Friday, March 25, 2005

Umbrella Beating

The station at St. Michel: Serves Notre Dame, that fabulous tourist hotspot. Thus, one of the most likely places to be pickpocketed. Two annoncements in English frequent the loudspeaker, urging tourists to be vigilant. Announcement A, the warning: "Don't attract pickpockets. Secure you wallets and close your handbags." Sound advice. Announcement B, for red alerts: "Pickpockets are active in station. Be vigilant." Parisians blink, oblivious as they finish the paragraph they're reading or turn up the volume on their mp3 players. Tourists clutch their bags to the front of their bodies.

These announcments weren't enough to save an elderly woman heading down the stairs. She grasped the railing with both hands, taking the long steps down one at a time. As I started down from the next landing, I saw them: two boys about my age, unzipping the woman's bag and fumbling through her belongings. Commuters brushed by.

Having already been the victim of a genius pickpocketing scheme just a few months prior, I rushed down to help. Like a fussy old woman shooing a cat off the table, I hit each of the boys on the back with my umbrella, scolding, "Stop it! Scat!"

When I had played this scene in my mind just a few seconds prior, the offenders had been startled and run off, afraid. In reality, they turned on me, much taller than I thought. They got in my face and threatened to hit me. I could only stare at them dumbly, and luckily, they walked off.

I went up to the woman, heroic, ready accept her gratitude. I'd placed myself in harm's way--I'd saved her from the perils of the Paris metro!

Instead, she looked at me for a moment and grunted before returning her attention to her descent. She muttered her thanks as I passed her: "What do you think, I'm an idiot?! I might be old, but I'm not stupid. There's nothing valuable in this old bag! I keep my money in my socks."


Anonymous ddj said...

The thieves were completely unprepared for your heroics! They didn't know what to do. After all, I think it's a pretty rare thing to stop petty theft. Most people think it's not worth the trouble, particularly on the metro.

BTW, this is an awesome idea for a blog. One metro ride a day, and you'll have a stream of endless things to blog.

3:36 PM, March 28, 2005  

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