Before going to Barcelona my friends were telling me to watch out for pickpockets. I thought such thing can’t happen to me as I was robbed twice before and thanks to this I have become very vigilant. Unfortunately, two weekends ago when I was there I’d bumped into them again.
Well, it’s not exactly true to say it was me who it happened to – it was my mum – and in fact nothing really happened because in the end nothing’s been stolen.
It all happened, as you might expect, in a bus. All of a sudden I saw a hand on my mum’s handbag, trying to unzip it. I wouldn’t be able to tell you my name in that very second but I could sure as hell protect what is mine (well, almost like mine). Now I can’t even remember what I’d said to him or done to him but my mum told me I looked kinda out of my mind. In that moment the need to avenge and protect my mum together with fear mixed up together in me and obscured my mind. An adrenaline rush is a truly peculiar thing. It makes you do things you normally wouldn’t do or even forget things you’ve done. And above all, it makes you feel like you are capable of anything.
One thing I am proud of is that apart from this feeling of newly gained strength I managed to keep my cool.
But there were two things that were really disturbing about the whole thing:
1. Not a single person bat an eyelash over what had just happened! The bus was packed and everybody around clearly saw the man but no help came from the elves that day.
2. The man looked like a clergyman. Seriously, you would never tell this man could have been able of stealing anything, he looked like innocence made flesh.
After this incident though, we noticed a big guy standing close to us observing the whole situation with a poker face. That’s when I started to assume the clergyman has an accomplice. Or worse, a boss – some kind of a theft supervisor.
But of course! When they were getting off the bus, the big guy winked at me and muttered something in Russian while the obedient servant followed three steps behind him.
This got me thinking. Who’s the victim here? What if the true victim was that man – clergyman? I was looking straight into his face after I slapped his wrist and shouted right at him and he had the emptiest face I’ve ever seen. I think I will never forget his expression – that great big nothing he had in his eyes. It was the very opposite of mine actually – no adrenaline, no emotion – just like everyone around: not a bat of an eye.
I immediately started to make up scenarios what could be behind his empty sad face. Seeing the other guy reminded me of how an actual thief looks like. But this other man? I concluded he must have been forced to do it. I made a little research after this and there really are these pickpocket gangs all around big European cities that are very well organized like a mafia. Especially in Barcelona, which is said to be the “pickpocket capital of the world”. Apparently, there is a hierarchy in these groups – there are the bosses, who collect the plunder and stolen money, the supervisors, who accompany the pickpockets in the “field” of action (crowded streets, buses, subway) and at the very bottom are the actual thieves, who do the “dirty work”. According to some sources they are like modern form of slaves. The bosses own them in a way, take their passports, threaten them, sometimes torture them and they end up in a vicious circle that they can’t escape from.
It gives me shivers thinking that this little episode we experienced was the case. The thought that this poor “clergyman” with an empty face might have been the victim all along has left me with a new perspective on the whole thing. I came from being the sufferer to being the witness of the suffering.
PS: This post was also meant to be a warning to anyone who’s planning a trip to Barcelona. Be careful especially in crowded spots such as buses and trains. And… just in case, don’t keep anything in your pockets.