Wednesday, January 3, 2018

Pick-pocketing strategy

Hello everyone.  Before you stress out, let me clarify a couple of things.  First off, no, I'm not quitting my day job to be a pick pocket.  Secondly, again no, I was not pick pocketed.  So, where does this post come from?  I was recently in Portugal, and our tour guides kept reminding us that while tourism was increasing, so were pick pockets.  I didn't believe it.  And then I heard a story of a woman having her purse pick pocketed or stolen.  Whatever you want to call it.  I feel badly about it.  She's on vacation and loses her phone/credit card and whatever else was in her purse.  On the boat, I kept hearing that someone got their purse stolen but I didn't know who, until I was standing in line for the bookstore and the mom was the one who was pick pocketed.  So, I got curious and asked HOW?  It just seemed unrealistic.  Most people are quite aware of their surroundings and would know if someone is taking something.  She started her story by telling me that she is a seasoned traveler and that she takes all the usual precautions, but the pick pocketers worked together.  It was a team effort.  3 men working out a plot to distract and take.
Here's how it worked.  First person randomly approaches with a cigarette that looked like a joint and asks for a light.  She turns him down.  While mom starts arguing with someone at her table that it was a joint, another person comes up and asks to borrow one of the chairs at her table (close to her purse).  A few minutes later, person number 3 approaches for a light but it looks more like a joint.  While mom is trying to figure out what is going on, person number 1 (we think) made off with the purse sitting on the floor with no chair blocking access.  And by the time mom figured out that her purse was gone, the pick pockets were long gone.
We were walking through the famed Alfama district in Lisbon, famous for Fado.  Extremely narrow and crooked streets.  It is like a maze and that it historically intentional, but the point of the story is that our tour guide told us to hold on to our purses because this place is known for pick pockets.  Well, as we walked through these narrow streets, we saw 3 women hanging around a small square.  The tour guide said to us almost as a pleasant surprise "Well, hello ladies!" and she continued to tell us "Those ladies are pick pockets!"  She is the tour guide.  I didn't ask how she knew but there were 3 ladies gawking at us.  Perhaps planning their move, but it didn't work on us that day.
How do you tell a pickpocket?  Well, for starters, they are not looking up at the nice building or tiles.  They are looking at the purses of the tourists.  Makes sense?  I could have sworn that on our walk through a famous railway station in Porto, I saw a man stare at our group.  He was by himself but he wasn't really going or coming anywhere.  Didn't seem like it.  His eyes seemed more focussed on our waistlines.  Who knows?  Maybe from now on, everyone is a pick pocket to me.
Last pick pocket story - my parents got pick pocketed in Madrid several years ago.  My dad refused to travel for a few years after that incident.  I guess the pick pocket bumped into them or "accidentally" poured stuff on them and tried to help them clean up and by the time they were done, my dad was out of a wallet.
So, while travels to Europe can seem glamorous, they come with the price tag of stress.  I am constantly dividing my cash - both Euros and Dollars and putting them in different locations.  I travel without a purse.  I put my cash/wallet on the inside pocket of my zipped up weather jacket - an inconvenient location even for me to get to.  If the weather was hotter, I would wear an inside carrying bag, tucked inside my t-shirt.  Worse case scenario, I would tuck it inside my underwear - I know, eww and tmi.  At the end of the day, who knows.  Maybe I've just been lucky all along.  Word to the wise - don't trust a stranger (duh!) and always keep vigilant of individuals or people in small groups of 2 - 4 people.
I'll stop here.  I'm just quite surprised that I'm starting this year off with 2 posts in the same week.  Whoa!  What causes these fingers to type?  Your guess would be as good as mine on that one.

Gotta run, Best to all,

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