In 2013 pickpockets got me in Cinque Terra. I was confident my leather coin purse was safely protected by a zipper and Velcro. What I experienced were the moves of a classic pickpocket team. There was a distractor, a cannon, and a handoff man. The crowd might as well have tossed their valuables in the air. I didn’t discover the lift until we were back in Vernazza.
My discovery earned me a big, “I Told You So!” This was true. So, the rest of the lecture was unnecessary, but thoroughly enjoyed by the person delivering it.Back at Rooms Elisabetta I constructed a decoy wallet out of feminine hygiene products. I carried it in my back pocket for the rest of the trip. It was never snagged, and I still have it.
For our adventures in Spain and Italy in 2016 I constructed a new decoy. It lacked the illustrative passion of the first one. My initial experience as an easy mark inspired a certain artistic fervor. It sent me to the Italian/English dictionary to invent insults.
My current decoy was hastily constructed and illustrated. It’s thicker than the first one. It’s modeled after the leather coin purse I lost in Cinque Terra. It’s stuffed with random business cards, a Canadian dollar, and a U.S. penny.
I’ve done some research on pickpockets. It’s research I should have done before our trip to Cinque Terra. The key piece of advice is, “Never keep anything in your back pocket!” The only thing that will ever go in my back pocket again is the decoy.
My fake wallet made it through Spain, Portugal, Italy, Ireland, the canals of France, Ecuador, and back again without incident. Now veteran vagabonds tell me to beware of The Vatican.
The thought of thieves on Holy Ground during the Christmas season didn’t spring readily to mind. It makes perfect sense though. Where there are crowds there will be nimble fingers. Perhaps Jesus tossed the money changers out of the temple to save thieves from themselves.
I fully expect to be in possession of my decoy wallet at the end of our trip. It will probably only fool rank amateurs. That’s OK! It means if I become a victim, it will be at the hands of a true artist. You have to respect the kind of skills that can get past Velcro and zippers without a single tug. If someone is going to take money out of your pocket, you don’t want them to be a snatch and dash street punk. You want them to be the best, and only the best!