Reality Check

Today as I was climbing the many steps of the above ground Jaures metro station, a guy stole the cash right out of my backpack.

I felt a little something and quickly twirled around. The man was standing too close, but nonchalantly brushed past me.

I immediately opened my bag and saw my wallet, camera, and phone still there, so I wondered if I had imagined it. I looked in my wallet and all of my cards were still there, too.

It was only a little later when I went to pay for something that I noticed all of my cash was gone.

I consider myself pretty street smart and I usually keep my bag in front of me. But sometimes – just walking up stairs on a normal Friday afternoon outside of rush hour – I guess I don’t always clutch my bag as I should.

Sigh. Must be on guard every single second.

What gets me is that as soon as I turned around, I immediately wanted to say “WTF?”

But somehow in the split second I remembered I was in Paris and couldn’t remember how to say WTF in French. (Note to self: just say WTF in English anyway. Not that it helps matters, but I would have preferred calling him out, rather than feeling so passive).

I’m also a little peeved that no one else said anything. I can see on a packed metro people not noticing maybe. But I was walking up stairs with a few people – though not so many that it was a rushed crowd. The guy was one level lower than me. I can’t imagine that the people walking up didn’t notice that he had opened my bag.

In the spirit of seeing positives in negatives, though, I am so relieved that I still have all of my important documents and possessions. The nightmare of losing my residency card, credit card, Carte Vitate, etc – aie! I’m getting hives just thinking about it.

So yes, I am grateful, too. Pissed as all get out at the guy, but feeling lucky that I was only a victim of a nonviolent crime where cash is the only thing I lost.

Be careful out there and bon weekend!

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27 Responses to “Reality Check”


  1. 1 Ginene May 20, 2011 at 7:46 pm

    I remember that feeling. I was standing on a Paris train and was nudged (pushed lightly) from behind causing me to grab for the bar to steady myself. The train was just pulling into a station. The doors opened, a girl about 12 years old stepped backwards off the train on to the platform. The doors closed and the train pulled away. My purse was a little black velvet affair with two ties that pulled it closed and that I had tied with a double knot. It was over my shoulder and UNDER my almost floor length thick winter coat. She was good!

    • 2 paris (im)perfect May 20, 2011 at 7:48 pm

      Wow. Yeah, if it weren’t such a rotten thing to be good at, I’d almost be impressed with the skills! Pickpockets really are slick. Sounds like you took a whole lot of precautions and she still got it. That’s how I felt!

  2. 3 Ginene May 20, 2011 at 7:48 pm

    What I didn’t mention was that my purse was empty! One has to admire the art form, but not the action.

    • 4 paris (im)perfect May 20, 2011 at 7:50 pm

      Ah yes. I think we were writing comments at the same time. I just said something similar. Very skillful, even though it’s totally wrong. Wow, your purse was empty? At least you didn’t lose anything then!

  3. 5 Jenny Lunney May 20, 2011 at 8:24 pm

    I am always concerned when I go over on a buying trip. I import French antiques and have to change alot of money. I carry it in a money pouch inside my clothes.
    My last trip this past April, my sister and I were on the metro and I was texting on my blackberry. This really good looking guy bent over to tell me that I should put it away. The newest thing was people grabbing blackberries/phones before the doors close, and they jump out…and I thought he just wanted to have a chat!!

    • 6 Paris Karin (an alien parisienne) May 20, 2011 at 8:48 pm

      Re: Jenny’s comment here: “The newest thing was people grabbing blackberries/phones before the doors close, and they jump out…”

      Just tonight on the bus I noted new announcements in French, English, German, and Chinese that tell people to guard their phones, explaining that something like 50% of all assaults/thefts on public transportation are for people’s cell phones. I think those were the numbers, anyway! The percent may have been higher, though. And the announcement was a lot more creatively-put than my paraphrase. :) The point was: watch out.

      I get really nervous these days when I see anyone using one on the bus or Métro! It actually makes me thankful I have a once-very-state-of-the-art-but-now-crappy regular cell phone. Okay, just kinda, though. :)

      • 7 paris (im)perfect May 20, 2011 at 8:50 pm

        Yeah, the phone situation is getting out of control here. I’ve heard high numbers like that, too. My phone was *never* state of the art, so I guess that’s one thing to be thankful for :)

    • 8 paris (im)perfect May 20, 2011 at 8:48 pm

      Yeah, carrying around a lot of money is always a risk. All we can do is be aware. Kind of nice that a good-looking guy warned you about the phone! That has been happening a lot. Luckily (?) I have such an old-school phone that I don’t think anyone wants it. Good luck on your next buying trip, Jenny!

