An American Couple in Delft
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Tijuana Jail - another police story

Philadelphia advertises itself as "the city that loves you back." As much as I love Paris, it sure doesn’t seem to love me back which prompts another story that required a trip to a police station.

Lynn had two days of meetings in Versailles, France. Versailles, once the home to King Louis, is a near suburb of Paris. When Lynn asked if I wanted to accompany her (this time by train!), I thought sure. Two days in Paris for the price of a train ticket. Such a deal.

We got off Thalys, the high-speed train from the Netherlands, and changed to the Paris Metro for a few stops to a regional rail station where we could catch the train to Versailles. Pulling a small suitcase on which was mounted Lynn’s computer and lugging my own backpack, I looked like Mr. Tourist from America, I’m sure. The train pulled into the station and we walked forward a few feet to the door from which people were disembarking. We were standing facing the direction the train was going, perpendicular to the door. The train was about six inches from my right shoulder and Lynn was at my left shoulder. The handle of the suitcase was in my right hand slightly behind me.

Everyone who was getting off was now off and as I started to lift the suitcase, some kid came up on my right to pass me getting in. He kind of shoved me to the left a little and stepped over the suitcase. "What the hell is this?" I thought. I gave him very little room but he was small enough to jump ahead. He went up the steps of the train and turned around. "What the hell is he doing?" I thought. I pulled the suitcase in front of me and started to lift it with both hands as Lynn, still on my left, walked up the steps. With the suitcase in front of me and this person still standing there, he made a half-hearted attempt to help me lift the suitcase which I neither needed nor wanted. "What? Is he now trying to make amends for being a schmuck?" I thought. He never actually gave me any assistance but as soon as I had both feet on the train, he went around me on the other side and got off the train. "What the hell was that all about?" I wondered and I took my seat next to Lynn. This whole thing lasted about ten seconds and she was unaware of anything.

I took off my coat, got situated, and made sure that the next stop was what it was supposed to be if we were going in the right direction. Then I started to tell Lynn what had happened and as I did, I glanced at my pocket and knew instantly that I had been robbed. I was wearing cargo pants and my wallet was in the lower right side pocket which I dutifully keep snapped shut with both snaps. As aware as I am of pickpockets, especially in the Paris Metro, this little son of a bitch distracted me for just a moment while a second (and I learned later perhaps a third or more) accomplice hit my pocket as I lifted the suitcase and the first perp offered assistance.

We did a quick inventory of what I was carrying. Zero cash. Good. I hardly ever carry much cash. My Dutch Mastercard. Bad. Lynn had her card and the phone number to report stolen cards was on it so we called immediately which was no more than ten minutes after the incident. It had already been used to charge €250 worth of something. This would be the end of that. My debit card. Bad. This is supposed to be useless without a pin but these creeps were able to use it for something called Mondial Football, whatever that is, for €135. The card also has a chip in it that’s used almost everywhere in the Netherlands. One can use the chip at parking meters, to buy a candy bar, €.50 worth of hardware, anything, and this is why I hardly ever carry cash. The perp can’t use it but it’s as if I burned a €50 bill; I don’t have it and neither does anyone else.

Also in the wallet was my Dutch Rail discount card but it was a temporary one waiting for the new permanent one, so this doesn’t matter. My Dutch residence card was there which will probably be a bureaucratic nightmare to replace and cost way more than it should. But worst of all is that I lost eight or ten pictures I carry of my boys, some of which were from when they were early in single digits, about 25 years ago.

The good thing was because of a decision I made long ago: I carry no American items – no credit cards, no driver’s license, nothing, because there’s no need for any of them here and it opens them up to exposure of this sort.

The bank said I should file a police report and could even do that with the police in Delft. That didn’t make a whole lot of sense so on the day I was supposed to be spending enjoying the sights and sounds of Paris, I went to another police station in the district of the scene of the crime, and spent almost an hour filling out forms and answering questions.

So what did I learn? I’m not sure. I carry my passport and large amounts of cash (it happens sometimes) in an unpickpocketable place. The problem is that it’s also very inconvenient for me to reach. Because it’s winter, carrying things above the waist and inside a zipped coat is good, but what does one do in summer? I carry a camera that is in a zippered pouch that attaches to my belt through a loop. The police said that’s not a good idea. The pouch is unable to be removed but the police said they are nimble enough to unzip the case!

Because I like to keep these pieces "G" rated and available to the whole family, let me say that I hope this kid and his friends ingest fecal material and expire. I really mean that. No I don’t. Well, I mean the first part but not the second. I’m opposed to the death penalty and don’t suppose they deserve the death penalty for pickpocketing me. But I do mean this: I could cheerfully put my fist through their faces, draw some blood, and break a few teeth. That would make me happy. And two to five in the big house would be okay, too.

See all my pictures of Versailles and of Paris. No pictures of pickpockets or police stations, though!

See a video from Versailles.

 

2008 Rick Wexler   last updated February 21, 2008