Perhaps because I’ve been to Europe numerous times, I’d gotten kind of complacent about being pickpocketed. I’ve heard the warnings for years and talked to more than one person who had been pickpocketed, but it has never happened to me. I keep my wallet in my front pants pocket and only keep my passport there when I’m arriving/leaving a city. But on the way to the bus station, I stopped with my two bags (little suitcase on wheels, camera bag, and shopping bag) to pick up some lunch to eat on the bus to Tallinn. And as is typical for me, I was almost late for the bus. I had to go down and up some stairs by the train station to cross a busy street, with my bags and a bag of fast food (and a drink!) in one hand, so I kind of rushed down and up the stairs in an awkward position.
And then a young couple dressed as tourists brushed past me on the steps.
As they passed me, the woman ever-so-subtly reached her hand into my front pocket, while I was carrying all of this stuff and in an awkward, vulnerable position. I knew instantly what she was up to, yelling and pushing her away at the same time. It was an automatic reaction. I almost knocked her down the steps. One of my bags went tumbling down the steps, unharmed.
After this instant reaction, I felt foolish and apologetic for a moment. Oh my god, did I just overreact to some real tourists who happened to walk too close to me??? Because they yelled back and called me crazy. For a moment, I didn’t know what to think. Real thieves or not? I held up my passport, showing them why I was upset.
Then a local came over having heard the commotion and asked them what was going on. They didn’t say much to him and walked up the stairs past me. Then, they suddenly reversed direction and walked back down, in the direction they had just walked up. The local guy said, “Those bad people!” So I guess I was right.
This was a really brazen attempt, although I was incredibly careless to put myself in such an awkward position. The steps weren’t very crowded, so it wasn’t a case of a busy train station packed with people. Only a few other people were around.
In any event, I still had to walk about ten minutes to the bus station (I had probably 30 minutes til my bus left so not quite late late, but I had to hustle to avoid being late). I was a bit freaked out, but I still had all of my food and bags, and I followed my phone’s directions to get there.
Obviously this would have been devastating for me and my trip. I would have lived, of course, but I would have had to stay in Riga a few more days, go to the US Embassy, and apply for a new passport. Likely I would not have been able to go to Russia. I did have spare credit cards and cash in one of my bags, so I would have been able to survive, though. Still, an incident like this makes you think…
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