Sunday, May 24, 2015

Nimble fingers on the metro

So my phone got nicked.

Picture it. 6:45pm. April 24th, 2015. Paris. Metro Republique. 

I'm in a bit of a rush after work, changing metro lines. I'm tired, loaded down with a few bags, listening to a podcast on my iphone, and given that it's warm, wearing a suit jacket and not my usual overcoat. 
With the overcoat I usually have my hands in my pockets to control the volume of my phone, but since I wasn't wearing it, I had my phone in my jacket outside pocket, right side. But I'm listening to it, right? If someone tries to take it I'll hear the audio stop & I'll  have time to react. 



I don't know where and when they spotted me but they did. Rushing, loaded down, iphone earbuds going into my easily accessible suit jacket pocket. 

Easy prey.

Quite impressive, really. Coming up the stairs in a crowd (there was a delay so the platform was crowded). Lots of people. The voice in my ear stops, so I put my hand in my pocket to turn it up. Phone's not where it should be. I pat my pocket & look down to see the audio jack swinging in the wind. 


I check my other pockets in case I moved it without thinking. Nope. It's gone. I look all around. Anything suspicious ? 
Yes, there, about 10 metres away. Frantic, fidgety movements. 2 kids standing close together in the crowd, face to face, heads down, glancing over at me then quickly looking away. They're about 16, 17 years old, a boy & a girl, slightly built. He's wearing a white tshirt and light coloured jeans. She's wearing a short black jacket and light jeans and she has a black backpack that they're both fidgeting with.
They glance at me again and look away quickly. The train's pulling in now & they head for it, flashing another quick glance at me one last time. So I run for it & get on with them. I'm hoping I can get to them before they hand it off to someone else. If they've already done that, then it's gone.  

I tap the guy on the shoulder.

"Did you find a phone?"
"Did I find a phone?! What're you talking about?"

-Did you find a phone?
-Uh, no, I didn't. Do you think I stole a phone?

-Well did you?
-no, why are you saying that?

He has an accent I can't place. The girl starts this kind of keening in a language I don't recognise as if to say "what's happening, what does he want, I'm afraid" and puts on this "I'm just a poor weak little girl who doesn't know anything" kind of demeanor that's designed to make me pity her. 

-You looked over at me on the platform & looked away when I looked back. At least 3 times. Why were you looking at me?
-I wasn't looking at you. 

The girl whines another thing or two.

-Yes you were. Why?
-I wasn't. I didn't take anything. 

He starts to raise his voice. 
-you're saying I stole your phone?
-did you?

Other passengers get involved. 
-You should call the police. 
-get metro security

Several of them try calling, but of course there's no signal. Some suggest getting off the train but I know the second we're on the platform they'll bolt like rabbits. 

-we're getting the police.
-get the police. I don't have your phone. I didn't do anything

-well, we'll see.
-and if you're wrong?

-if I'm wrong I'll apologise.
-just leave us alone. we didn't do anything. 

He's getting aggressive again. Several passengers tell him there's no point in getting excited - if he has nothing to hide then it'll be fine.
By now she's taken a seat, and he does too. He starts to get up again going on about how I'm full of shit. I'm watching his hands in case he tries to take a swing at me, but there are too many people around and I'm sure he won't. 
She goes to stand and seemingly tells him to calm down, but he shoves her roughly back onto the seat and growls something at me again along the lines of my being a pain in their ass. 

I tell him to chill out & sit back down again. He backs off. It's all a show. 

By now we've gone a station beyond my usual stop. 

-ok, now what? he says, lounging on his seat with the barest hint of a smirk. 

Good question, I say to myself. The smug little fucker is right. If he doesn't have it, then there's nothing. No point calling the cops or anything. It's gone. 

-empty your pockets. 

He's only wearing a light tshirt & jeans, it's obvious there isn't an iPhone 6 in a lifeproof case in there. 

-look. my pockets. want to put your hands in there? Go on, put your hands in, go on!

-you too, miss. I'm not touching you, show me your pockets and open the bag.

She shows me her jacket pockets, jeans pockets. The bag is empty except for what looks like a crappy old charger for an ancient phone. 

As I feared, they've already handed it off. Fuckers. 

Not only that, but they've gotten me far away from the person they gave it to. And I walked right into it. In hindsight it's obvious they wanted me to follow them. 

I'm two stops beyond my usual one. 

-It's gone, I say to no-one in general, I 'm getting off here. 

So I get off. Phoneless. 

I'm lucky enough that I can afford another one, within 24 hours I was back up and running. And no-one got hurt. 

But fucking scumbag parasites like that really piss me off. What's particularly annoying is that they're really good at this. They're smart, they work in teams and you're manipulated all the way. 

This is the first time in my 40 years around the sun that I've been pickpocketed, 15 of them travelling the Paris metro several times daily. I've always been careful. 
I suppose I became complacent, sure that after all this time without incident I had it figured out, and that only stupid tourists get their stuff lifted.  

Hubris is a bitch. 

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