You may recall that I was the victim of a pickpocket in the Paris Metro. That is not really the end of the story. We held off telling the rest of the story partially out of embarrassment and partly because we were worried that you might think we were in over our heads. We believe that we were just very unlucky on two different occasions. I thought I would post this story as soon as I got home; but for reasons totally unclear to me, Susan loves telling the story and didn’t want me to steal her thunder. I told her she could have a month, and then I was going public.
Two days after the pickpocket incident, we took a train from Paris to San Sebastián, Spain. We put three of our suitcases over our heads and one in the luggage rack about two rows back. Near the end of the trip, I looked back at the luggage rack and the suitcase was still there. I then looked overhead and my small carry on suitcase was missing. Susan had slept for much of the train ride and I could not remember one of the previous stops. I believe the man sitting across the aisle from me saw us take our two iPads out of that suitcase, thought there might be other goodies in it, took it from directly over my head when I fell asleep, and got off the train.
I notified the conductor and we made a search of the train together to no avail. I tried to leave a lost luggage report at the train station in case it was taken accidentally, but they said they would refuse to take the luggage back if someone tried to return it. At this point, I essentially wrote the luggage off and started trying to deal with it. I had lost my camera, all the tools for recharging electronics, all my drugs and toiletries, my iPod, some clothes, all the documents we needed for the rest of the trip, my SD cards, and my passport!
For several hours we were ready to pack it in and go home, but we soon pulled ourselves together and went to work on how to deal with it. The first priority was the ability to recharge our electronics. Without them, we were out of contact with the world and researching what to do would become infinitely harder. Fortunately, there was an Apple dealer nearby who sold a neat recharging kit for all common electrical outlets.
Next priority was my drugs. Maria at the local pharmacy spoke a little English and was soon my best friend. There were two prescription drugs that I had to replace. Fortunately, I knew the concentrations and I was able to buy them without any prescription. They cost about a third of what they would have cost at home without insurance. The non prescription drugs were harder to get and cost more. I would show her the website of the drug on my phone, she would look it up on her computer, and come up with the nearest equivalent. I saw Maria every day for about four days until I got everything I needed.
The iPhone has been my only camera since I arrived in Spain. It is not nearly as good for night shots, indoor shots, and zooming; but it is decent otherwise. I am not too upset about the loss of the camera as it is a good excuse to get a new one. The iPod was an early model and had a cracked screen, so again I welcome the excuse to get a replacement. The rest of the things I could live without.
The biggest worry was the passport. Fortunately, we were going to Madrid so I tried to make an appointment with the embassy to get a replacement. Remember this was when my only wifi was at a bar near our apartment, which made everything very difficult. At first the State Department web site indicated no appointments were available when I would be in Madrid and offered me little hope. Things improved when I was able to talk to a real person and I got my appointment.
Then, about four days before we left for Madrid, to my total surprise and amazement, I got an email from the Paris police that they had recovered my luggage and it contained an umbrella, eyeglasses (spares), men’s clothes, and my passport. Now I really didn’t know what to do as I didn’t know how to collect it from the Paris police. Going back to Paris would be more expense than the value of what I would likely recover. The police made it clear that they would not ship it.
I tried contacting an American I knew in Paris, but for a variety of good and valid reasons, they were unable to help. In desperation, I contacted my landlord in Paris and he just took charge of the situation. First, he found a company that would pick it up and ship it, but again the cost was way more than the value. The luggage was being held very near the apartment he rents, so he said he would pick it up and send it to me when he was at the apartment in about a week. It turns out he sells things on eBay so he had all the packing supplies. He helped research shipping options and came up with the best one. He also wrote out in French what I needed to write to the Paris police to authorize him to pick up the suitcase. To my total relief, I received my suitcase and passport about halfway through the stay in Seville at a total cost less than replacing the passport.
It turns out the suitcase had a lot more than first reported. The only things lost were the camera, the iPod, and the SD card case which contained the SIM card for our US phone. It gave me a tiny bit of satisfaction that the thief had neglected to take the charger for the camera batteries.
After these two incidents we were totally paranoid on future train and bus trips. The main lesson learned is that sleeping on trains is not an option!