Había una vez un ladrón. Last week Tony took me out on a date to celebrate having finalized my Spanish residence visa. After what seemed like 100 steps and way too much money, I had my NIE. It was time to celebrate!
We went on a great date. Apps (cheese, duh) and wine in the Gothic quarter followed by a delicious, Spanish dinner of octopus, tuna, bull, and chocolate coulant at Cafe Manila.
We headed home via metro at the very early Spanish hour of midnight. As we were exiting up to ground level from the train station, I felt my purse slide from my hip across my back. I snapped it back in front of me and reached down. It was open (bear in mind, sometimes I am an idiot and forget to close it), but I turned around to see who was behind me on the escalator. It was a 20-something guy in a grey sweater and black jacket. Maybe it was the Olivia Pope in me, trusting my gut and all, but I grabbed his arm and told him to give me my stuff back. He looked confused and said he didn't know what I was talking about. I told him, “Fine, then tell your friend to give it back.” He continued to look confused, and told me I was crazy (literally he said, “eres una loca.”). I finally gave up and let him go.
By that point we were onto the stairs and I reached into my purse to check for my stuff. Phone, check. Turrón, check (whew, christmas presents!). K, maybe I'm an idiot and I had just left my purse open. Wallet........ wallet....wallet. “Tony, he stole my wallet.” The friend I'd made on the escalator was skipping a little too quickly up the stairs in front of us, so I ran to catch up with him and grabbed his arm again. “Give me my wallet.” Again, “I don't know what you're talking about.” “Yes, you do, give me my money.”
Tony, who was two steps behind, said, “Liz, it's here.” Tony had picked up my wallet right from underneath the pickpocket's feet. We knew he had dropped it. There was no other explanation for it being on the stairs. I thought for a second, but what else could we really do? I grabbed the wallet from Tony and let the guy go. We continued up the stairs and Tony asked, “Is it all there?”
“I'm missing my cash. 15€.” Ugh, annoying, but it could have been much worse. We started to walk away from the train station and I was thinking whatever, it's 15€, it's annoying, but it's not like he got my drivers license, passport, credit cards or anything else that would have been a huge pain to replace. We realized we were walking the wrong way (probably because Tony was following me and I never know where I'm going), so we turned around and walked back by the train station. I saw the guy. I jogged over to him and grabbed his arm again. “Give me my 15€.” He handed it to me. I kid you not. I asked for the money and within a second he had handed it back over to me - no questions asked. I won! I ended up exactly the same as if nothing had ever happened, but I felt like I had totally won.
Here are the important lessons learned:
- Pickpockets are typically out for an easy win. If you call someone out, chances are they'll get nervous and try to get out of the situation as quickly as possible. This guy was obviously working that train station exit. I called him out not once, not twice, but three times. If I caused too big of a scene, he wouldn't have been able to work for the rest of the night. For 15€ it wasn't even close to worth it.
- Pickpockets are after cash. He didn't take my phone. My phone and my wallet were next to each other in my purse. My theory is this: Stealing an iPhone takes work. Maybe this guy was an amateur, but I think that maybe Spanish pickpockets, at least, are mostly after cash. I guess that's one thing I hope I don't have to confirm on my own.
- I'm a fighter. Apparently when faced with fight or flight situations, I'm a fighter. Good thing no one ever tried to rob me in South Central or things may not have ended up so amicably.
Whew! That was adrenaline inducing. Given that I came out on top, I'm glad I had this experience. What European experiences are you #grateful for ;)?