Sunday, December 4, 2011

The Barcelona pickpoketing business and The kindness of strangers

Since my last post a lot has happened.

I think I had probably just hit the "publish" button when I got a call from the crèche as they suspected Oliver had chicken pox! So off I went and surely he had a few spots on his legs (usually it starts on the trunk but I've read it can be anywhere really) and feet. He was quite in bad form and a off his food (very very unusual). Anyway, as sorry as I felt I still had to pack to go to this meeting in Barcelona on friday. Left very very early and arrived around 10am in Barcelona. Between the train station at the terminal and the central station my wallet disappeared. WTF?? And I've travelled a good bit, I am very aware of my belongings and yet...I don't even know when it exactly happened. Thinking about it, it was probably on the train (which was packed) and a couple asked me some questions as we were about to get off the train. Apparently it's a classic scam.
Thankfully I had my passport and other much more valuable items separate (iphone, ipad, mp3) so I was pissed of course but it could have been worse. But it wasn't easy to get help. Now remember, I was on my own, not a cent in my pocket and not speaking the language (granted italian and spanish are similar but not enough to help you when in distress). I told a security guard at the station what happened (in english), he shook his head and said "police". Right. I know what "police" means, I don't know where "police" is. There was a police car outside the station, after a while I finally spotted the policemen talking to some people. I explained in english what happened and they said "police station". Are you kidding me? I'm a foreigner, with a suitcase, where the fuck is your police station? Point me in the right direction given that I have no money, cannot take a taxi or a bus or the subway! He pointed down a road, and said "15 minutes". Thanks. I found the police station and the experience there was surreal. It was like a window in hall of an anonymous building. Behind the window there was a policeman at a computer. After about 5 minutes of me standing there he lifted his head and said something which prompted me to start explaining what happened. He stopped me immediately and called a girl who was sitting at a desk inside this office reading a book. She was the interpreter. We were speaking english, she gave me the number to block my cards and those people on the phone (in Ireland) were like angels. Really sympathetic, explained I could in fact get emergency money through Western Union, they would arrange that for me as thankfully I had my passport, I could access the money within the hour and of course they also immediately reissued credit and debit cards. I filed a report on the theft. Note that all this took probably just about two hours as in between the phone call, getting the forms and returning the forms I had to wait for this girl who as soon as she gave me the number or form returned immediately to her book and never lifted her head. Every time she had to be called by the policeman (who was dealing with other people). Anyway, at this point I had the info to collect the money and done what I had to do from the police point of view (with the strong feeling that my report went straight to the trash can as there was no interest in really investigating it). I had no idea where a Western Union agency was. This girl wrote two addresses on a piece of paper and handed them to me. As if now I had a better idea. I asked her where these two addresses were and she reluctantly started saying they were very far... right. How the hell do I get there? She started saying I should get a taxi or the subway. Ok. Once again, I have no way of taking any transport, would there be any chance of a unit going out to that general direction and could give me a lift? She said no. Ok. I asked would she have any suggestion of how a foreigner in this situation could find a way to get to this place? She must have took offence as she said "I gave you the forms and address, that's it" and left. Honestly she fecked off. To her book. The policeman 20cm away never once looked up at me. I was shocked. I was left with no way to communicate in the very place that is supposed to help someone who has just been robbed! Shocking. I tried to get the attention of the policeman, who just said in Spanish "I don't understand you". Great. Another policeman came to the window and asked with a bit of english what was the problem. I explained about the interpreter and how furious I was at her behaviour. Apparently your one said I had offended her and she refused to talked to me. I thought "this must be a joke". But sadly it wasn't. In the end, I filed a complaint report against the interpreter (which must have joined the first one on the theft, in the trash can) and miraculously two italians were at the same police station reporting something of their own. I was so desperate at that point I asked them if they could help me communicate with the police (they were both living in Barcelona and fluent in spanish). They were so nice, and must have known the system a bit as they convinced me to just let it go that they would help me. They called me a taxi and gave me money to pay it. I was in tears I was so grateful. They happened to be from Naples and had a pizzeria not too far from the police station. I went there for dinner and returned the money. Pizza was fantastic too.
Needless to say, my 30 hours in Barcelona for the work meeting ended up quite a mess (was obviously late to the meeting etc) but my heart melted at the kindness of these two strangers.


  1. Ohmygoodness what a story! So glad all ended well and the Italians saved the day! Hope the chicken pox is clearing up, too - poor little bambino!

  2. Yikes! that's quite an adventure you had. Good reminder to put $$ in different places. I have always heard that Rome is especially bad for pickpockets.

  3. Oh my God!!! How horrible! Sounds like such a load of incompetents! So great that you found some friendly Italians! Phew!

  4. Thank goodness those two Italian angels showed up to rescue you! How frightening to be essentially lost and alone in a foreign country. I hope that both the police man and the translator get what they deserve.

    In the mean time, I hope little Oliver is feeling better. You have both had quite a week.


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