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A Bad Start in Barcelona

by Aaron Dorman

Suitcase with luggage tag

Aaron is an aspiring writer and English teacher currently living in Jeju-do, South Korea, and  originally from New York.

When you have dreams that you are being robbed in the middle of a city street, it means your brain is coding your subconscious fear of losing control or being emasculated, perhaps, if you are man.  When you are robbed in the middle of a city street in reality, it just means you are about to have a rotten, rotten day.

Within 20 minutes of arriving in Barcelona people tried to take everything I owned. I had read about how to be careful and not look like a tourist, but when you have three pieces of luggage you are hauling slowly down the street there is not much you can do to be discrete.

I am living in the old Gothic District of Barcelona, where the streets are very narrow and winding. This makes it ideal to walk around and view the shops, cafes, and well-preserved history, if you have nothing in your pocket except an iPod and 6 euro, or if you are a thief who is trying to rob American tourists. The worst thing was that I was literally five feet away from my flat in Calle Llibreteria when it happened. I was 90 seconds away from safely depositing my things.

So I was hauling my crap past Café Farggi when a man came up to me and told me, out of the blue, that I had melted gelati covering my jacket and luggage and shoes and pretty much everything I own.  This should have been a dead giveaway, but I wasn’t really focused on critical thinking skills. I had just arrived from a seven hour overnight flight.

I now know that if someone informs you that you have spilled some kind weird goop all over yourself, the thing to do is either kick them in the balls, or run as fast as you can in the other direction, or both. But I took off my jacket, the man offered to get me some napkins, and meanwhile, someone else filched my case which had my laptop and passport inside, among other valuable things. I ran after the thieves who took my laptop, and left the suitcases behind.

Instinctively, I did what you are supposed to do, which is start screaming. As I chased them around a corner, I yelled a lot of American swear words, and scream a lot of other useful explicatives like “help!”, “get back here!” and “policia!” About fifteen seconds into my chase the two men who were running ahead of me dropped the bag. I grabbed that one, and ran back to where my other luggage was, which was now gone as well.

I am not sure at this point what actually happened, except that people, including Britishers on a bus tour by the old cathedral pointed out where robbers had gone. I can’t tell if they were just slow to act or just incredibly useless but if I saw someone running down the street with a bag, even if it wasn’t mine I would yell for the police or run them down.

Either way, I was in total freak-out mode, bugging out and desperately stalking the city block for my stuff. I returned to the scene of the crime and noticed an old lady carrying my bag slowly up the street. Once I got closer and saw that it was indeed my clothing bag, I started screaming at the lady and almost knocked her to the ground in my attempt to get it back. She did not speak English or even good Spanish, so in Catalan she confused asked me what was going on, as I took the bag away from her and yelled that it was mine.

At least I didn’t use the c word, although for her the c word could have been “cookies” and she still wouldn’t know what I was talking about. Other ladies from the café came to join her and we had a bad, useless conversation where we tried unsuccessfully to bridge the language gap. I sort of figured out finally that this woman had been taking the bag to the police, so I felt like an idiot, apologized profusely, and then tried to figure out if they knew anything about the third bag, which had assorted goodies like my Spanish phone, computer power cord, and NY Times book of Sunday crossword puzzles. We didn’t get very far.

At this point I decided to go to my apartment and give up on the last bag. It was an unfortunately whiney and high-maintenance introduction on my part, although I felt bad because both my flat mates and the owner of the apartment, a lady named Marga, were horrified. A fellow  student from Gibraltar, a middle-aged man named Tony, offered to help me file a police report, which we did. I spent the next hour and half commiserating with my flat mates (in the apartment there is me, Tony, the landlady Marga, and her 137-year old mother).

Sometime just before the afternoon, we went to the police to see if something had turned up, and somehow, through a miracle of divine justice, the police not only had my third bag, but nothing had been stolen from inside.

I don't know whether to be flattered or relieved that the robbers decided there was nothing in my bag worth stealing. I guess they look inside saw a bunch of clothing they weren't going to wear and books they couldn't read, and felt it wasn't worth the effort. They did miss the phone and camera, both of which must have had some black market value, but I'm not complaining. So finally, by 1 in the afternoon I was reunited with every last possession I had brought. I was grateful for having felt all of the anxiety of a robbery without any of the consequences.

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