Fri Nov 02, 2001 | day 53
I want to try something new for this email and copy a section from my journal so you can read it. (and no, it usually isn't this exciting or dangerous)
November 2, 2001
As I wait at the busstop, I can see would-be pickpocketers sizing me up. I can sense them getting close to me but when I turn around, I find them changing their sight and/or direction of walking. I decide to put all of my cash into a lower velcro pocket on my pants.
I started playing a game with two pickpockets which seemed to have targeted me and only me as their victim at the crowded busstop. (Maybe they saw me move my money?) I would move towards the curb as a bus approached pretending I was going to get on it. Seeing this, the two guys would fold up their newspapers (which they pretended to be reading) and run to the curb 15 feet down the sidewalk, while I would move back to my spot against the building. The first time I did this it was by mistake - but I noticed their behavior and had some fun screwing with them. I couldn't help but give them a sly grin everytime they noticed from the curb that I had returned back to my spot against the building.
When the bus I needed actually did pulled up, I did the opposite and didn't move towards it. Instead, I waited until the last minute to jump on the filling bus. But it wasn't as short of notice as I had hoped and I saw the pickpocketers load onto the middle of the bus while I chose the door by the bus driver, where I felt it might be a little safer.
That didn't do much good because as I boarded the bus, I met pickpocket #3. Actually, I *felt* him - as he tried to open the velcro pocket that contained my money, passport, etc. I brushed off his hand as i would do with a fly.
Not a minute later, as the bus was moving, he was at it again. I stalled a second or two, to see how he would do with such a hard pocket to descreetly open, and then elbowed him hard in the chest and told him to cut it out. He gave me this what-did-I-do? look and said something in Romanian to that effetc. I decided that the best way to stop him from even trying to get into the pocket was to turn around and stand face-to-face with him. I towered over the 5'7 teenager and I could tell by looking in his eyes that he know his game with me was over. Or so I thought....
This is when I met pickpocket #4. An older gentleman, about 30-35. He was trying to get into the pocket *while* I stood there staring down this kid!!! I began staring down this older guy, but he was good at the game and ignored me well, pretending to read his newspaper. But I would have that split second where I would turn his way and see that he was concentrating on me before acting like he was turning his attention to one spot on his newspaper.
Wouldn't you know it, as I concentrated on the older guy, the teenage pickpocket had unzipped my satchel bag!!!! But luckily, he hadn't taken anything yet, excepts for my assumption that he had given up on me.
I needed to move out of this situation, and fast. I contemplated getting off of the bus and walking to the station, but it was possible this gang of four thugs could get off as well and wait for the right moment to beat me up for hitting their youngest member.
Luck came when a girl in the front window seat got up and started for the door as the bus decelerated. I pushed and shoved, not caring for politeness, and made it to the safety of the seat.
I stared at the two guys feeling quite proud of my maneuver. #4 was talking to #3, looking like he was giving advice on what to do when an alert target gave him an elbow in the chest.
After a while, I gave the #4 a stern stare. He stared back, narrowing his eyes to look grimacing. It didn't.
Finally the tension ended for me and started building on all four of them: a police officer joined the crowded bus, standing right next to #3 and #4. The two tightened up by trying to look casual: hand on the ceiling rail (not the usual stance of the pickpocket) and a newspaper under an arm (the weapon of choice for all pickpockets in order to cover their prying hands).
At the very next stop, all four got off the bus -defeated. I stared them down as they walked in the opposite direction the bus was facing. The officer stared them down as well. I got his attention and held up four fingers. "Four of them," I said, and pointed to the pocket they tried so hard to get into. He nodded with a knowing grin, as if he knows all too well about these guys.
Before I reached the station, I had one last surprise left: my satchel bag was unzipped yet again - a final attempt by the crooks to get something from my bag as I pushed and shoved to the seat. God, they would have never given up!!
Once off the bus, I moved my necklace money belt to my neck, the first time I have done this on my entire journey.