Ilivetolearn's Blog

March 3, 2006

Mind the thief

Filed under: on the road,Spain — ilivetolearn @ 10:55 am

Lisbon, like Madrid, has a big pickpocketing problem. Every bus, metro car, tram, and cable car (and for all we know, the ferries…Lisbon has every conceivable kind of public transportation) has a big sign showing a wallet being slipped out of a pocket and “Watch Out!” in about four languages.

We were on the “tourist tram,” #28, which makes a loop around all the most famous sights in town, on our way to the twice-weekly flea market, known perhaps not coincidentally as the thieves’ market, when a fracas erupted. A guy from the back of the bus rushed over to a man near us, gave him a good whack, and hauled him off at the next stop, where he proceeded to make the alleged thief empty all his pockets while the passengers watched and did inventories of their purses, cell phones, watches—a tourist standing next to me had felt the guy’s hand sneak into his coat pocket. So this robbery was nipped in the bud. The English-speaking riders then discussed whether we had already passed the thieves’ market and indeed, whether what we had just seen was worth staying on the tram a little too long. We had lots of questions—was it a citizen’s arrest? Was the guy from the back of the bus a plainclothes cop and if so would he have hit the man? But we didn’t know enough Portuguese to get answers.

The street thieves in Madrid have perfected a trick only used on men with cuffed pants…one drops a handful of coins in front of the intended victim and bends to retrieve them, pretending one has fallen into a cuff and pulling down on the pant leg, while his accomplice stands behind and reaches into the pant pocket. Bill has foiled one or two attempts with this M.O. I am almost ready to chop off all the cuffs of his trousers.

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