On our Disneyland day, the first time for all of us, we rose at 6 A.M. to be sure to get there early, as we’d been warned to do. We showered, dressed, wolfed a donut in the Comfort Inn lobby, and proceeded to our Hyundai, parked in back.

The right rear window was shattered. The front passenger door was open. Upon first inspection, we discovered that the ignition switch and all of our good hanging clothes were missing.

Most people would have understood immediately that they’d been ripped off. But we’re small-city Midwesterners. And for several seconds, a dozen explanations went through our minds (hit-and-run accident, in-car explosion of a soft-drink can, heat explosion, typhoon) before we were ready to admit even the possibility that we’d simply been robbed. (Eighteen hundred dollars’ worth, to be precise, and $350 in damage to the car.)

In fact, in our shock, my husband and I spent a good hour berating ourselves for having been so stupid: leaving hanging clothes in the car was an “open invitation,” we moaned, as was not parking under a streetlight. It was only on our fifth or sixth time around the subject that he stopped dead in the middle of our delicious little dirge and asked, “What’s wrong with this picture? We didn’t rob us. Somebody else robbed us.” Our ten-year-old son nodded in complete agreement.

A friend of mine here in Bismarck came home to a houseful of muddy shoe prints several months ago. A little while later, her husband phoned. She chewed him out, and then mentioned the window screen he’d removed at noon and clumsily flung into the yard. Finally he got a chance to tell her that he was calling from out of town and hadn’t been home all day. Together, it took them five reluctant minutes to figure out that their home had been broken into. If he hadn’t called, she would probably have cleaned up the mess without ever attributing it to a stranger. Husbands do inexplicable things all the time, but robberies don’t happen every day around here.

Around here, people who speed through residential sections of town can still catch a hoseful of water in the face or run the risk of their license number being recorded. (And if the police are called, they’ll actually look into the matter and talk to the culprit.) We don’t ordinarily lock our pickups unless our guns are in the rack. Many of us don’t even lock our doors at night, or at least don’t lose any sleep if we can’t remember whether we locked them. We read in “Nubs of the News” once a week about the handful of burglaries that occur. Juvenile crime, around here, amounts to a lot of toilet paper in a lot of trees near Halloween, some loud parties, an occasional stolen bike, and an open container or two as the kids cruise Main.

This is not to say that there’s no crime problem in God’s country, only that it exists in pockets that it’s easy (at least so far) to stay out of. And until I visited Anaheim, home of “The happiest place on earth” (and Disneyland really is all the good things you’ve read about it), I had been able to stay out of harm’s way. I travel to Minneapolis sometimes, and could just as easily have been the victim of someone there, but it was in Anaheim that I lost, so to speak, my virginity.

And the analogy is apt. After the car had been repaired and cleaned, we had to drive it. I told my husband that sitting in it made me feel as if I’d been assaulted. The worst part was that of course we didn’t know who had done the foul deed; all day I wondered if they were watching us, laughing. At four that afternoon it occurred to us that they might return. (They had probably been inexperienced kids, the police told us, because even though Hyundais are easy to steal—which was news to us—and they had tried to steal it, they had botched the job.) At this thought we toyed with the idea of packing up and moving to a different motel. It was after check-out time by then, though, and we didn’t feel like packing up and moving, so we simply parked the car near the street under a streetlight. I listened for strange noises all night. What I would have done had I heard them, I don’t know. And hour by hour, day by day, we keep discovering things they stole from us, not counting sleep, peace of mind, and innocence.

Yes, innocence—mine. It’s one thing to read about crime, and another to become part of that murky soup “out there.” I’m sure there are very nice people living in dangerous parts of the country who would laugh until they cried to hear me carry on about this one little episode. Our car didn’t get stolen, and no one threatened us physically. We were lucky. Well, we know that. But still, those punks had no right to do what they did. No right. And I want someone to tell them that. The heck with law enforcement—did their parents know where these kids were?

Thanks to a kind, competent, nearby auto-repair shop manager, we managed to spend most of our day and evening at Disneyland in spite of our bad start that morning. We were so discouraged that we talked about packing it in and just going home, but decided that then the punks would have stolen our vacation along with everything else. My ten-year-old, though, was in a state of disbelief for days. He drove us crazy; the robbery was all he would talk about. I did my best to bend the event into one of those magic “teaching moments” responsible parents dream about but so seldom get, and my efforts paid off. Our concrete-minded son boiled my sage ramblings into something that seemed to satisfy him, and that more than satisfied me: “At night, the good people go to bed and the bad people come out.” Robbie, remember that when you’re 16 and your mom and dad demand to know why you’ve been out so late.