Yesterday's post about pickpocketing has generated a flurry of reactions. So I thought I might add a few thoughts and my one-sided ounce-of-prevention ideas for possibly reducing chances of getting your wallet pinched in this fair city.
1. I never take the RER in from Charles de Gaulle. Never. I don't allow anyone I like to take the RER in from Charles de Gaulle. That RER is where the rookie pocket-pickers attend on-the-job training. Such easy prey: sleep-deprived, luggage-toting newcomers fresh from the airport ATM.
My answer is spelled R-O-I-S-S-Y-B-U-S.
2. The metro. I am fortunate enough that I don't have to ride the metro during rush hour. If you don't have to commute, I recommend not doing it either. One summer when I was 19 I wedged into a packed metro car at 18h00, and nothing got taken, but thanks to a frotteur ... oh never mind. Never again. I just don't do crowded metro cars unless under duress and I'm wearing plated armor. Or I'll wait until the next car comes along, usually emptier. This is Paris; it's okay to be a bit late.
I avoid the Chatelet metro station at all costs. Even if it's raining rats and frogs outside, I prefer to walk from the next stop (whichever line) than to troll my sorry behind through Chatelet. It gives me the creeps.
My answer: learn the bus routes.
3. I try to dress the part. These are the streets, after all. I try not to have my outfit scream "American!" But not like I emerged from a relooking shopping spree on avenue Montaigne, either. If you're going someplace that requires you to wear expensive designer clothes and carry a Gucci bag, best to take a taxi. If you're going to these places it means you can afford to take a taxi, right?
4. This is the toughest part to admit. In Paris I have learned to walk outdoors stone-faced, purposeful, and unhelpful, especially when in heavily-traveled tourist areas. I'm still having tons o' fun as I breeze through the streets -- I just don't show it. Why? The pickpockets are clever, cheeky tricksters who can read a softy at 100 meters. That's why usually I don't dawdle anywhere with a camera or map in hand, either. I am hopelessly lost anywhere, be it village or city, until I know a place by heart, so here I stash a small Plan de Paris book. When possible, I usually back up to a friendly-looking store doorway or window to consult it, along with a trusty midget compass I keep on hand. (Like I said, I am really, really directionally challenged). Unwitting visitors who block the middle of the sidewalk as they plaster thin air with a huge unfolded map are easy targets. They may as well be posting a "help wanted: pickpocketers" notice. Especially when conferring with each other at decibels above the rest of the crowd.
Of course adopting a cool and unapproachable demeanor can catch up with you. One day I was doing my Easter-Island-face don't-mess-with-me routine as I paced down rue St. Antoine; then a guy from my singing group crossed my path with chirpy "bonjour!" Not recognizing him out of context, I ignored him until he jumped up and down, insisting, "It's me! Victor! I'm a tenor!"
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