I frantically tried to get my friend to call my phone, hoping the ring was on and my picture would pop up on caller id. I knew the man had taken my phone during the last jostle and with the smell of urine in the air and adrenaline pounding in my ears, I was praying I was making the right decision in confronting this man.
I had just arrived in Paris for the weekend and was trying to take the metro from the train station into the city. The Paris metro is known for its pickpockets and supposedly, the Parisian pickpockets are the best in the world. I wasn’t worried about this, as I have traveled frequently abroad and never had a problem. I definitely learned how talented the pickpockets are and this situation could have ended much worse.
My friend called my phone and my personalized ring tone sang out through the metro car. Two American girls standing behind the pickpocket and his accomplice called out that they saw my phone. With the help of a Parisian father, I blocked the door to the train until the pickpocket gave back my phone before running off.
Before this incident on the metro, I didn’t have a very positive view of Paris or Parisians. However, after this, my entire opinion has changed. The local Parisians on the metro had not hesitated to support me and force the pickpocket to give back my phone. The common stereotypes that Parisians hate Americans and are unfriendly were completely disproven by this considerate father and the other commuters. As horrible as this was, it was a once in a lifetime experience that taught me so much about the world and myself.
This knowledge came rushing back when I was in Rome this past month. There were pickpockets everywhere and I never felt like I could put my guard down. Every time someone bumped into me I checked my bag to make sure it was still closed and everything was still inside. How easily one experience on the metro could change my entire attitude.
While in Rome, a friend was telling me about her experience at the Papal audience. This is one of the most popular tourist attractions and religious experiences in Rome and a target rich environment for pickpockets.
As my friend was waiting for the Pope to come over and bless her, she heard screams of “Stop!” all around her. A pickpocket had stolen a tourist’s passport and was being chased by the police through St. Peter’s Square. The pickpocket was tackled to the ground and the passport was returned.
Upon hearing this story, I was overwhelmed with the shock and nervousness I had felt in Paris and was thankful I had been able to recover my phone. Being pickpocketed can happen to anyone, even the most experienced traveler. I have learned that the key is to move past the experience and grow. Whether your personal items are recovered or not, don’t let the experience ruin your trip. Instead grow from it. From my trip on the metro, I learned that I am a fighter not a runner and I am strong enough to stand up for myself. I wouldn’t wish being pickpocketed on anyone, but by having my phone stolen, I grew up and became a stronger person.