He Made Himself a Target, But Pickpockets Didn't Bite

By Jenny Gardiner
Special to The Washington Post
Monday, April 23, 2007

My jaded teenage son learned the hard way the grim truth about humanity: People, it seems, are good.

Before a trip to Europe a few years back, Kyle had read ominous warnings in a Rick Steves tour book about the ubiquity of pickpockets and the inevitability of having one's wallet pinched. Jazzed as only an adolescent boy could be at the idea of being able to claim to have had the Total Experience of travel abroad, he bought a cheap wallet for the express purpose of losing it to a nimble-fingered thief. He even penned a "gotcha" note that he tucked inside, complete with his address, hoping the pickpocket would have a sense of humor (not to mention command of the English language) and return the wallet for future pilfering opportunities.

With that goal, Kyle was hepped about our trip. Forget the usual European folderol, England's crown jewels, the glorious works of the Renaissance, the site of the Berlin Wall: He was going to have a purloined pocketbook.

At first Kyle's strategy was to position the wallet barely peeking out from the upper edge of his back pocket: a little wink to the multitude of lurking pickpockets by whom we no doubt were surrounded. Come on, pull me out, it seemed to tease.

With no nibbles on that lure, the wink was replaced with a outright dare, a wallet protruding so far from the pocket it practically screamed, Hey! Steal me already!


Finally Kyle decided he had to broadcast his wallet's availability. "Uh, Mom, do I still have that hundred-euro in my wallet or did you take it?" he hollered as we walked amid the throng near the Spanish Steps.

Nada . Or I guess I should say niente.

Kyle traveled in five countries, attracting not a single specimen of the undesirable element.

It vexed him that try as he might, he was incapable of finding someone bad. Not a one. Well, maybe that icky little guy at the Trevi Fountain who sidled up to him and rumbled a creepy tiger purr of desire into his ear.

In fact, Kyle's tepid gratitude soon evolved into overt annoyance when one person after another would venture over to alert him to the vulnerability of his wallet. Thanks a lot, he would grumble with an air of resignation to the men, women, children and even sketchy-looking pickpocket types who offered their warnings to him.

He returned home unrobbed but undaunted.

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