Monday, June 8, 2015

My Messy Purse: Or How I avoided being robbed by Gypsies even when one got her hand in my purse.

I'm on vacation on Spain, specifically in Madrid and Seville. In both places, I was accosted by Gypsies. Both times they were "selling" tiny sprigs of some kind of evergreen, which was not worth shit. Seriously, they looked like they were plucked from the bushes nearby. Now, I am a very charitable person, and I don't mind giving money to the poor or not so poor who crowd the doors of churches and huddle with their dogs on sidewalks. I don't even mind if they take my money and go home to a nice house. I'm a realist. While in Italy, I was told by our guide that the old mama selling prayer papers in front of the church got picked up by her son at the end of the day in a Maserati. So, I don't care. I will give away my hard-earned money to those I deem in need.

What I do not like is being robbed of my wallet or taken advantage of. That is why I take many precautions, which have saved me from being robbed. I am from New York,  so I am quite cautious and aware of my surroundings.

1. I keep the zipper of my purse turned so it is in front of  me. Thieves cannot easily open it from behind. I even rest my hand on it.
2. I keep my bag under my arm.
3. I do not carry anything that is recognizable to the hand as a wallet.

Number three has saved me from being robbed even when I forgot to turn my bag forward.
Gypsies love to rob my  Francesco-Biasia Bag
On my birthday, my husband and I were looking over a lovely lake in Madrid's Parque del Retiro, when a gypsy came up and landed on me. I mean this literally. Her body was pressed up to mine on my right as she waved a sprig of green in  my face to the left to distract me from the fact that she had her hand in my purse. I carry a lot of crap in my bag. I do this on purpose. A neat bag has never done anything but helped a mugger out. I have tissues, plastic bags, combs, brushes  and all kinds of stuff in my purse. You would need a map to find anything in there. It's like a labyrinth.

(I have done this since I was a girl. I had a cold  once and loaded by purse with individual tissues. I was on a bus and felt a bump. I turned around and saw a pickpocket with my blue tissue in his hand smiling sheepishly at me, but I still had my wallet). So, the gypsy  kept waving the sprig in our faces to get time to investigate my bag.  Finally, we walked away. I found my bag open but nothing missing. I had hidden my credit cards in a zip pocket. She had not found my wallet because I had none to find.

I only need one or two credit cards during a day.  It put them with my room key in the zip pocket. Gypsies are not looking for loose cards. As for cash, I  toss it loose in my bag or put in in my tissue pack.  Muggers are looking for a specific wallet feel in my bag, not a plastic tissue wrapper  with tissues and cash. Sometimes I clip my wallet to the key-ring if I have one attached inside the bag. I also put my change on the bottom. It's messy, but I was not pickpocketed.

My husband and I were accosted two more times by Gypsies so far on this trip. The second time, one shoved a flower into my husband's bag. My husband, who is a gentleman, tried to return it. The woman laughed and kept moving away. He  relented and took out some change (later, we discussed it, and I told him to just toss the flower on the ground even though we do not like being rude). He was going to give her a euro. She said "no," that she wanted foreign money. My husband had none. While this was going on, I noticed the second woman who had been selling flowers coming closer and closer to me and my purse.  I took the flower shoved it back in the other woman's  pocket and walked away.

The third time, I was walking down the street and a sprig seller bumped into me, waving the plant in my face. I felt her hand moving up and down my side as she looked for my handbag. I was not carrying it, so she felt nothing and just walked away.

I have never been accosted so many times, but neither have I carried a nice bag while travelling before either. I usually carry one of those ugly blue mugger-resistant bags. I will probably go back to wearing that since I can't take being humped by gypsies every two seconds.

Candice Raquel Lee
Author of  The Innocent: A Metaphysical Love Story  

and Effed Up: An Abnormal Romance