When I was 20 and studying abroad in Strasbourg, France, my mother and aunt came to visit me. They flew into Paris and I took an overnight train to meet them. I had taken this particular train many times over the previous months I’d been living in France, never with any problems.
Cue ominous music. (This happens a lot in my life, huh?)
I hadn’t reserved a sleeping car because:
- I was a broke student.
- I was 20 and could actually go without a good night’s sleep and sleep in a chair or something. If I tried that now, it would take me days and days to recover, during which time I’d be a total mess. Ah, youth. Wasted on the young, amiright? Now, you kids get off my yard! I have to take care of my cats!
I found a booth/room on the train that was unoccupied and settled my backpack on the seat beside me, leaving the backpack wide open and my wallet right on top. Of my wide-open backpack. I’ll let that sink in for a second.
*Sigh.* 20-year-olds. So pretty. So, so stupid.
Of course, as many of you have already predicted, when I woke up in the morning, my wallet was gone, which meant I had no cash, no credit cards, no nothing. Yes, that’s right, not only had I left my wallet on the very top of my very open backpack, I had put everything of value I owned in said wallet (besides my passport—not quite that stupid).
When we pulled into the train station, I went to the police and tried to file a report (my French used to be good enough to do that). My main concern was that I had not even one franc (yeah, I’m old—this was pre-Euro time) and I had to catch the train to the airport. Also, please note: this was pre-mobile time, so I had no way to get in touch with my mother and aunt, and they are not exactly the savviest travelers in the world (okay, Mom, let’s be realistic here—that’s just the truth).
In the end, the police officers told me they were too busy to escort me to the airport train and that since there was a transportation employee strike going on, I should just jump the gate because nobody would be monitoring the booth.
I could not make this stuff up, people.
I got to the airport just in time to meet my mom and aunt and my first now-infamous words to them were, “Got any money?”
I didn’t have a chance to confront the pickpocket who stole all my crap in France, and I’ve always kind of wondered what I would have done if I’d caught him or her.
Turns out I kind of got to find out.
Every Wednesday in Bangkok, my friends and I get together to maintain our solid 2nd place streak at O’Reilly’s trivia night. Wooooo, 2nd place! Whatever, shut up, we’re awesome.
Anyway, one night we were walking down Silom after the quiz. My friend Dani had her backpack on, and when I looked over at her, I saw a string hanging out of the backpack. ‘That’s funny,’ I thought, ‘She has a string coming out of her backpack.’
It’s like when I thought there was a little crab coming out of my shower drain, only it was a GINORMOUS COCKROACH. Just like that. By which I mean I was thinking crazy.
I followed the string out of Dani’s backpack…straight to an ancient MP3 player in some guy’s hands. At this point, my brain went into extreme slow motion.
That’s…that’s…isn’t that DANI’S ancient MP3 player?
That’s not a string…that’s her headphones…
That guy…is trying to steal her MP3 player…
Then things started to speed up.
“Dani!” I said urgently. “Dani! He’s—he’s! Stop!”
Dani stopped and we both turned around to the would-be pickpocket. We looked at him. He looked at us. And then I reached out and calmly plucked the MP3 player out of his hands. We looked at him. He looked at us. Then he did an about-face and walked very calmly and slowly away from us.
This is the point where I would like my mother, any relatives, and any other people who are going to give me a lecture on the stupidity of my next actions to stop reading. As far as you’re concerned, Dani got her MP3 player back and we all lived happily ever after!
Okay, so, for the rest of you, what really happened is that Dani realized her passport had been in the same backpack pocket as her MP3 player, and god only knows what else this guy had taken from her.
So, since he was still right in front of us, I reached out and grabbed his bag and pulled him back to us.
Oh, don’t worry, it gets worse.
Then I opened his bag and went through it.
It was only later that evening when I was reviewing the night’s events in my mind that it came to me—Holy sweet baby jeebus, that was one of the stupidest things I’ve ever done in my life.
Luckily, we were dealing with an extremely terrible and not-so-bright pickpocket, as he let us look through his bag without putting up any sort of fight. At all. He kind of shook his head to indicate he hadn’t taken anything else, but we weren’t really taking his word for it, you know?
Well, turns out he really didn’t have anything else. I guess that taught us a lesson, huh? Moral of the story: Always trust a bad pickpocket when he tells you he didn’t take anything else from you!
We finally let him go, because…I don’t know. Were there any other options? I mean, were we going to wrestle him to the ground and keep him there while we yelled for the cops, who were not going to show up? Or if they did show up, not do anything about it, anyway? He was maybe late 20s and smaller than either of us, so we probably could have done it. But, meh.
So we let him go, and he just faded off into the crowd. He still wasn’t running, just kind of moseying away. And it didn’t seem like he was moving slowly because he was arrogant; it was more like he was moving slowly because he wasn’t the sharpest knife in the drawer.
We spent the rest of the evening kind of in shock, like, ‘What just happened here?!’
You know what just happened there? Super Dani and Super Megan kicked a pickpocket’s ass and lived to tell the tale.
That’s my story, and I’m sticking to it.
Pickpocket: BIG FAT ZERO, BUT NICE TRY, BUDDY
Dani and Megan: 1 ancient MP3 player + 1 story to tell = WINNERS