Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Paris 2011 - sh*t happens

The last night we were in Paris I thought to myself... I really wanted to see the Arc de Triomphe! I knew we could wait until the next time we visited Paris, but the idea of seeing it that evening just sounded so great.

This idea came about when we were taking a break at the hotel from walking around the city earlier in the day, and before we went out to dinner (with a reservation.) It was also the time when most people probably just got off work, and during traffic peak hours.

We had avoided taking the train anywhere during peak hours during the whole trip until then. We didn't want to be in a train that's too crowded and to take a chance on missing our stops, etc.. But we decided we would do it, because the few times when we were in a fairly crowded train, Parisians seem to be respectful and kept everything to themselves, and they never would push or "squeeze" anyone:

Like this.

But something happened on our train ride to the Arc de Triomphe.

As we were waiting to get on the first train at the station there were lots of people around us. A group of young girls were talking to each other, laughing, and such. When the train came everyone started walking toward the train in an orderly fashion, and one of the girls from the little group mentioned above began pushing and squeezing among the crowds to get to the door. I thought it was strange and rude, but didn't think too much of it. She was the only one from her group that got on the train.

When everyone was on the train the girl was pretty close to both John and I. Again, most Parisians would not have direct contact with you or your body even if it was crowded on the train. But the girl was still leaning on people. Eventually she leaned on me and my bag (like a small messenger bag). It was weird and uncomfortable so I stepped backward and stood by the seating area.

The train made a couple stops, and every time it stopped and went people in the carts would "shift" a little. All of a sudden the train jerked and John seemed to be losing his balance a bit. He reached out to the metal bars to keep himself from pushing onto others, like so:

All of a sudden John looked at me and said, "My wallet is gone," and then he told me it was the girl (who was leaning on everyone) who was then facing toward the door. She was also the small girl pictured above... the one on the left standing between me (camera) and John!

I asked if he was sure. He said yes, so I then said, "then get it back!"

The train was still moving. John poked the girl's shoulder to get her attention. She turned her head and was like, "what?!"


Everyone standing around them was looking. A couple people started talking (and I had no idea what they were saying.)

She didn't speak. Just looked at him. John then said again, "Wallet. Give it."

The girl slowly reached down toward the floor and pulled up John's wallet and gave it to him.

A couple guys standing by the door nodded at John (a gesture of approval?) and an old guy started scolding the girl, until everyone got off a larger station (to transfer.)

John and wondered if the old guy scolded the girl because she was stealing, or because she didn't get away with it.

Fortunately John discovered that his wallet was gone soon enough, and before anyone got off the train. The girl didn't have time to take anything from his wallet before she was caught.

John said he knew it was the girl because he felt the girl's hand on his leg when the train was stopping too quickly. He thought she was just trying to grab onto something for balance. But then he felt her hand again a bit higher, and he realized that spot was where his wallet was (deep in his front pocket!) and he knew she took his wallet.

We knew we had to be careful, but I think we got a little too relaxed and was not being more cautious of our belongings, and almost got taken advantage of. Lesson learned.

Oh, and this was confirmed: A good Parisian would not push or touch you in the train station or on the train, but a bad one probably would.

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