We had just arrived at the train station in Paris. We purchased our tickets for the Metro and proceeded to the platform.
As usual there were throngs of people waiting to board the next train. It would be packed as this was prime time Paris, at the Gare du Nord!
The train pulled in, the doors opened and people began to disembark. My husband, was waiting patiently, as people stepped off the train. He stood just to the right of the open doors…. giving everyone room to get off. I was standing just behind him, over his left shoulder.
I noticed the young black gentleman (who I perceived to be of African decent) only because he came into my peripheral vision, at the exact moment he forcibly shoved my husband, out of his way, pushed past him and boarded the train.
He actually pushed him so hard, that Nick bumped into me, causing me to take an unwanted step backwards.
“How fucking rude,” I thought.
We boarded the train, the doors closed behind us and we all stood there… huddled, awkwardly together around the pole in the centre of the coach.
I could see clearly that my husband was agitated and he immediately said something to the young man (in French) who was standing less than a foot away from both of us.
*It should be noted here, that I do not speak a word of French, other than “hello, good-bye, please, thank you and where is the toilet,” so I didn’t have a clue as to what he said.
The young man responded in an unmistakably indignant tone; one which I remember thinking was perhaps a bit too loud for this situation. People around us looked uncomfortable and I felt the energy in the carriage change.
For the next 3-4 minutes (the time it took to get to the next station) the young man and my husband exchanged, what sounded like heated words. In the breaks between their “war of words,” the young man huffed and puffed and spoke loudly to the uncomfortable strangers around him. He spoke in a tone that led me to believe HE somehow believed, that he had been wronged? This confused me, because I clearly saw him push my husband, out of his way!
I thought it odd when he got off the train at that very next station. I mean, WTF? He had pushed and shoved and was hell bent on getting on this particular train, only to get off a quarter of a mile up the line? Odd, indeed.
It wasn’t until the doors closed and the train started to move again, that my husband looked at me with anger in his eyes and said, “I know he has my wallet, I know he does!”
“Wait… what? Wallet? What wallet?“
I was gobsmacked! I looked at my husband in disbelief. My mouth literally fell open and I said, “What? Your wallet is gone? What… are you sure?
He was sure. Yes, we’d been in France less than 15 minutes and his wallet was gone.
Oh, believe me, it could have definitely been worse! All that was in the wallet (I say “all” like it was nothing!) was cash (Pounds and Euros) and the remainder of the book of train tickets we had just bought. Thank goodness his credit cards and IDs were elsewhere.
After we got off the train, we were able to discuss the ordeal, ad nauseam. We compared notes, talked about what we believed we experienced and observed; and we searched our hearts and consciences for the “truth.”
How horrible would it be to wrongly accuse someone of something like that?
However after much rehashing and going over our movements again and again, we both came to the only logical conclusion there was… that loud, brazen, rude man had very efficiently and methodically pickpocketed my husband’s wallet.
My husband had his wallet in his possession when he purchased the train tickets. He put the train tickets in his wallet, and he put the wallet away. It was less than 5 minutes from the time we bought the train tickets, walked to the platform and were ready to board the train. We had had NO interactions or even close encounters with anyone else, within those 5 minutes.
There was no good reason for this young man to shove Nick out of the way, causing a scene, while people were still trying to get off the train. His false bravado, although an award winning performance, was unnecessary and frankly a bit over the top. It did however succeed at putting Nick (and me) on the defensive as his drama created an effective diversion. He sounded so very aggrieved and convincing, I could actually feel many of the people around us, becoming empathetic to his predicament.
We are 99.99% sure he took the wallet (one can never know anything 100% can one?) It was probably passed back to a “colleague,” before the train had ever left the platform. His friend would be waiting for him back at the Gare du Nord and they’d meet up later, to have a good laugh, and split the loot.
“Live, learn, and trust Karma,” that’s what I say!
That’s just the beginning of this unfortunate story… because after that incident, I was very uncomfortable, the entire time I was in Paris. Not with everyone and everything… but (said in an embarrassingly tone) with every young, “African looking” man (whatever that means?) who got within 5 feet of me.
I was innocently bumped a few times on the street and found myself immediately clutching my handbag and checking that my camera was still there.
If a small group of young, African looking young men happened to be walking down the street, towards us, I became a uneasy and somewhat paranoid.
On the Metro train, as we headed back to the Gare du Nord, to leave Paris, I was sure I was being “sized up” by two gentlemen, who moved their seats, so that they ended up sitting on either side of me (diagonally) each a few seats away. (It wasn’t obvious, to anyone, that I was with Nick… as we could not get two seats together) The fact that these two men appeared to be texting each other, constantly looking around and I (without a question of a doubt!) saw the man on my left, look at the man on my right, wink, nod and smile, did nothing to put my mind at ease!
WTF? This isn’t me! This isn’t who I am!
I’d like to say (…but Donald Trump has truly ruined it for me and everyone else!) that I don’t have a prejudice bone in my body! However, I am honest enough with myself to know that I am human! I am quite sure, that I (like all people) have some weird, unsubstantiated opinions and idiosyncrasies regarding different types of people… but the race has NEVER, EVER been a “thing,” for me.
I’ve dated men of colour and not just experimentally, but long term serious relationships… Two of my three grandchildren are mixed (black/white) race. And yes, (don’t laugh) some of my best friends ARE in fact black.
…so where is “this” coming from?
Had it been a young Asian man, would I now be leery of all young Asian men in my personal space?
What if it were a young, female? Would I cringe every time a young woman approached?
What about a young Scandinavian, gender neutral looking person?
Or a middle aged man, dressed in a clown suit, what then!
Where does it end? Where did it begin?
I don’t like this. I don’t like this once single bit… I do not appreciate having my thoughts and behaviours (subconsciously) fucked with (and negatively influenced by) some random act of human greed and stupidity, carried out by ignorant, lazy, inept, tool!
Automatically, thinking suspiciously of people is not the type of person I am! I don’t base my opinions of people on race, nationality, gender, sexual preference, religion, etc… If you’re nice, you’re a nice person. If you’re an asshole, we’ll, I’m sorry, you’re an asshole! I wholeheartedly believe it has nothing to do with the colour of your skin, who you sleep with or what God you pray to.
I’m sure this disturbing, jaded veil that has covered my eyes will (in time) be lifted, it has to be, because it’s NOT who I am. It is not who I want to be.
The whole thing however, has shaken me to the core. It has made me more leery and acutely aware of my fellow human beings (and my own personal space) than I ever wanted to be.
More importantly it has made me question, reassess and reevaluate ME.
This is not necessarily a bad thing. I just wish it weren’t dumped on me! As most introspection goes, it’s awkward and it’s uncomfortable and it’s so NOT how I wanted to spend my weekend in Paris!