Friday, February 10, 2012

The (second) time somebody stole my wallet

Or, “Go pick on someone your own size”.

Once upon a time, back in the late ‘90’s when you could check bags on airlines for free, and carry enough liquid onboard to rinse your contact lenses, I traveled to England. My traveling companion was convinced that the way best was to reset your internal clock was to stay up during the flight and the next day so you went to bed according to the new time zone. I had my doubts as I really need my sleep, but there really weren’t a lot of other options.

We checked into the hotel and in order to keep from falling asleep at 5:00 local time, decided to travel to Picadilly Square. I transferred all my identification and money to my front pants pockets. The pants were, uh, snug. Ain’t no way anybody was getting in there without my noticing. However, I was used to traveling with a purse, and I knew that if I didn’t have it slung over my shoulder, I’d spend the entire evening in my sleep deprived state freaking out because I didn’t have it. So, I emptied it out except for some Chapstick and a wallet nothing but a $5 bill.

Now, I don’t know if I was targeted because I was in code white, or because I (apparently) looked like the quintessential idiot American, but as I was going through the turnstile at Victoria station I felt … that my purse was lighter. I whipped around and there was a gentleman standing there with my wallet in his hands. He had just gone through the turnstile as well, and couldn’t back up.

“You STOLE my wallet!” I declared, and snatched it out of his hands. My traveling companion had continued on*, not realizing what was going on.

“No! You dropped it. I was just returning it to you” he stammered, glancing around nervously.
“No, you STOLE IT!” I repeated, and noticed the line of people backing up behind the turnstile.

And then I had a moment of doubt. My sleep-starved brain said “Don’t be an ugly American. You’re a guest here. Maybe you really did drop it.”

And as the logical part of my brain gagged on that piece of tripe, the gentleman shoved past me and hauled ass to the escalators, scrambling down the railings at warp speed. Okay. Score one point for the logical part of my brain.

I caught up to my traveling companion who asked where I’d been. I said “Someone stole my wallet. But it’s okay! I stole it right back!”

Yes, that could have ended badly, but honestly, I was so tired all I could think of “Hey! That’s mine! Give it back!” Not having time to feel like a victim helped, as did the fact that I had about 8” and 3 stone on him.

Just because I’m not a predator doesn’t mean I have to be prey.
The Ugly American in Trafalger Square, 1998
*See? You can’t count on anyone but yourself, as much as you’d like to think otherwise.


  1. Smart thinking (almost all the way)... :-)

  2. Good for you! He was probably surprised that you didn't apologize immediately for the trouble had to go through to get into your purse. The Brits are a polite bunch, but sometimes they can take it a bit far.

  3. Great response to him. I'm sure the last thing he expected was to be found out. And when one travels to England, one must wear Doc Martens, correct?

  4. I was hoping your sleep deprived state would have just slugged him in the nose without consideration.

  5. Nancy... badass since 1998*

    *data only from observed record

  6. SGB: One wears Doc Martens whenever one does a lot of walking on hard surfaces.

    bluesun: I have no idea how to slug someone. It's pitiful, really.

    doubletrouble: THAT is going on my sidebar, thank-you-very-much.

  7. It's hard to beat Doc Martens for comfort.

  8. Doesn't look like an 'ugly American' to me, pretty darn attractive as a matter of fact...

    Good on you ; shoulda belted him tho! [or at least booted him with that formidable footwear]

  9. Great story.

    I'm gonna be in Paris next month on business and will be so freakin' paranoid. The pick pockets in England are rank amateurs compared to the French and the Dutch.

    Last time I was in Paris (7 years ago), one of my colleagues went to lunch with a bunch of others. They sat at a corner table, his seat in the corner. He placed his laptop bag between his chair and the wall AND IT GOT STOLEN!

  10. John beat me to it. Ain't nothing ugly about *that* American.

    Great story Nancy!

  11. I'm sure challenging the yob who lifted your waller is a crime Where England Used To Be.
    WV: bantem. Um, no, not really...