Earning a Tourist Merit Badge in Barcelona

Watch out for the pickpockets, they said. Watch out for the gypsies, they said. Watch out for the street urchins, they’ll rob you blind, they said. Barcelona is notorious for its various kinds of street thieves.

So I planned accordingly. I bought us belt loop wallets that hang down the inside of our pant legs. I bought a secure travel bag reinforced with steel mesh so the cross-body strap and the side panels cannot be slashed, with locks on it for the various zippered pockets so they can’t be surreptitiously opened. We’re employing best practices of not carrying everything we have, nor keeping everything in one or two places — spreading things out and alternating what we’re carrying. We have photocopies of all our important documents.

And yet …

None of that will protect you from the very casual tendency we have to lay our phone down beside our plate on the lunch table, only to then have a (professional) teen-age hustler (gypsy? street urchin? vagabond?) approach, map in hand, trying to sell something — the map? or a personal tour of some sort? (I couldn’t quite tell. And that confusion was the point.) In a deft and practiced manner, he lay the map out over the phone and scooped it up and took it with him when he was ushered away from the table. All of this took place inside a reasonably nice local restaurant — not out on the streets.

A classic gambit, of course, no shame falling for it, and no better way to arm yourself against its future success than to suffer the consequences once. Just once.

Ah well, phones can be replaced. Will be good for me not to be tethered to an electronic device for the duration of this trip anyway. Plus, can you say iPhone 5S? Every cloud has its silver lining.

Spent about an hour and a half at a Barcelona police substation in Plaza Catalunya tonight filing a report.

Le sigh. (Or should I say “el” sigh?) Time to shake it off and proceed with the festivities!

[Hat tip to my friend Dave Stringer Hughes, who also lost his phone in Barcelona to another professional thief, for the title of this post.]

2 thoughts on “Earning a Tourist Merit Badge in Barcelona”

    1. I can wipe it remotely if it reappears on the network, but I had disabled celluar roaming, rendering it a wifi only device, pending the purchase of a local SIM card, which was next on the agenda before the phone got stolen. They have 10 attempts to crack the lock code before it wipes itself. It’s unlikely that they’re interested in my data anyway. I suspect the phone has already been wiped and sold. Thankfully, it’s backed up to the cloud, so when I get a new phone, it should be pretty painless.

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