The Great Plotnik

Friday, October 19, 2012

10-19: The Gypsies Almost Got Us

The gypsies almost got us this afternoon. It's a quiet, drizzly day and we were kind of museum'd out so we were about to board the L4 subway to ride back from the Borne to the hotel in Barrio Gracia. The train pulled in. In Barcelona you push a button on the outside of the door to open it and someone did. No one on the train was getting off so we moved forward to step up into the last door of the last car, when there was a huge commotion and a crowd of people were suddenly pushing against us, seemingly trying to force their way onto the train.

I looked back and realized they were all gypsies. My first thought was "Yo! Dude! What's the rush!"

But in the next second all the guidebooks I'd read kicked in, so I immediately slapped one hand over my camera, which sits in a pouch on my belt, and my other hand over my wallet pocket, which was zipped closed.

That would have been far too late, if in the very next second I hadn't heard very loud, angry voices directed at the gypsies. A fortyish woman in a skirt and sweater and a fiftiesh, tall, gray haired man around fifty five launched themselves at the gypsies, pushing them away, screaming at them in Spanish, luckily, not Catalan, to get the chingada out of here before they both threw them under the yo mama train. All the gypsies ran away, we got on, the doors closed and the train moved forward.

On the train, I asked the man how he knew something was up, and he said he saw one of the gypsy women, with a black jacket over her hand so people couldn't see what she was doing with it, reaching into Ducknik's purse. That's when he yelled and the gypsies knew they'd been busted. They vanished as fast as they'd run up. He had seen this trick many times before and was on the alert. Robbing people on the subway is very common and it appears to be almost always tourists losing out to gypsies. Barcelona needs its tourists.

We've got homeless guys peeing on the street. Barcelona has gypsies. Everybody's got a cross to bear, some more ornate than others.

So as the train pulled out The Duck checked her purse -- it had been zipped closed, but sure enough the zipper was now open. A lady next to Ducknik said was sure she had felt a hand in her empty coat pocket. One or two seconds more and Duck's camera would have been gone, and a lesser woman, who hadn't taken all the precautions Ducknik does, like sewing pouches into the fabric of her purse to store a credit card, and making extra, concealed pockets in the inside of her jacket that no one can get into, and -- almost -- never carrying anything of value in a city famous for Master Classes in Pickpocketry -- would have lost everything in that purse, slipped out under the gypsy's black garment and handed back through the crowd to accessories already up the subway stairs, long gone and far away.

We had gotten lazy. It was raining, but hey, it's muggy down in the subway, so I had taken my windbreaker off, exposing my camera. I had been wearing a concealed money belt, but hey, when you want to pee it gets way too complicated. I'd been carrying my wallet in my front pocket, but hey, I'd just gotten our ten-trip subway ticket out and hadn't bothered putting the wallet back in a safer place. I had read all the books, knew what to look out for, was overconfident.

Duck's extra-safe purse had gotten soaked this morning when we went to see the Sagrada Familia, so she'd offloaded into one that's easier to pilfer.

Never saw the gypsies. Never thought about the Pretend to Jam Onto The Metro scam. Never would have even felt it.

By the way, this is not racial paranoia. We were there. So were they. I got lucky. The Duck got lucky. The Spanish good samaritans saved our bacon. Here we are right before it happened.


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