Friday, April 2, 2010

Pocket Picked

Well, now I’ve had the full Bosnian experience. My pocket was picked today. OK, not exactly my pocket, but the thief unzipped my purse and lifted out my wallet while my purse was on my shoulder.
My friend Shirley and I were on a fun outing. She had a hair appointment and was allowing me to tag along to the most prestigious hair salon in Sarajevo. You seldome need an appointment in Sarajevo hair salons so I planned to get a cut while she had her hair done. The salon is not in downtown Sarajevo, but what you might call the suburbs, or at least the outer edges of the city. So we met at a downtown tram stop and were off for a self-indulgent afternoon.

When we arrived in Sarajevo we had to sit through a security briefing at the US embassy. At the briefing, we were all advised to avoid the trams and buses because of the prevalence of pick pockets. But since I almost never have to carry top secret documents, I dismissed this advice. Anyway, I was always careful with my things and thought I was so vigilant that a pickpocket wouldn’t have a chance.
Boarding the tram I was very careful to take my tram ticket out of my wallet and put the wallet back in my purse and zip it up.  I knew that, once on the tram, it would be so crowded that performing this simple maneuver would be difficult – especially with the additional challenge of the lurching and swaying tram. I was also carrying a very small duffel bag that was a disguise for my camera. I had already found that carrying the camera was like having a neon sign on my forehead that blinked “Foreign Tourist”. So you can see how cautious I was being.

The tram, as usual, was packed shoulder to shoulder. In squeezing toward the back, my bags shifted so that my purse ended up more behind me than just below my arm. Still, it was right against my body. When we finally squeezed our way off the tram I immediately checked to make sure I had both bags with me and I noticed that my purse was partly unzipped. I knew right away that I wouldn’t find my wallet. I never felt or noticed a thing. They are very skillful.

After a few minutes of anger and expletives and general venting I asked Shirley if she would loan me the money for a haircut. She readily agreed and it was the right decision. Pampering was just the antidote I needed.

Unfortunately, that meant that Landy had to clean up the mess. I called him at once and told him he would have to call and cancel the debit card for our home bank account. Luckily, I was carrying only the debit card and not any credit cards, so it will be some time and inconvenience to fix it, but we are not entirely cut off from access to funds.

This is a cash society, so I was carrying more cash than I normally carry at home. That was a very expensive tram ride. I should have taken the advice from the Embassy Security adviser. I could have taken a lot of cabs for the amount of money that I lost in that wallet.