month or so and I was planning my escape from that hospital to join my husband at the hospital where he worked.

A few moments later, a knock sounded on my door. I opened the door to find my neighbour there. She told me a thief had gotten into her room through the open door and had snatched her gold neckpiece. At the end of the chain was a small cross, one of the two symbols of being married in that part of the world among Christians. She told me she fought the thief, the only thought in her mind being, to save the little cross. A costly gold necklace could be replaced but the little cross ordained by the priest could not be- could never be. The thief spared the little cross and ran away with the gold chain.

I wonder if the chain was ever returned to its owner, my neighbour. 26 years later, I was reminded of this incident because my younger daughter went to dinner at the house of this very same woman, yesterday. And she recounted this incident to my daughter. I remembered the scolding I got from this woman that night – I should have gone to help her fight the thief. I would have heard the shouts and struggles. Together we could have overpowered the thief. I don’t think so. I have never wanted to fight a thief- it is not one of my bucket list things. Live and let live is my policy. October 31 was my last day at that hospital. I went on long leave. It was a coincidence that the thief incident and my leaving the hospital were all consequential though totally unrelated.

The little cross( google images)

19 thoughts on “A thief, a cross and a night shift

  1. While a Trooper in CT many years ago, we were often summoned to the local hospital emergency rooms for something out of the ordinary. This was especially true on the nights of a full moon. Our individual activity log was also quite busy at these times. You find the unusual long night passes very quickly on those nights. Ms. Nightengale would not have needed her lamp on those nights in the Crimea.

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  2. That is an interesting story Susie and you remembered the details so well. The woman obviously still has an objection with you not helping to find the thief, 26 years later, even telling your daughter the story!

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    1. It was all coincidental- I heard shouts but didn’t realise it was from her room and I was half asleep- I thought it was from the hospital downstairs- we stayed on top of the hospital and noises carried in the still night- what is done is done.

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      1. It was a hard time, Linda- of my life. I had gotten married on September 26 and quit that job( left the job) October 31( This incident might have taken place October 30). I hated that job and was scared all the time of being raped or something when we climbed the three sets of stairs to our rooms on the top floor- all sides of the stairs were open. The police were called but maybe they couldn’t find any clue.

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      2. You would have thought the hospital would have had more provisions for their night-time doctors – now it wouldn’t happen (at least I hope not) … there are likely more women doctors now wouldn’t there be Susie?

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      3. Even the men were unsafe- it was a rural area- and people were not very rich, even the doctors but people always thought doctors have money and especially thought it was easier to snatch valuables from those that walked alone at night
        I forgot to mention that being married, she wore the gold chain- I didn’t have a gold chain perhaps- I can’t remember, so the thief spared me. I really couldn’t be bothered. I still couldn’t.

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      4. Good thing you only worked there for a short time Susie. Years and years ago at the law firm where I worked, a woman auditor came to look at the cooks of one of our clients. They brought their accounting books (all manually done in those days – long before computers) to our office and the audit was done in a conference room. Serpentine gold chains were a big style for men and women … men thicker chains around their neck and women had them, the finer the strand in 18K gold, the more expensive. You acquired multiple strands. So, the auditor came with a dark turtleneck sweater and multiple strands of gold chains. She wore a suit jacket. One of the attorneys suggested she wear the suit jacket buttoned or an overcoat or leave the chains at the office if she went to lunch – she did NOT heed his advice. While walking to the restaurant, a thief came along and grabbed those fine sets of chains right from her neck and dashed into an alley with them, never to be found.

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      5. Yes, sadly true and this had to be in the early 80s, as the fine gold chains were really the style back around that time. She didn’t listen and Detroit, even in the business district, you had to be careful. She was a target with all that jewelry!

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