I Woke Up to a Man Standing Next to My Bed
- A Cautionary Vacation Tale -
There’s been a lot of news lately about the dangers of vacation travel — especially to the Dominican Republic. The fact is, anytime you travel out of your home country, whether for business or pleasure, things can go wrong and you may need help. If you’re in a country where English is not the main language it makes it that much more difficult to find emergency help and to communicate your needs.
My parents first bought their timeshare in 1986 and every year we’d travel down to The Bahamas for at least 3 weeks. For me, I can still recall every detail of that specific trip. Unit #2 looked out on the azure blue water and was a three level unit with a kitchen, living room, powder room and dining room on the ground level. A spiral staircase took you up to the second floor where the master bedroom and a guest room were located. The staircase continued up ending at the top bedroom loft which didn’t have a door. That was always my room where I could keep the curtains slightly open when I slept so I could wake up with the sun. I also wore earplugs periodically since I could hear everyone downstairs talking in the living room. The sound carried up like a bullhorn.
When we arrived at the resort, the cleaning people were still there as I walked around checking the doors. I did notice the lock on the dining room slider was not working properly, but as it was attached to an enclosed patio with a twelve foot high wall around it, I didn’t say anything.
We stayed in most evenings since it was hard for my dad to get around. For my birthday, my sister and I picked up some food from a nice restaurant down the street and brought it in. After a lovely dinner and opening some fabulous gifts, I decided to head upstairs to bed. I started packing for my return trip and had lots of things laid out on the other bed. Everyone was watching TV downstairs and with my parents poor hearing, it was turned up very loud so I wore my earplugs that night. That one night.
Somewhere around 2:15AM, in a deep sleep, I felt something touch my leg. I turned my head opening my eyes to see the silhouette of a man dressed in only a bathing suit standing next to my bed. Within seconds, I was on my feet running and screaming THERE’S SOMEONE IN THE HOUSE with a husky, rough voice. As I chased him down the stairs unable to say anything else over and over and over again, my sister ran out of her room as did my parents from theirs.
When I got to the bottom step, logic took over telling me to be cautious. I looked around the living room and then I saw the dining room slider slightly ajar. I also saw the kitchen door open. Both had been locked before we went to bed. They both lead out to the enclosed patio with that twelve foot high wall. I ran to the kitchen door still screaming. All I saw was the arm and top of the head of the intruder hanging over the other side of the wall. I stood there screaming into the wind THERE’S SOMEONE IN THE HOUSE, hearing only the ocean waves crashing and thinking no one could hear me.
There was only one phone downstairs in the unit. There was no emergency number posted on it and we had to search for the overnight call number to reach the security booth. It didn’t look like anything had been stolen as everything was in its place. When the general manager and head of security arrived, we realized that cash had been taken from our wallets. Credit cards and other ID’s were left behind as were our iPads and electronics. The odd thing was my moms purse, which was in a bureau drawer near the entryway, had been taken out then a rubber band removed from around her wallet, $130 in cash taken, the rubber band was put back on, the wallet was tucked back into the purse and the purse placed back in the drawer. This guy had time and he was a pro. In my room, my wallet was zipped up but $40 was missing and my Tiffany watch and another watch were gone along with a ring from my nightstand. He was only looking for cash and jewelry.
On the counter near the dining room slider we found two kitchen knives. One clearly had a fingerprint on the blade. Even with the slider latched, the guy was able to pull the glass apart just enough to slide the blade in and pull the latch up and open. I wish I hadn’t worn my earplugs that night...I know I would have heard something downstairs. The head of security reviewed the tapes and said she saw nothing outside. The camera was 4 units down and a large palm frond hung down covering its field of vision.
Two officers showed up and took my statement. When I finished my statement the officer asked “So what do you want us to do about this? Investigate it?” Hmm, I thought, ‘Isn’t that your job?’ I looked at the resort GM and said “now that everyone out by the pool knows what happened, I would think you would want to investigate this, especially since it looks like an inside job.” It didn’t take a CSI investigator to realize someone knew the slider was defective and that the camera was missing. Also, those knives came from another unit. The cops who were completely disinterested took some tissues and placed the knives in a used zip lock I handed them from the kitchen. One officer just said, “well you can buy new things.”
The Caribbean is one of the most dangerous places in the world (https://www.cheatsheet.com/culture/the-most-dangerous-caribbean-islands-and-countries-you-can-visit.html/). Many incidents like the one I just described are kept quiet by the governments who don’t want tourism to drop. Tourism for most of these islands is their main source of income. I was able to recover money through the resorts insurance, but I also had to sign a nondisclosure agreement. I cannot tell this story and name the resort nor can I mention anything on social media naming the resort. But I can tell you that the resort was decimated during Hurricane Matthew in 2016 and had to be leveled.
Nothing will erase the memory of what happened or what I’ve learned. Here are some things to remember while you are on vacation:
- Know your surroundings. Check all doors and windows for your accommodations and if anything doesn’t work ask the hotel/resort to fix it immediately or have them find you a new room
- Know the emergency number to call — it’s not always 911 in other countries like in the US (https://travel.state.gov/content/dam/students-abroad/pdfs/911_ABROAD.pdf)
- Don’t wear flashy jewelry and if you do, don’t take them off and leave them on your nightstand
- Wear your purse across your body and keep it close with all zippers and snaps closed
- Keep your wallet in your front pocket
- Place all valuables including your passport inside the hotel room safe
- Never chase after a burglar
- Keep a copy of your passport, credit cards and any other important documents separate so you can call to cancel cards or to contact the embassy to help you replace your passport
- Buy travel insurance
- If you are robbed or burglarized, make sure to get an official police report so you can submit it to an insurance company
- Check for travel advisories before you leave from the State Department website https://www.state.gov/
- When in an emergency situation, yell HELP, not There’s Someone in the House!
Having had this experience changed me forever. I am definitely more cautious and aware of my surrounding than ever before. I can’t wear earplugs ever again when I sleep. I triple check the doors to make sure they are all locked.
And now I work for HAVENLock, a company which wants to make sure all of our customers are safe at home, school and work. My HAVEN Connect gives me peace of mind and lets me sleep easier at night. Hotels, timeshares and Airbnb hosts would benefit greatly from the safety HAVEN products provide. For more information, please contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org.