To continue from yesterday – daylight robbery.
If you’re a young girl in a foreign country alone you should have a healthy dose of paranoia. We’ve all seen Taken.
Travelling through Italy I felt like I collected a new horror story about Rome with every hostel I passed through.
I’d been expecting a full blown Lizzie McGuire Trevi Fountain Sing To Me Paolo moment but I was warned constantly to be extra careful in Rome, avoid the metro and don’t go anywhere yourself at night.
In Nice I’d spent a day on the beach with some people discussing what to do when we parted ways. I said I was coming to accept I’d feel most unsafe about Rome and relayed the most recent Rome story –
A man had bought one of those bumbag sort of thing that straps around your chest and over your shoulder, so you can wear it under a T-shirt and have your valuables close to you and not worry about who’s getting in your backpack. (Apparently kids in Rome can’t be prosecuted so they are used by pick pockets and will ‘play’ with the zips on your bags. Or they’re just kids. Do you see the conflict?)
Well. This person had supposedly worn their secret shoulder bag around all day and at one point decided to take a picture. He tries to slip his hand under his T-shirt to get into the super-secret shoulder bag, only to find his T-shirt had been SLIT OPEN through to the bag and emptied at some point without them noticing.
I heard this and I thought wow that’s skilled. But also kind of like, how can you really not notice? What’s going on in your life to be so distracted?
I’d asked people this question again and again every time I heard a new robbery story – surely you notice the person trying to steal your things? And I kept getting told no, these people are rob people for a living and have so many tricks to divert your attention.
Like bumping into you, asking you for the time, asking you to sign a petition, putting a map in your hands… There’s so many different ways you can be fooled.
In Valencia, Spain I was wandering around with a girl I’d met, on the hunt for croissants and deep in conversation when we were physically stopped in the street by a large man.
He woefully went on about how he’d been robbed and spent the night sleeping in the streets. He begged me and the incredibly sweet and funny Kiwi girl I’d met, saying his friend back home was planning to transfer him money in a few days and he just needed money to sleep in a hostel for the next few days.
He brandished a bank card and an ID card that reminded me of a Scotcard (a form of ID in Scotland, often not accepted because it’s so easy to manipulate) which didn’t bear much likeness to him, not that I could really see as he was waving it about. Perhaps on purpose.
He kept gesturing to his arms and the bites on them. Coming close and attempting to touch us whilst raving about disease. He was a big dude.
The point of the whole spiel was obviously to make us feel such an uncomfortable mix of pity and intimidation that we’d give him our money just to get away. The disease part threw me off.
I was in the midst of digging into TWELVE tiny brown sugar and honey croissants. My God, they were amazing. I was lost in the moment really living for these croissants and then someone is in my face asking me for money with a very elaborate story and seems to be intent on sharing an infectious disease with me. It’s too much. Can’t you see eating a croissant?
I love Valencia but I wouldn’t want to leave someone on the streets there. Or anywhere really, but especially not there. I wanted to help the guy as strange as his behaviour was, who am I to judge?
I went out in Valencia one night and left the club we’d all ended up in to go in search of a fabulous kebab I’d had the night before. I made it five minutes before I was basically frog-marched back to the club by a group of old Irish guys.
They spotted me walking myself, asked me where I’d been and who with, and politely but firmly returned me. Very kind gentlemen. They told me they visited Valencia every few years but last time one of the them had been attacked walking through the streets around Valencia’s Mercado Central, which is where I’d been walking.
A man came up behind him and chocked him out whilst a woman appeared from a side street (of which there are many – I don’t think I ever managed to walk the same path around the market twice) and took his passport, money etc. They said the police told them it was an ex-military person. What!!!!!!!
So the beggar/con artist/victim of robbery & disease sounded like he could be genuine. But at the same time, why would your friends send the money in a few days? Why not now?
If I rang up a friend and said I’d been robbed and have nowhere to sleep, I would not be like you know what, this is a hassle lol so send it tomorrow or the next day or something whatever I’m easy. Plus who has a bank card and ID after they’ve been robbed?
There’s a part in Hannibal set in Florence where a gypsy named Romula is supposed to use a sleight of hand manoeuvre to trick someone (Hannibal? I can’t remember) into leaving their fingerprint on her bracelet, which she intends to use as proof that Hannibal really is in Italy because at this point the guys been all over and people are fed up of getting their hopes up now.
“Romula was in a doorway, the baby cradled in her wooden arm, her other hand extended to the crowds, her free arm ready beneath her loose clothing to lift another wallet”
Anyway back to the beach in Nice – all the pick pocketing chat we were having reminded me of this Romula chick and her fake arms.
I was sitting with an American boy, an Indian boy and our Irish adoptive dad for the day, who took us to Monaco and didn’t kill us (love you Tom). So I asked if anybody thought a robber would really go to those lengths to steal your things, and everyone said no.
Fast forward to a few weeks later and I’m in Rome.
(Cont. in the next post because this has become a behemoth post)
Disclaimer – do not risk your life for a kebab