Sunday, June 27, 2010

Barcelona: Miscreants and the Metro

Dear old gent passing by
Something nice takes his eye
Everything’s clear, attack the rear
Get in and pick-a-pocket or two.
- Oliver

It was perfectly executed. The victim was a well-dressed man in his late fifties, 6’ tall, with pressed linen shirt, dress trousers and the look of an American car dealer on vacation in Europe (new cars, not used.) He and his small group were smiling and cheery, having the time of their lives in Spain – until it happened that is.

It was 11:20 p.m. and they were likely returning to their Barcelona hotel from an elegant Spanish guitar concert or a saucy Flamenco show. They had just stepped onto the Metro (Barcelona’s fast, quiet, efficient subway train) when the culprit put his plan into action. The miscreant and his accomplice were in the last car, closest to the exit stairs when the train pulled into the station. He waited until the moment Car Dealer stepped through the door to attempt to exit the train, bumping head-on into the soon-to-be victim. Immediately Bad Guy started hysterically chastising the innocent tourist. My Spanish isn’t strong enough to mentally translate more than a few words at that speed but I suspect what he was saying was along the lines of “You crazy idiot. Pay attention to the signs. You’re supposed to let passengers off the train before you enter.” It didn’t matter that Car Dealer had done nothing wrong. It was just intended as a distraction, and it sure caught my attention from my vantage point 5 feet away.

You read about incidents like this in virtually every guidebook in most every country. Though I never expect it to happen to me (knock on wood), there is a reason that virtually all the pants I brought on my Odyssey are of the Tilley variety with hidden pockets and Velcro closures (many newly re-sewn – thanks Mom!) Until you observe it with your own eyes though, it is hard to grasp just how it happens and how quickly. The entire incident must have taken less than 20 seconds from the initial moment of altercation. The commotion was over in just a few of those seconds and Bad Guy exited around completely bewildered Car Dealer and was on the escalator on the way out of the station. Immediately, one of the man’s female companions asked “did he get your wallet”? Almost at the same time that the man responded instinctively “no, it’s fine,” he patted his empty back pocket where his nice fat wallet had once been. Chaos ensued and instantly he was out the door and in hot pursuit, with his entire group of travelling companions just clearing the door and back onto the platform as it closed.

Too bad they didn’t see what I did. I’m almost certain that Bad Guy Number Two, who had also exited the train at the time of the incident, casually walked ten feet forward to the next door and stepped back onto the train. Soon after, we were in motion. If Car Dealer and his Pickpocket Posse ever caught up to their assailant, they would find him with nothing. Meanwhile, cash, and credit were headed down the tracks and gone for good, leaving nothing behind but a nightmare vacation experience.

I prefer to learn from others’ mistakes.


  1. interesting study on human nature

  2. Lois said "Imagine being there and seeing the whole thing happen." I said I had not read the latest blog so she said no more. Now I would ditto her comment. Wow!