      • 9 Jenny Lunney May 22, 2011 at 2:54 pm

        Thanks.
        Yes, I thought that was really nice. I have the blackberry now because of business, but then I get addicted to posting photos on fb to share with friends and customers…we head to France again in August, can’t wait. Jenny

  4. 10 Paris Karin (an alien parisienne) May 20, 2011 at 8:41 pm

    ARGH. These stories have happened to everyone (well, not me, yet — which I’ll get to in a second) and they make my stomach sink every time I read them.

    I was with a friend at Versailles, someone grabbed her wallet from her purse, removed her cash, and then dropped her wallet just next to her feet. Like you, the thief was only after her cash, and she retained all of her documents, but it was a blow to both of us (and a big chunk of her grocery money for the next couple of weeks was gone — yeah, she realized she was kind of wrong to be carrying it with her, but you know, sometimes we do things we know we should not because it’s Paris, and not always convenient to *not* be carrying too much cash).

    I am so sorry, Sion. It’s the violation that feels so rotten, and the second-guessing oneself, too (“WHY didn’t I watch my stuff better!!”)

    I try, try, try to be vigilant. I do. But I know one day it will happen to me, for statistically, it should. I try not to carry too much cash, but like my friend, there are days where I have just been paid in cash for babysitting, and I can’t *not* carry it, eh?

    I just hope that they leave me with all of my documents, too. It sounds weird to say that I appreciate thieves with a conscience, but in some way they at least seem to know how damn hard it is in France to replace some of those documents, and seem to have a weird sort of empathy for their victims.

    Hope that your weekend gets better from here, friend. *hug*

    • 11 paris (im)perfect May 20, 2011 at 8:55 pm

      Hey Karin. I know, it is disheartening. But like you, I’m also very thankful that the thief didn’t take anything else. I mean, my Carte Vitale with my picture on it isn’t going to do him any good – but would have been a pain in the a** for me to replace for instance. (Don’t even get me started on my residency card. I weep just thinking about the possibility of having to do that!) So it is kind of like this weird (criminal) courtesy, I guess.

      I am really vigilant, but you can’t always be on guard 100% for 100% of the time. How exhausting would that be! You get paid for babysitting in cash – yeah, like what are you supposed to do with the cash? There’s a brief time when you have it on you.

      Anyway, I’m not really that shaken up. Just wanted to warn people that it really does seem to be becoming epidemic out there. I do feel lucky that I don’t have to replace anything. Sucks to lose cash, but I am SO grateful that’s all it was.

  5. 12 katemai May 20, 2011 at 9:31 pm

    Argghhhh! That happened to me on the metro but they took my entire wallet, so I had to go through the agony of the Texas Department of Transportation to get a new driver’s license–something you never, never want to have to do. Too bad we have to always be on guard for predators. Life shouldn’t be that way! Glad it was only your cash….

    • 13 paris (im)perfect May 20, 2011 at 10:34 pm

      Oh, that’s so awful. I actually got my whole wallet stolen in New York once, so I do know what it’s like to have to deal with the DMV to get a new license. That’s why I’m so thankful this was only cash. I hear you – it’s really exhausting always having to have your guard up. At least I’m reminded of the need to again.

  6. 14 Cynthia May 20, 2011 at 11:38 pm

    So sorry for you :( There are loads of pick pockets around my job and I keep an eye on them but sadly I have never caught them in action.

  7. 16 Stephanie May 20, 2011 at 11:57 pm

    Oh no! So not fun! Glad to hear all of your important items are still safe but it’s never a good thought knowing you were so wrongfully taken advantage of. I hope it was just enough cash to be a gentle reminder and not so much that you’re hurting! Either way, it’s not fun and thanks for sharing the reminder that pickpocketing is too common of a problem in Paris.

    • 17 paris (im)perfect May 21, 2011 at 12:19 pm

      Thanks, Stephanie. Yeah, I’m not sure I even know exactly how much was taken. I think about 50 or 60 euros. So, it hasn’t sent me to the poorhouse – but I certainly could have put that money to good use! Anyway, yes, just a good reminder to always keep an eye out!

