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Greece 7: Wild Ass & Albanians

The day after my wallet was lifted I fought the depression that was trying to suck me into playing the role of helpless victim by taking pro-active measures.  Seven hours of sleep helped me get an early start to the American Express office to obtain a new temporary charge card (I had canceled the stolen one from the hotel wi-fi within thirty minutes of the incident, but it felt good to have the credit back.  And a note: In Athens AE works for the most part, but on the island of Tinos,  Visa appears to be the only accepted card.)

I spent part of the morning on the Metro armed with my camera and an ominous two-foot length of mono-pod to whack any hands I felt near my body.  I had an idea who the most likely suspect was: a rather short, dark individual in a bulky coat, balding, with his hair combed straight back, perhaps in his mid-thirties or early forties.  He looked like he belonged at a race track, hawkish, with the face of a tout or drug dealer.  He crushed into me at one stop, and jumped out at the next. Maybe I would see him again and snap his picture?

No such luck.  Or maybe it was lucky I did not see him again although I took the Metro regularly for the next two days?  I reported my "lost wallet" to the authorities, who shrugged and said it was most likely stolen at precisely the stop I mentioned because that was where most thefts occurred. I stopped at  a few stations up and down the line and looked at a couple dozen wallets found within the last week, but did not see my own.

Athens police were quick to assure me that my wallet had probably not been taken by a Greek, but most likely by an Albanian.   Albania, they said, had suffered through years of political and social disruption behind closed borders, producing a generation or two of uneducated men and women, who, when the borders opened, fled the country into Greece and worked as cheap day laborers, or engaged in petty thievery.   No prejudice on my part-- merely what I was told.  But to debate this assertion, I would point out that Athens is awash with street vendors from various countries like Africa and Pakistan, some possibly homeless, their wares wrapped up in big sheets and carried off on their backs at the end of the day.  Given this, plus student unrest and unemployment, I bet Albanians have to compete for their stolen wallets with a whole bunch of other folk!

Upon returning to the States I sought some distraction by beginning John Crowley's Lord Byron's Novel: the Evening Land.  What a hoot to find myself growing up in Albania with the young Ali!  Clearly I am a character in some unwritten John Crowley novel trying to find my way to a meaningful resolution!


( 2 comments — Leave a comment )
Apr. 2nd, 2010 07:25 am (UTC)
The blankets are actually very clever devices that allow the sellers to flee from the police at first sight. I've seen them in action in Spain. A whistled signal by a lookout, and sidewalk worth of street peddlers will evaporate in 3 seconds flat and not a single pair of cheap counterfeit sunglasses left behind.
In Spain also, if your wallet is stolen, chances of getting it back, minus the cash, are quite high since the pickpocket code of honour demands that the leftovers of a successful hit be deposited in a mailbox. At least it used to be like that twenty-odd years ago when I lived there, and pickpockets were considered hard working, brave, almost decent people forced off the straight path by hard times. Needless to say they were a plague nevertheless and everybody had been or knew some one who had been pick-pocketed.
Apr. 28th, 2010 09:12 pm (UTC)
Reading this
I read these and enjoy them although I have little to say in response. I like the narrative. Tom Z
( 2 comments — Leave a comment )
Cydonia photo: ESA

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