Mon 4 Apr 2011 - Mon 4 Apr 2011
Robbed on the Paris Metro
Yeah, no matter what you do sometimes you can’t avoid the entire bunch of “wrong place wrong time” experiences and boy was this one. Sometimes the best you can do is try to be diligent in the moment. Monica and I had been traveling from Caen in the North West back to Paris via train and two metro trips and we were very tired. Due to the constant picking up of the suitcases to travel up and down stairs I (Seth) was really tired and we both had gotten only a few hours of sleep the night prior. Well, we were on the home stretch and had just hopped on the number 11 metro to our final destination and it was kind of a packed car. Suddenly four or five small 12-14 year old girls hopped on the metro behind me but the strange thing was they weren’t going to find seats; they just stayed around me in a circle. Now you may have read countless warnings like I have about the tactics used in pick pocketing but until it happens to you it is hard to imagine what it’s really like, and believe me the pros are really good at it. I always keep my wallet in my inside coat pocket zipped up but today I spilled diesel fuel on my jacket and it was in a bag waiting to be washed (don’t even ask, long story)!
Seemingly all at once I started to feel like these small girls were nudging and tapping me on various parts of my body attempting to draw attention away from my closed back pocket, where my wallet was, and before you know it they jumped off just as the door was shutting to leave. These girls were pros. Feeling something was up, I quickly checked my pockets and immediately noticed my wallet was gone; I slammed the door latch open and ran after the girls. They were surprised and one girl, the one with my wallet actually re-entered the metro at the back end of the metro. Generally the thieves have an egress plan that involves most of the participants scattering in several different directions and in this case the girl with my wallet went to the last place I would’ve checked, back on the metro car. I started hounding them loudly saying “GIVE IT BACK” really loud and created a scene (just about the only thing I believe you can do, I especially don’t recommend getting violent in a country like this, imagine the response to a large adult man grabbing a small girl in a country where you don’t speak the language and the girl screaming in French, “Rape!”) This is the true genius and ugly truth of using small girls to do this job. Anyway, during my attempts to get back my wallet a local native Paris resident on the train pointed at the girl who had hopped back on the train and the gig was up for her so she gave me back the wallet. Off course, not after she had lightened it of all my cash (total loss 342$). I got the wallet and started checking for my cards and identification and gratefully it was all there; the girl was long gone. If this happens to you or if you see this happen don’t sit their passively like an inert buffoon like 99% of the people, instead get involved because the more people there are to help coral the thieves (especially if they’re children) the better the outcome will be. I don’t know what the laws concerning this type of crime is in France but I left her alone because first I am in a very (possibly over) tolerant socialist system society that may protect people, especially children, from false accusation and I don’t think 99% of the people on the metro were about to help testify to seeing these kids do this. The truly unfortunate thing is these kids are pimped out by someone collecting the cash they steal and god knows what terrible life they go back too. I go back to a nice apartment and get to see sites the next day while they are consigned to a life of crime in fear of whomever they answer too.
Lesson learned: lanyard your wallet off, put the wallet inside a zipper pocket inside your coat, never put your wallet in your back pocket-keep in front where you have a good periphery, try not to be a target by lugging around all your suitcases all over town if it’s possible, be constantly aware of where you are in relation to other people, when you go from one place to another check your pockets, use certain points as an event to check your pockets (going through the metro gate, getting to your platform, getting on the metro, etc…) and always go by the adage “if something feels wrong, then it probably is,” trust your intuition, if you are traveling and a group of people start simultaneously shoving into you--you are probably getting robbed and quickly take hold of your wallet, it may sound stupid but do some drills to were your first fast reaction is to grasp your wallet. That’s all I can think of for now, please learn from my experience and don’t get lazy or complacent.