No one ever thinks they’re going to get pick pocketed until it happens to them. Sometimes you realize when it’s happening, and even if you can’t chase down the sticky-fingered thieves who made off with your wallet or purse, at least you got to see who it was.
The little punks who stole my phone on the Champs-Elysées on New Year’s Eve 1999 looked much like the teenage hooligans who got away with my phone and metro card at the Bal des Pompiers in 2004. In both cases, the crowds were simply too thick for me to catch them once I felt them leave my pocket (of course, once they saw the crappy seven-year-old antique of a cell phone they had ripped off, they probably wished they hadn’t bothered). In both cases I was also prepared, and ONLY carried the essentials (phone, metro card, enough cash for a taxi).
But on Wednesday I was just doing my regular thing. I gave a tour, stopped at La Poste, paid my bills, did some food shopping, met a friend for coffee. No big deal. The metro was considerably crowded and running slower than usual, for no apparent reason. It was hot and I was bored of being squashed into the small cars, so I put on my MP3 player and zoned out. But I always keep my purse under my arm. I’ve been here 13 years, after all. I’ve seen pick pockets. They’re good. Some are VERY good.
They Got Me, Again
I keep my cash in my wallet, which zips closed. It’s usually at the bottom of my purse, buried under notebooks, camera, phone, etc. Sometimes it takes me so long to find it in there that I think, “Dang, they finally got me! Good for them if they could get in there without me knowing.” But then I usually find it. After my mildly exhausting day, I stopped into a friend’s new bar in my neighborhood for a cool drink. It was then that I discovered that my cash had taken a vacation — permanently — from my wallet.
I think I sat there staring at the wallet for a good ten minutes, my brain not quite registering what was happening. There was no way I had spent it all. In fact I distinctly recall that pesky 50 euro note that no one seemed to want to take at the café that day. And my cards were all there. My phone, my camera…all there. So where was the cash? The only explanation I can think of is that, yes, they finally got me. Most likely on the crowded metro. There was no other time during the day when anyone else could have gotten that close for long enough. After all, it wasn’t a simple grab-and-run (thank god). Someone actually went into my purse, found my wallet, unzipped it, got out the cash, and then re-zipped it (I would have noticed immediately if the wallet was unzipped, because all of the coins would have fallen out).
Professional Pickpockets Look Just Like You and Me
I can only guess that someone on the metro (most likely with an accomplice to block the view from anyone else standing near me) did it. But of course no one on the metro seemed in the least bit suspicious. The suspicious ones are bad pickpockets. They’re way too obvious. I must admit I’m almost impressed at how good the thieves are. And also very happy that they left me my credit cards, ID, Velib’ pass, metro pass, driver’s license, Carte Vitale (medical card), and telephone. It’s so much more civilized to take the cash. No bother with insurance or police reports or changing PINs or cancelling phone subscriptions.
Getting pick pocketed is not very cool, and I wouldn’t normally go around shouting to the world what a sucker I am, but I’m hoping that this message will make it more clear to all of you that ANYONE can get pick pocketed, and that you won’t always be so lucky to only lose your cash. So remember to keep those bags zipped and in front of you in crowded places, and if you’re traveling, resist the urge to carry anything but the essentials. Because even if you have photocopies of all of your documents, who wants to spend the whole day filing police and insurance reports, calling the bank, or crying about irreplaceable photos?
And if it does happen to you, don’t be too upset. It happens to everyone. The Artful Dodger has to make a living, too!
To be prepared, read this updated article: Do Yourself a Favor: Be Prepared for Pickpockets