“Virginia Is for Lovers” — Official Slogan of the Commonwealth
“Venice Is for Pickpockets” — Unofficial Slogan of the Serene Republic
I got robbed.
Having a wallet stolen is far from unusual in Venice. You might almost call it a typical Venetian tourist activity, although it’s not one that I would recommend to friends.
In the middle of the afternoon one day, I was swarmed by a pack of guttersnipes. I walked past a group of girls who looked to be high school or college age. Clean-cut, well-dressed, un-flashy. They were huddled around a map, and I ignored the scamps.
Half a block later, I noticed that the rapscallions were headed in the same general direction I was, but I didn’t think anything of it. They moved loosely, with some of the rascals walking ahead of me, then pausing or dropping back, to be replaced by another couple of waifs.
It didn’t occur to me that I was being stalked. The first hint I had was when I stopped rather abruptly, and saw that one of the urchins—I think of her as “The Urchin of Venice”—was immediately behind me.
Even so, I didn’t feel threatened. My wallet was safe, inside a zipped pocket, which was itself in my closed knapsack. There’s a wonderful Mark Twain line describing “the calm confidence of a Christian holding four aces.” That was me.
They got the wallet. From inside the zipped pocket, in the closed knapsack.
I discovered it was missing when I got to my restaurant. The ragamuffins hadn’t taken my passport, fortunately, but the only money I had was the change left in my pocket.
So there I was, effectively penniless in Venice. Another old quote, source unknown, crossed my mind:
“When in trouble, when in doubt,
Run in circles, scream and shout”
Always sound advice.
The hero of this story is my brother David. After verifying that the person sending him email messages with the Subject Line: “Emergency! Emergency! Emergency!” was in fact, me, and not the former Nigerian Treasury Official with whom he’s carried on a longtime correspondence, he wired me the cash to get though my trip. And at a very competitive interest rate, too!
When something like this happens, it’s impossible to avoid a serious bout of “If Only”.
“If only I’d left the museum a few minutes later.”
“If only I hadn’t withdrawn all that money from the ATM yesterday.”
“If only I’d gone to Palazzo Grimani instead of San Pantalon.”
But that way lies madness.
It’s done. It’s only money. Forget it. Move on.
You might have noticed my use of Dickensian words like “urchin” and “ragamuffin” and “scamp” to characterize the thieves. I originally included more accurate descriptors, but, for some reason, that caused my posting to get bounced by the obscenity filter.
Use your own imagination.