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!

Those adorable miscreants scampering along the city streets grow up to be very, very creepy.

Bill had read about the prevalence and techniques of pickpockets in Barcelona and he warned me to be wary of people trying to get my attention or distract me, or trick me into revealing where I kept my money. We took the basic precautions–nothing in our back pockets, bags swung across the body and carried in front, Bill’s wallet zipped in an inner jacket pocket, and our passports locked in the room safe. Still, I feared I would be a nervous jumble walking the streets, blasting “Back off!” at the first little lady who innocently bumped my elbow. But, the streets were fine. We didn’t notice anything suspicious. People were pulling out wallets left and right to throw coins at the bizarre living statues that line La Rambla. Even when gathered around the bunnies and birds in the pet hawking stretch of ramble, people kept a polite distance.

Friday evening Bill and I happily board a crowded metro train. We’re going just a few stops, so we take positions near the door. There’s a crunch of people around us. The car is full. A man on my left bumps into me, and then catches my eye and smiles apologetically, his expression saying, Oh, these overcrowded trains, what can you do? A moment after the train starts, I feel some movement on my butt. I think maybe I’ve leaned against someone’s hand on the bar behind me. I turn around quickly and say “Oh, I’m sorry.” A man looks up at me, and then points at the metro map, saying something in Spanish. “Sorry,” I say again and turn back toward the door. Best to ignore that guy, I think. So I stand there stoically ignoring him, but he turns his attention toward Bill, who is standing behind me near the middle of the car. The man points to the pole Bill is hanging on to as if to say, can I put my hand here, but then he decides he’d rather be on the other side. What a fidgety guy! After a few moments I notice my purse wriggling. I grab it and move it to the right. The guy to my left throws his hands into the air. A pickpocket! I don’t look at him, resuming my stare out the window. I can’t believe that guy tried to pickpocket me, I’m thinking, what a jerk…wait, what is happening to my left front jean pocket! I slap my left hand down, and again hands fly in the air. We are close to our stop; I summon the highest level of personal space awareness I am capable of. At our stop Bill and I jump off the train , duck away from the exiting crowd and exclaim simultaneously, “That guy was pickpocketing me!”

One guy had managed to unzip the small backpack Bill was carrying, and my purse was also unzipped. I’m not sure it was zipped when I boarded the train–the purse has a zipper and a velcro flap closure–but I think it was. The zipper pull was on the right side of the purse, so the guy would have had to reach all the way under the flap. When I turned around to see what was going on with my butt, perhaps? Thankfully nothing was taken, but we felt really foolish that it took so long for us to figure out we were marks.

As I thought about it, I got really creeped out that these men were crowded against me feeling my pockets and rifling around in my purse. I couldn’t believe that the guy went after my pocket seconds after I caught him groping my bag. I did think it was cunning the way he made eye contact with me, so he would not seem like a threat. We vowed to tell the next pickpockets to F Off at the first finger wiggle.

When I see someone rich,
Both my thumbs start to itch
Only to find some peace of mind
We have to pick-a-pocket or two.

Creepy! Creepy! Creepy!

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