February 2, 2014 by kittynh
I have had incredibly good luck with living and travelling in Europe. I had never been the victim of a pick pocket or robbed, so it was rather a surprise when during a visit to Paris I had my wallet stolen. It was my first day, and I was off to my favorite museum. I left my hotel near the Gare de Lyon and took the metro to the Gare d’Austerlitz.
I enjoyed a happy day of museum visiting, and only on returning back to my hotel did I find my wallet was missing.
I do have a few tricks I’ve learned over the years, so I was shocked I had actually been robbed. Lesson one, if you see a sign warning you of pick pockets, do not then go look to see if your wallet is safe. Pick pockets stand near these signs because most tourists do indeed check to see if their wallet is safe. Then the pick pocket knows where your wallet is.
Also, I learned, you keep your room key and some money somewhere else than your wallet. I lost only a credit card and four dollars US money. I also lost my drivers license, which I usually do not carry with me to Europe. My mistake and there is somewhere out there a terrorist or international drug smuggler with my name and sadly having to use my drivers license. It was a horrible photograph, and I hope if they are ever caught the judge takes into account they have already been partially punished by having to try to look like that photograph.
I also blame the nice bag I was carrying. I travel on a budget. I wear all black because I can pack for 2 weeks in a carry on if everything is black. However, someone gave me a very lovely expensive leather travel sling bag, and I was rather proud for once of looking like a cool traveler.
The bag is not only leather, but has all those cool inside pockets with zippers. It was, I thought, secure strapped across my body. Instead, it was a challenge.
When I returned to my hotel room, I looked for my wallet and found nothing, however I did unzip a pocket I had never even looking into. Inside I found a new cigarette (I don’t smoke) and a small calling card. I was informed by the staff at the hotel that rival pick pocket gangs leave calling cards, and the cigarette probably identified which member of the gang had done the actual lifting of the wallet. My husband and I were truly impressed, as that inside zipper pocket required a truly professional pick pocket to reach. We weren’t upset at all, a cancelled card and the poor pick pocket only got 4 US dollars. I imagine the card and cigarette cost might have cost more.
I carry what I do need in another pocket or safer place. Rick Steves, travel guru, once wrote that you should always have a wallet with a small amount of money in it for thieves. It’s your way of having something to give. In case of a robbery, most thieves will be happy with a wallet. I never carry enough that even if everything is gone it will ruin my holiday. Also, I’m on a budget, the poor pick pocket didn’t know I was going to lunch at McDonald’s that day, mainly for the free wifi! Hey, dinner was going to be fancy, and I wasn’t paying the wifi fee at the hotel!
I didn’t even report the robbery. I imagined the pick pocket at the end of the day with his or her gang, pulling out a horrific looking drivers license, a credit card without a chip to make it work in some places in Europe, at least for renting bikes, and 4 dollars. It was a far worse day for the pick pocket than it was for me.
The hotel staff agreed it was “The bag”. It’s beautiful, and will be used again one day I am sure. But it’s only fair I truly represent myself to the professional pick pockets of Paris. I don’t have anything worth stealing in there. Next trip, my usual beat up old backpack. If they want to rob that, fine, a leaky water bottle, a half pack of gum, a beat up guide book (I don’t have a phone that works in Europe, so I go old school for directions), and the 10 Euros for lunch is probably residing in my left sock. Or not. Hey I’m not making things too easy!
- Pickpocketed in Pisa: An Interesting Cultural Experience (anecdotes.typepad.com)
- Marge….it happened again (chatteringcat.com)
- Can you spot the pickpocket in this picture? The best way to spot or stop pickpockets … (ireport.cnn.com)