02 March 2012

Robbed!! (For Real This Time)

LAST SUMMER I put up a post provocatively titled Robbed in Paris where I describe (with photo evidence how Kerri and I paid 8.20 Euros for two cups of coffee.  Well today's post title is not meant to be provocative:  I was actually robbed last night.

Actually, mugged would better describe what happened.

I'm in Geneva to meet with my doctorate adviser and last night I went out to grab a bite to eat near the hotel where I always stay (plug, plug, if you ever need a hotel here).   I was wearing fairly nondescript clothing: jeans, grey sweater, long black coat and black back slung over my right shoulder.  As I was walking down a busy street near the train station, a young guy -- couldn't have been more than about 18 yrs old -- came up to me and asked for the time.  I looked at my watch and told him it was 20 minutes past eight.  He then took my right hand and shook it while saying 'thank you' and asked if I was English.  'Anglais, Oui?  Anglais, Oui?'  I was a bit annoyed by this but didn't think anything was too out of the ordinary, choosing instead to think this guy was just a bit weird.  We walked a few more steps then he did something odd:  he lifted up his leg to give me a sort of knee-high-five and said 'high-five, high five'.  This triggered something in me and I instinctively reached my left hand around to the back pocket on the right side of my jeans and quickly realized that I felt...nothing. My wallet was gone.  The guy -- who was still trying to hold my right hand -- noticed this, shoved me toward a lamp post that was near us and started running up the street.  I yelled at him to stop and took-off after him.

[Note: at this point the story gets better if you can imagine really cool action music in the background].

The kid ran up the Route des Alpes toward the Gare Cornivan and turned left onto Rue Pradier -- a somewhat quiet street that dead-ends at the Rue de Mont Blanc -- a busy pedestrian street with lots of cafes and restaurants.  I chased him around the corner, screaming the entire time for him to stop and give me back my wallet.  Once on Rue Pradier he looked back at me several times and I could see that he was fumbling through my wallet as he ran.  Just before he got to the next cross street he threw my wallet onto the ground before turning left toward the Place Pradier.   I stopped momentarily to retrieve my wallet, then continued the chase.

As I got to the small, dark square I looked right and saw the guy running toward Rue Mont Blanc and ran after him.  By this time he was a good 50 meters ahead of me (you know, 'cause I had to stop to get my wallet, not because I'm a dreadfully slow runner) and I knew I would lose him if he made it to the busy pedestrian streets.  After a sharp right, then another quick left I reached the Rue Mont Blanc, just in front of the Starbucks I frequent every time I'm here.  I stood in the middle of the street and looked in every direction.  For the second time in the last minute...nothing.

I was breathing heavily and a guy sitting outside of the Starbucks asked me what happened.  I told him a guy had stolen my wallet and he said he did see a young kid run past and he pointed toward where he went, but we both knew it was too late at that point.  I muttered a few R-rated words then flipped through my wallet, grateful to find that the only thing missing was cash.  Unfortunately, I had just been to the bank a few hours earlier so he got the entire 100 Swiss francs I had retrieved.

It could have been worse.  I didn't feel the guy take my wallet and my decision to check my back pocket was based purely on instinct -- not because I felt something.  He got it clean!!  But I sure am glad that the instinct kicked in, because, while loosing 100 francs really sucks, it sure beats loosing 100 francs plus everything else -- credit cards, insurance cards, work cards, etc. If it had taken just 30 more seconds to realize what had happened the guy would have been gone for good. In the end, chasing him enabled me to get the wallet back and I guess I have to feel pretty good about that.

I went back to the bank and got out another 100 francs, then went to grab that bite to eat.  It didn't taste as good as it normally does.  After dinner I went back to the street where this all took place and I walked around for about an hour looking for the guy.  I know, I know -- pretty stupid to think he'd come back.  But it made me feel better to know I was out looking for the bastard.  And there is a 100 percent chance I'll go back to that area again tonight and continue my search.

Because it will make me feel better.

Geneva Map

Wallet taken at the 'Start'.  Lost the guy at the 'Finish'

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