Tuesday, October 06, 2009

Is Your Hand in my Pocket Because You're Glad to See Me

Yesterday, the UN ranked Norway the best place to live based on education, wealth and life expectancy which reminded me that I had an instructive email from Gary languishing in my inbox about the need for travellers on the road to be vigilant with valuables ... even in the best place to live in the world!

Soon after we rendezvoused with our friends on arrival in Oslo, one of them somewhat randomly mentioned multiple signs they had seen mentioning the need to stay vigilant about pickpockets.

Ah well, our friends don’t travel that much, I thought, and haven’t endured multiple “pickpockets are working this area” announcements at innumerable London tube stations. Isn’t that sweet (and maybe a bit na├»ve) that Marianne is concerned about such things?

The next day we had decided to join the tourist crowds, which we occasionally do, and go to see the astounding sculptures of Gustav Vigeland, Norway’s most well known (and randiest, if you take a moment to study his work) sculptor. Vigeland Park is a huge outdoor museum, and we enjoyed ourselves, despite, or maybe because of the steel grey weather. Recommended, in spite of the crowds.

Heading back to our apartment, we decided to make use of our OsloPass, which afforded us free travel on the entire trolley system, we headed to the station just outside the park gates. I was a tourist among tourists – cargo shorts, backpack, water bottle, camera. Waiting for the trolley, I took this random picture of a couple of people, one of whom (not facing me) would become more important.

The crowd built up, so by the time the train came, there were a couple of dozen of us waiting to get on.As we scrummed to board the train, said guy, newspaper in hand, thoughtfully motioned me and my backpack ahead of him. Interesting I thought, because I had seen him talking earlier to his friend, the guy who was now in front of me. Maybe they’d had enough of each other. No biggie.

Slowly, the guy in front of me stopped, and even backed up a bit, appearing to be waving others in ahead of him. Meanwhile the guy in back kept moving forward, jostling me and poking me with various elbows and knees. Was he just impatient or was that…a hand in my pocket? Suddenly, Marianne’s words came back to me as my mind spun with visions of spending the vacation cancelling credit cards and replacing driving licenses (after all who cares about the cash?)

What I did next came directly from my amygdala – no cerebral cortex involvement, I assure you. I screamed loudly “Hey, give me back my wallet!” and grabbed his newspaper arm (having understood the purpose of the paper now). Tellingly, he did not react at all, which was probably better for both of us, since I was ready for a fight and he was 20 years my junior. Everyone looked at me and waited to see what would happen. By that time I realized that he had not been successful – my wallet was still in my pocket. I know I should have dragged him to the local constabulary, but I was so relieved that I let him go and he melted into the crowd.

SO there is a moral to this story, which by the way, is not about Oslo, since it could happen anywhere. Yes, it’s about being vigilant, but more than that, it is about what a wonderful idea it is to make a scene. Acting like an obnoxious American has its advantages, and it was clearly the right thing to do here. Lorraine tells me that women, especially are taught not to call attention to themselves, even in such circumstances. I can tell you that the vacation would have been a very different one.
The image is from Viegland Park (thanks to http://www.ilovephilosophy.com/) and pickpockets or not - I really want to go there!

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