The Pickpocket

Three times now I've been to Mexico and three times I've been robbed with stuff being lifted right from my pockets without me knowing.

In this entry I reveal what happened each time and why I won't let it change my perspective of this country or its people.

The first time I was pick-pocketed was nearly 4 years ago. I was in Cancun airport and it was just 5 days before the end of my first trip abroad. Having spent 9 months in Mexico without anything going wrong, I think its fair to say my guard was well and truly down and with my passport and bank cards conveniently sat in my back pocket, I presented what must have been easy pickings for whoever fancied a dip.

The second time was 18 months ago in Mexico City when I returned to the country with my sister Hannah and our friend Jon. En route to the Teotihuacan pyramids, we crossed the city in the early morning rush hour on the underground metro system which at that time, was rammed. As the train approached we were swallowed up by the surrounding crowds and forced onto the train.

On board you could not move. Not an inch. The thought of sardines in a tin comes to mind but I don't feel that quite does it justice. Anyway, a few stops down the line and we reach our stop where we just about manage in one piece to make it off the train and onto the platform. And that's when I noticed. My phone. It was gone.

Whether it was on the platform, whilst being pushed onto the train or during the journey itself, I don't know, but at some point somebody once again got their hands inside my pockets without me knowing.

The most frustrating thing at the time was not that I had had my phone stolen. No. It was that it had happened less than 10 minutes after stressing to both Hannah and to Jon that they should be especially careful of their pockets on the Metro whilst its so busy. Irony has never hurt so bad.

And that brings us to now. Or more accurately a couple of weekends ago.

It was mine and Nick's first weekend in Mexico City and en route to meet Kattia - a girl from CouchSurfing who had invited us out for the evening - we headed down underground to use the Metro.

The events which followed were uncannily similar to those which happened with Hannah and Jon. After being rammed onto an overly crowded train Nick looks across at me, clearly perturbed, and simply remarks "my wallet's gone." Nervously, I take my hand from the railing up above me and reach down. My front-left pocket - the one in which I carry a single bank card and my cash - it was empty. "Yeah, my money has gone" I replied calmly. Swapping hands I reached down to check my right pocket - the one which usually has my phone. Fortunately, its hard edges were still intact and I could breath a sigh of relief. "Have you still got your phone?" I asked. "Yeah" replies Nick.

Realising neither of us now had any money on us we had no choice but to head back to the hostel. Keen to exit the Metro we disembarked at the next station and instead chose to walk the 4km back to the hostel.

The first 10 minutes went by without us really saying a word.

Crossing from one block to the next I tried to figure out how I was feeling. I wasn't angry or upset. I don't really do that. Not ever. I mean, since when did getting angry at a situation ever improve things? It certainly wasn't going to bring my money back.

At first, I just felt stupid. I mean how could I have let this happen again? And not just that, but why did I choose that morning to decide to carry so much money with me?

I dwelled on these questions for a couple of blocks. Then, the stupidity, it was replaced. Replaced by two feelings I don't like very much and feelings I remember quite well from the last two times when I had stuff taken from me.

People say that when they have their houses broken into, the worst thing is not what is taken. Rather, its knowing that somebody at some point has been watching their house before choosing a time to force their way in and go through their things.

Your home is meant to be your safe space and your sanctuary from the outside World. When that space is broken into... its... well... its violating.

And whilst I didn't have my house robbed, I felt - in that moment - just the same. Violated.

I think its knowing that whilst waiting for the train somebody has picked me out of the crowd and scoped me out. With no bag, they've deduced my pockets have at the very least a phone and some money. What's more, clearly a foreigner, its probably fair to assume I was likely carrying more money than most. But that's not the worst part. The worst part is that in waiting on that busy platform they've seen I look... I don't know what the word is... not worried... not stressed... I want to say distracted (for example by the people, the noises, the heat, the commotion, the smells)... but its not that... its vulnerable. They've seen I'm vulnerable and they've decided to take advantage.

Stupid, vulnerable and violated. That's how I felt. And I didn't like it one bit.

After 10 minutes reveling in self-pity I told myself to stop. I told myself to draw a line in the sand. To take a deep breath. To move on. Oh. And not to let it happen again.

In a bid to cheer to things up I sought to find the silver lining.

"Well we still have our phones, that's positive."

I smiled cautiously at Nick and he responded in kind. After crossing the road, he continued...

"I'm just pleased you said to me earlier not to withdraw any more money."

I had completely forgotten. Not more than a couple hours before this happened Nick had gone to an ATM to withdraw what was probably going to be the best part of £300 to last him the remainder of his trip. As he headed for the ATM I found myself with an unrelenting urge to deter him, like it was a bad idea. I'm not sure why but I instead insisted that I lend him some of the cash I was carrying so that he didn't need to carry such a large sum around with him for the remainder of the day. As a result, whilst Nick may have had his wallet taken, it was fortunately for him pretty much empty.

My silver lining was that there was no confrontation and I didn't know it had happened until after it had happened. You see I am not a confrontational man... I've never hit anybody and I myself have never been hit. The thought of becoming involved in a confrontation honestly scares me and having avoided such a circumstance, I was I think quite grateful.

So... three times. Three times I've been to Mexico. Three times I've been robbed. Three times I've been left feeling stupid, vulnerable and violated. But not for long. All in all, I've spent the best part of a year of my life in this country and these incidences make up just the smallest fraction of that time.

The rest of that time - that's the majority - has been overwhelmingly positive. Whether its the climate, the food, the language, the music, or the people... Mexico is an incredible place and one I hold dearly close to my heart and what I will not do is allow the actions of three desperate individuals to taint what has otherwise been an absolutely incredible time in my life.


Note to self: 

 - Do not carry stuff in my back pockets. Not ever
 - Do not carry more cash on me than is absolutely necessary
 - Do not use a transit system unless I can be sure I can keep guard of my valuables
 - Do wear my zipped trousers more often
 - Do carry my small day pack on my front in crowded areas

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