  8. 18 amblerangel May 21, 2011 at 7:01 am

    I now live in Japan where theft is- believe this- UNHEARD OF. We are all so lazy we walk around with our purses wide open, wallets in plain sight- we have to be “re trained” every time we board a plane out. Just recently I found someone’s purse- lying in the street- which had bounced out of the back of someone’s bike. Wallet with everything in it. I turned it all in to the police box on the corner. Surreal.

    • 19 paris (im)perfect May 21, 2011 at 12:21 pm

      Wow. I love hearing this. This is exactly how it should be! I love societies where the honor system actually works! Could definitely be a hazard when you leave Japan, though. I can understand why you’d have to remind yourself that most places aren’t that safe!

  9. 20 ksam May 21, 2011 at 11:26 am

    Definitely be careful, especially in the “shadier” areas of Paris – 18, 19 & 20th arrondissements, according to my police detective fiancé. Apparently petty crimes & thefts have risen drastically within the past month or two and almost all of his cases are now cell phone thefts or tourist who were robbed.

    • 21 paris (im)perfect May 21, 2011 at 12:22 pm

      Yeah, I’ve heard about this dramatic rise of thefts recently. I’m sad to think I might have been targeted as a tourist, though! Hey, I’m a street smart woman who let her guard down for one second! Well, that’s what I’ll tell myself anyway :)

  10. 22 Marge AAnderson May 21, 2011 at 6:01 pm

    What a bummer, Sion, getting ripped off like you did. Bad as it was, it sure could have been worse, losing your important cards, etc. We sure all have to be vigilant these days. Talked to your Mom this AM. She sounded great and is looking forward to Memorial Weekend and her visit to D.C. Imagine she will see a big difference in Wallace since December. Should be fun!
    Have a good weekend, Sion.
    Love ya,
    Nana

    • 23 paris (im)perfect May 21, 2011 at 9:13 pm

      Hi Nana. Yes, I’m very thankful it wasn’t worse. Just reminds me to always be careful!

      Oh, I miss Wallace. Need to try to get down to see her next time I’m in the States. Have a good weekend and love ya, too!

  11. 24 TN May 22, 2011 at 2:28 pm

    I would never carry a backpack in Europe. Esp in the metro here in Paris (OR just keep non important items in it). I have a small toddler and in his diaper bag I only put his belongings (which can be replaced) – I have almost placed my camera in there etc…but remembered NO! I have a long strap purse that I keep to my side and always guard it. YES it’s an extra bag that I could have avoided by stuffing everything in the diaper bag but rather not risk it. I always keep some pocket change and my keys in my front pocket “IN CASE” something happens and I need to somehow to get home and into my apartment.

    I was almost robbed in Italy with a mini backpack on…lucky they were young high school/college kids that weren’t pros yet!

    And about being mad at the others in the station…my husband says don’t EVER expect anyone to help you. Even the metro station attendants…because they don’t want to be stabbed or shot at. Plus it’s really not their responsibility to watch out for you and defend you. If a thief sees an opportunity they WILL take it…so always be on guard.

    • 25 paris (im)perfect May 22, 2011 at 2:47 pm

      Hi TN. I get what you’re saying. I used to not carry a backpack, but then I started having neck/shoulder/back pain due to the uneven distribution of weight when you wear a one strap purse. So, it’s like deciding between body issues and safety issues!

      Also, I usually wear my backpack ON FRONT of my body – which I think is infinitely safer than even a purse on the side. This happened to be the .000001% of the time that I wasn’t – which is, of course, when things happen.

      I get the pocket thing, too, though I wear dresses and skirts, too, which don’t always have pockets. So it’s not 100% either.

      I don’t expect people to help me (good lord, I’ve been in Paris for 4+ years – I *definitely* don’t expect help!) But I think I get to blow off a little steam on my personal blog if I want :)

      At the end of the day, I think I’ve made it clear that I feel lucky it wasn’t worse. Thanks for dropping by.

  12. 26 Ann May 28, 2011 at 11:32 am

    I’m so sorry this happened, Sion. It’s such an awful feeling of being violated — but thank goodness you weren’t injured! Take care of yourself, ma poule.


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paris (im)perfect?

Sion Dayson is paris (im)perfect. Writer, dreamer, I moved to France on – no exaggerating – a romantic whim. As you can imagine, a lot can go wrong (and very right!) with such a (non)plan. These are the (im)perfect stories that result.

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