I was almost pickpocketed twice yesterday (or rather, about 12 hours ago), and now I can’t seem to fall asleep.
Those of you that follow me on Twitter may have seen me tweet the following:
“Oh wow. Some foreigners just tried to pickpocket me. The nerve.”
Which was followed up minutes later with the following tweet:
“Ok now the two of them are following me. What the heck. Follow me some more and I’ll take you straight to the cops.”
The story was that I needed to get British Pounds because I’ll be heading to the UK in a couple of days, so I went to the bank to withdraw a nice sum of Euros. Instead of a crossbody handbag that I normally use, I had on a backpack, and of course, my purse was in the backpack, albeit buried low beneath my other things. After making the withdrawal, I walked about 15 minutes to a currency exchange (we call them kantors, so I’ll just refer to them as kantors henceforth) to convert them to Polish zlotys and then to Pounds (that’s just how it works here).
The street I was on had 4 or 5 kantors, and I decided to convert my Euros to zlotys in one shop, and then go down two shops to convert the zlotys to Pounds. I was in line at the first kantor, replying a couple of messages when I felt someone bumping my backpack. That isn’t an uncommon occurrence – often people accidentally bump into you when you’re in line and they aren’t paying attention to their surroundings – so I moved forward a little and ignored it.
Then it happened again. This time I turned around and sharply eyed the person behind me, mostly because I was annoyed. There wasn’t one, but two Romani-looking women behind me, all decked out in massive black scarves and long black clothes, and a bright-coloured beanie each. The more aggressive one of the two wore a purple beanie, so we’ll call her PurpleB. Again, I shuffled a bit so that I wasn’t standing directly in front of them, thinking that they maybe had a problem with not being able to stand still, for whatever reason.
THEN I heard a zipper sound. My bag has zippers. Instinctively I turned around and swung my bag off to find that, surprise, surprise, one compartment was unzipped just wide enough to comfortably fit a hand in. I was shocked and didn’t know what to do, so I glared at PurpleB (who was shuffling her hand under her massive black scarf) and kept my bag in front of me after making sure nothing was missing from that compartment. It was then my turn at the kantor, so I got my zlotys and headed down the street to the next kantor.
At the next kantor, just after I had changed my zlotys for Pounds, I saw PurpleB’s head peeping at me through the door, and then quickly ducking out of view when she saw me looking at her. At this stage, I was thoroughly annoyed. I knew they were up to no good, but I just wanted to get home and didn’t think much about it. I kept my purse and walked out the door.
I walked maybe 100m, turned around, didn’t notice them following me, so I leisurely made my way to a tram stop to get home. The walk probably took me 10 minutes, and as I neared the stop, I felt a slight pressure on my backpack. There were many people around so I didn’t think much about it (argh, why was I so silly!). Then I saw the tram arrive and I did a little jog towards it, and for whatever reason, I abruptly stopped about ten paces from the tram and I felt someone ram right into me.
I turned around, and guess who it was. Yep. PurpleB was back.
She panicked and ran up that tram, but at that point I knew they were trailing me and I absolutely did not want to get on that tram. So she hesitated and got off the tram (she was really just bad at trailing people). I decided that I could probably get on the tram and try to lose her by getting off at the next stop. When I got on, she and her buddy got on too. We were somewhere near the front of the tram, so I quickly pressed my way through the crowd of people to the back of the tram to gain some distance and check if they had successfully stolen from me. Thankfully (!!!) all my items were intact even though they had opened one of the zippers halfway.
PurpleB just kept making incredibly obvious moves to keep an eye on me from the front of the tram, when I lost my patience and snapped my phone out to make like I was taking a photo of her. It worked for a bit – she stopped peeking at me.
At the next stop, I quickly alighted the tram AND THEY FOLLOWED ME DOWN. ARGH.
At this point, I was beyond irritated. I wanted to get on with my day and they were ruining it for me. The tram had stopped right behind a zebra-crossing, and there was a small crowd of people there waiting for the light to turn to cross the road, so I stood with them and just death-stared PurpleB, who decided to duck behind an advert at the tram stop. Said advert was perhaps 30 paces from where I stood.
While I was deciding what to do, I saw PurpleB deliberately, and very obviously, sneak a peek in my direction (I tell you, they would not make good spies). I was so fed-up, I could have screamed at them. Right then, the light turned green and everyone started crossing the road. Bear in mind that the tram was still positioned behind the zebra-crossing, so what did I do? I dashed right across the street and behind the tram hoping that they wouldn’t see me.
Near the corner of the opposite street, there was a tall kiosk with opaque walls. I was super desperate to lose them, so I thought, you know what, I’m going to hide behind this kiosk. I didn’t think it’d work, but it did. I lost them just by hiding behind a kiosk! Hurra!
At that point, I was borderline furious at being made to resort to such actions, annoyed at myself for not knowing what else to do, and ever so slightly nervous that they were still following me. So I just stood behind the kiosk like a weird creeper and kept an eye on my surroundings while replying tweets and texting to appear normal. The owner of the kiosk probably thought I was a vandal of some sort and got out of her kiosk to stand somewhere near me and pretend to sweep non-existent leaves. Thank you random lady, you truly made me feel a lot safer.
A friend reached out to me, and his place was only 10 minutes away from where I was, so I quickly made my way there with many glances over my shoulder. It was there that I started to feel incredibly nervous and anxious. I probably talked a LOT to cover up my (rather mild) anxiety, but I really did not want to leave. When I eventually did 2 hours later, I definitely spun around every 2 minutes or so to make sure no one was following me.
And now I’m telling you all of this because a) I am super paranoid that there are people waiting to follow me around and rob me when I leave the house tomorrow; and b) I am nervous. I feel like anyone could break into my apartment and rob me.
I, and everyone else, deserve the right to walk around town and not feel threatened or worried. It’s served to make me further distrust the foreigners in Poland. I’m not saying that all Polish people are upright and all foreigners are crooks (because I am very obviously also a foreigner here), but at least temporarily, this is not an impression I will easily discard. I am up now wondering if I could have done something differently, or rather if I should have done something differently, like call them out in public, but I felt like there was no way I could have proved it? But I don’t know, you feel free to tell me if I could have reacted in a better way.
If you’ve read the entire thing, I applaud you and thank you. I know that my anxiety is perhaps slightly irrational, but I can’t help it. I will be glad to leave this city for a bit, I’ll tell you that. I am now going to go talk to God and thank Him loads for His grace and protection. *breathes*