Saturday, May 22, 2010

New Wallet

My brother and I, after a few nights in Rouen -- where we viewed the famous "lace" cathedral(much of which, unfortunately, was enclosed in scaffolding), and visited the very interesting museum at the hospital where Gustave Flaubert was born (his father was a doctor there), and took a train up to Caen where we purchased a five-hour guided tour of the somberly amazing scenes of the June 6, 1944, invasion of Normandy -- were now back in Paris, deboarding at Gare St. Lazare.  We went directly from the station into the Metro; I had to get out my wallet in which I had tucked my stash of Metro tickets; I extracted one ticket and replaced my wallet and buttoned my pocket.  We rode to Station Oberkampf, exited the station, and were walking to our hotel.  I don't know what made me reach again for my wallet but I said, "Oh my god!  My wallet is gone!"  Shucks!  Not to worry; we were putting everything on my brother's credit card anyhow, but I did have something like $500 in Euros and dollars in my wallet, plus the usuals ... credit cards, driver's license, two poems that I've kept in there for years (Emily Dickinson's "Because I could not stop for Death" and e e cummings' "I thank you God")  We walked a few more steps, my crest fallen, when suddenly Bernard announced that his wallet too was gone!

Ah, still not to worry.  Our passports and some traveler cheques were in our suitcases.

Here's what I recalled:  As I'd stepped onto the Metro car a girl just in front of me, perhaps twelve or thirteen, stopped so abruptly that I bumped into her; she immediately reached both arms out and grabbed the poles one grasps so as to not be jostled; I was irritated and puzzled that she didn't proceed on into the car so that I too could, or that she might at least lower her arms so I could step around her; simultaneously someone behind me bumped into me.

Classic!  I've seen it on "Sixty Minutes"!  How did I not recognize immediately what was happening?

And how my brother, who was carrying his wallet in his front pants pocket, and who had immediately taken a fold-down seat just inside the door of the Metro car, got it picked I can't imagine, though the gorgeous young woman at the Police Station who took down our report said that pickpockets are truly artists of stealth.

We gained a good perspective quickly enough ... I hoped that my money would go towards food for some people who were hungry.  And I was grateful that of all the misfortunes that one may meet at any moment of any day, this one was of the minor class.

It was the second pickpocket of my life.  At Mardi Gras in 1965 a pal and I, having just that afternoon arrived from Chicago on The City of New Orleans, were, come evening, walking down a street looking for a place to eat.  Suddenly a somewhat elderly woman behind me fell down, jostling me as she did so.  I took pity upon her, hoping she was not hurt.  I reached to help her up but, giving me a dirty look as if I had caused her fall, she scrambled to an upright position on her own, and marched off in the opposite direction with, presumably, my wallet, my eighty bucks spending money, and an autograph of Joan Baez which I'd tucked into said wallet.

A night or two later I met a nice-looking thirty-ish man who lived in New York City and who thought I was that era's equivalent of today's to die for.  He took me to dinner at Antoine's, a fine restaurant.  I was not accustomed to such elegance. and was uncomfortable in the setting ... thick white tablecloths, tuxedo-ed waiters each with a starched napkin draped over his forearm.  This man told me that if I'd go to New York City and live with him he would put me through college.  "You're too smart to be wasting your life working at Western Union," he said.

I was living in Michigan at the time.  I was having fun.  I had too many good friends there to even think of up and moving to New York City.  Besides I didn't want to go to college.  I did consider, though, that it would (perhaps) have been a handsome return on my $80 loss.

When I declined his offer he said, "You need a psychiatrist," and offered to pay for that as well.

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