I’m on a subway in Rome with my father and aunt. It’s the last day of their first trip to Italy. It has been a great 8 days – Rome, Amalfi Coast, and the town that our family hails from. We’re pretty relaxed – just had a great lunch after a visit to St. Peter’s Basilica. Since I’ve been living in Italy for 8 months at this point, I’m the de facto tour guide and am happy to handle everything (planning, logistics, bookings, navigation, etc.) so they can just show up and not worry. They paid for everything, so I can’t complain.

We get to our stop. We’re on the side of the train opposite the opening doors (my fault – I’m navigating) and I politely ask the people to move so we can get off. As the doors open, a group of 3 or 4 women shove themselves on the crowded train and seem to ignore my several declarations of “permesso” (i.e. can we get through). The doors start to close, and thinking the door worked like an elevator, I put my foot in the door hoping it would re-open. It didn’t, and one of the newly-boarded women pointed to the infographic on the door which warned against putting your body in the way of the closing door. We missed our stop. I was a little red-faced. She points to the sticker again saying in broken English, “you can get hurt”. I get it, I say to myself. Now we’re packed in like a bunch of stoners in the pit at a Cannibal Corpse concert. The doors open at the next stop. I turn to my dad and aunt and say as we’re getting off, “watch your pockets”. We get off the train, the doors close, and I ask, “we have everything?” Nope. My dad’s wallet is gone.

I’ve been all over Italy, and as such I inform anyone coming to this amazing country of the risks of pickpocketing. Italy is a relatively safe country, but high tourism means a high rate of pickpockets. In this case, the clever group of sh*theads forced themselves on the train, creating a full-body contact situation. Then, one distracted us by repeatedly pointing at the warning stickers on the door, meanwhile one of her confederates took my dad’s wallet – from his back pocket. He didn’t feel it, but in retrospect all signs pointed to it. I advised him previously, as I advise anyone traveling in busy parts of Europe, to keep items only in his front jean-style pockets so they’re more secure. But it didn’t matter. Between the close contact, distraction, and the “we missed our stop” stress, the motley crew knew what they were doing.

I don’t blame them. They were probably just trying to feed their families. Yeah, right. They’re dirtbags. If they need money and can’t find work, they should go sell animatronic dancing cacti and toenail clippers for 18 hours a day like all those guys I see on the street. They might be annoying sometimes, but they’re at least making an honest transaction (and usually have an interesting story behind why they do what they do – try talking to one of them).

If you think I’m venting my frustrations through a blog post, then trust your instincts. This all happened the day I’m writing this.

In the end, I can’t blame my dad. I should’ve known better in real-time, rather than 20 minutes later. It was only an ID and a couple of easily-cancelled credit cards that were lost – no big deal. The passport for travel home the next day was safe. I know there are others who have lost a lot more.

This angry blog post won’t change the behavior of those lifeless, good-for-nothing subway rats. But with any luck, one fellow traveler will read this and be more aware – in the moment, and quicker than I was.

Pickpocketing in Rome – or any big, touristy city – it’s a real thing. Be aware. In crowded tourist areas. On busy public transport. If someone creates a human blockade, think twice. If someone does something to draw your attention, put your hand on your valuables first – then look. Kindness, courtesy, and benefit-of-the-doubt are secondary on public transport. Not just for thieves, but for you too.

Thanks for reading.

6 thoughts on “Awareness”

  1. Anthony, do not blame yourself,
    you had a keen sense of detection and you issued a warning. You can try to be proactive, but these are professional thieves most likely trained from an early age. They’re skillful at the sleight of hand. As frustrating as it was, you’re correct, it could have been worse. I appreciate all your efforts in everything you do. Keep on writing, love it!!

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