Sunday, April 22, 2018

Encroaching Fear

Sunday morning at 9:30 and I'm alone in the apartment in Aix en Provence. I'm hungry, and I'd like to venture out to a boulangerie for a croissant, maybe a baguette for later in the day, but I only have a 50 Euro note, and I'm afraid.
I'm not a timid person. I'm not even the kind of person who would be accused of clutching her purse to her chest or wearing it across her chest like a bandolier. I've always had the theory that if you're afraid, you'll bring people who prey on fear to you.
So why this sudden need to double lock the doors and put down the window shutters?
Yesterday, in the market, my wallet was taken from my purse.
Or as I tried to tell the Aix en Provence police over the phone:
"Mon portefeuille a été volé au marché."
Earl and I walked down to the market around 11:15. We'd gone to the grocery store early to stock up on heavy things, like milk and wine, for when the boys arrive. We needed some fresh produce, like a melon, strawberries, tomatoes.
Me, at a more naive time, thinking that nothing could ruin my security.
We stopped at the vendor where we'd purchased some very good melons. I pulled my wallet out and found a 10 Euro to pay, sliding the change back into the change compartment.
I slipped the wallet back into my purse and the magnet clicked that held the front flap closed. I kept the flap facing outward, away from my body so it was easier to reach into and take out when I needed it. My phone and my passport were also in my purse because I had no pockets. I generally put my iPhone in my pocket so I can take frequent photos on our walks.
The very market where my
wallet was first targeted. 

As we were still standing at the market, putting our produce into our cloth bag, I felt my purse move away from my hip, and I turned to check it. I flipped open the black leather flap and checked that my wallet was still there.
Someone must have jostled me, I thought.
Then Earl and I continued our walk through the market, toward the Rotonde, debating whether we would stop at the Fromagier. We'd had some good cheese from him, but he didn't offer recommendations like other fromagiers did.
Earl was holding my left hand. My purse hung from my right side and again I felt my purse lift off my hip. I turned immediately and my wallet was gone. A pale blue wallet that Earl had given me for Christmas one year.
In it were two credit cards, one debit card and about 90 Euros, along with my driver's license, my insurance card and various other loyalty cards, plus about 8 tickets for the Paris Metro.
"And someone just took my wallet!" I exclaimed, turning and staring at the people around me. It had to be someone I had just looked at, yet I had no way of knowing.
The loss of the wallet was a pain. We hurried home and cancelled credit cards. Cancelling mine meant Earl's was cancelled, too. Plus, Earl was headed to Paris today to meet the boys and only had 35 Euros on him.
Luckily, we found out that his debit card would still work so we could get cash out.
So we did.
After I called the police station, they said I had to come down to make a report. I don't expect to get anything back, but I'm hoping the thief may have taken out the cash and thrown away the wallet so I could get my driver's license and other belonging back. If I don't report it, the police won't know where to return. (Is it overly optimistic of me to picture someone finding my wallet and turning it into the police? It's what I would do, what I have done.)
We walked to the police station, about a 25 minute walk, and after figuring out how to get in. Wait for the man behind the desk to push the button. Push the door open. Close it. Wait for the man behind the desk to push another button. Unable to figure out how to open the second door because there isn't a handle yet you're supposed to pull it and wait until someone inside runs over and opens the door for us. 
Then the young officer with piercing blue eyes tells us we might have to wait hours to make a report because so few officers are in the office on a Saturday. The man wore a bulletproof vest with his blood type, A pos, printed in the center of his chest.
He asked how long we would be here and when we said all year, he suggested we should come back on Tuesday. Monday is too busy with people reporting all the things that happened over the weekend, but Tuesday at 8 a.m. would be no waiting.
We agreed and walked back home.
We've taken care of the important things, and I've looked at the bright side that I still have my passport and my phone, but I can't shake that nagging feeling that I'm not safe.
All these years, all these visits, nothing like this has happened to me in France.
Maybe I got too comfortable, too lax because I was beginning to feel like a local, but the pickpocket knew I wasn't a local.
In Paris a few years ago, a gypsy tried to pull a scam on me with a brass ring he found, but I never felt in danger. I gave him 5 Euro basically to go away, but it didn't spook me, like this has.
Even in the U.S., I haven't been a victim of a crime. Even the word crime seems silly. It wasn't violent, just a momentary lifting of the flap of my purse and so much disappeared.
The thought of going out alone with my 50 Euros is too unnerving. Maybe this afternoon I'll do it though, walking with my purse across my chest, held closely to me, a day late, and 80 Euros short.


Anne in Oxfordshire said...

Oh nooo sorry to read this. It does make you feel afraid .. This is sad .. Too much if it going on . I bet not local . I hope you do get out this afternoon . Hugs .

Emily Taylor said...

I had a great experience with a kind person helping us when a pickpocket took my friend’s wallet during a Paris metro strike. I hope it won’t bring you down for long.

Our French Oasis said...

I am so sorry, what a horrid experience. But don't be afraid. Remember these things can and do happen the world over, it was just one of those things. I was pick pocketed once in London, many many years ago whilst waiting for a bus. We were also burgled in the south of France, when we had a house near Bandol, and I remember feeling so uncomfortable for a while, as if there were eyes watching me everywhere I went. I know how you feel and I hope you will feel more comfortable again soon. Big hugs from the Charente Maritime.

Anonymous said...

That is a terrible experience. I've never had a problem in France, or in any country, actually (except in Barcelona, where a purse snatcher actually dragged me down the street, and I didn't let go because I didn't want to spend my weekend at the consulat trying to get a new passport).
Don't carry your passport with you. Have another ID, like a driver's license.
If you have more than one credit card, take only one with you and leave the others at home. That way you can still use them if your wallet is stolen.
I like bags that zip shut. And I almost never use backpacks.
Good luck, and don't let it keep you down.

John and Lynn Phillips said...

We had the brass ring scam done on us in Paris too.... And have actually seen pick pockets in action (gypsey child) so sorry that you have this hassle especially with the boys coming. Your fear will subside, but caution will always be there, not a bad thing to have lots of!

Jeanie said...

Oh Paulita, I'm so sorry -- it really makes for a wretched day, doesn't it -- canceling things, reporting -- not to mention just needing what was IN the wallet. I've always carried zipper bags when I travel but I think it can happen with anything, anytime. They're just so good at it.

Good luck and keep on keeping on. It happens and it's awful and miserable. But it doesn't mean it has to happen again.

Shelagh Kouwenhoven said...

Many years ago in the Netherlands I was warned about the group of thiefs walking near me. I checked my wallet and had my fifry euro bill safe and sound. Then I went into a shop and bought about four euros of things. I looked again and my fifty euros was gone. In a flash!
Slick. Sorry this happened to you but it could happen anywhere. Have fun with the boys.

Sim Carter said...

Oh damn! I was so happy thinking of you and your boys being in Bandol, one of my favorite places. (actually, I liked it better before it got so built up). Then to learn you had this experience. It's an awful feeling! I once had my purse taken out of my cart at Target. Stupid place to leave a purse I learned then. It does happen everywhere, and think how many times you've been to France and never experienced anything like it. I always carry my purse across my body, quite often my hand loosely resting on it if we're in a crowd.

Anyway, I'm sorry for the hassle, but relieved that 80 euros are all you lost. I hope you can put it behind you and enjoy your adventurous new life!
Thinking of you, sending hugs.

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